An Icelandic Pocahantas?

In 1998, the Icelandic parliament passed a bill authorizing creation of a database of all citizens’ genetic, genealogical, and medical records, sometimes called The Book of Icelanders.

Now, reports National Geographic, researchers have found traces of possible American Indian ancestry in some Icelanders. They hypothesize that some of the explorers or settlers in Vinland might have brought back a woman, or women, from a North American tribe.

Fascinating. Next they will be telling us that Severed Ways is a documentary.

It’s still not as weird as the legend that some western Chinese are descended from Roman soldiers.

6 thoughts on “An Icelandic Pocahantas?

  1. Well, we know that one thing that humans do–and do throughout history–is reproduce sexually. So, in a way, I’m never astonished or even much surprised when this or that genetic mapping study reveals that we are more genetically mixed than we could ever know without genetic mapping studies.

    I’m a little bit Neanderthal..and a little bit who they brought back on the rock n roll boat!

    I’m waiting for one of these mappings to announce that some of us carry Zeta Reticulan or Reptoid genes. That will be a surprise!!!

  2. There’s a book by somebody Forbes – forgotten the name – that argues that Europe was explored by Native Amricans before Columbus. I’ve not read it, but it sounds a bit far-fetched to me. I’ve heard about reports of Native American genetics in western Ireland, supposedly due to people crossing on the Gulf Stream. I’ve never had the time to follow this sort of thing through.

    What is pretty certain, however, is that the Eskimoes visited northern Europe during the Little Ice Age. In the Marischal Museum, Aberdeen, there is a kayak of an Eskimo who was captured off the Scottish coast in the 17th century. There also used to be some kayaks in a church in Orkney that were of similar origin. Interestingly, when people live in sparse populations, and with completely different ecological niches, like the Eskimoes (living off fish, seals and whales) and Scots, Norwegians, Faroese and Icelanders (mainly sheep-farming, with a bit of fishing and dairy-farming), it’s possible for them to be scarcely aware of each other’s existence.

    It’s difficult to untangle the presence of Eskimoes in northern Europe, because until quite recently they were lumped in with the Lapps – they were distinguished as pagan and nomadic, rather than on racial terms. The Northern Isles of Scotland (Orkney and Shetland) have lots of stories about the Sea Lapps who used to visit, and had magical powers. In Norway, there was often a distinction between Land Lapps and Sea Lapps, and the latter may have been Eskimo. There were also the Selkies – seal-people – some Scottish families claim to be descended from Selkies, and it’s pretty clear from descriptions that they were men in seal skins and seal-skin kayaks.

    Also, the distance from European Iceland to Eskimo Greenland is only about 200 miles – it’s actually possible to see the Greenland ice cap from the top of Snaefell in NW Iceland. The longest gap in the northern route across the Atlantic is between the Faroes and Iceland, and that’s less than 400 miles. Thus, the whole idea of a sharp distinction between Europe and North America is a bit of a southern European, Columbian prejudice – it’s possible to see things with a more circumpolar perspective.

    Finally – that young Icelandic singer – I forget her name – she could pass as Japanese, yet she doesn’t know of any non-Icelandic ancestry.

  3. I had heard of the preserved kayak in Scotland and the idea that the “selkie” was an Inuit hunter likewise, although the latter seems like a bit of just-so euhemerism.

  4. Afghans in a far northern province claim they are descended from Alexander The Great’s army. I believe DNA testing was done which certainly suggested the possibility. They don’t veil their women, some are blond with grey or blue eyes – and they do not practice Islam. I don’t know if they have managed to remain as an isolated group however, since all the fighting. There’s info somewhere on the web.

  5. Maria: I think you might be thinking of the Kallas people, who are in northern Pakistan. I read somewhere that they still practise a form of Greek Paganism, but I don’t know how true this is. Their religion is not Hinduism or Islam, anyway. There used to be more of them, and Kipling’s short story, “The Man who would be King”, is based on them – there is a film of it as well.

    Different parts of Eurasia were never really separated, and the idea of Romans making it to China is much less remarkable than that of Native Americans making it to Europe. After all, there were lots of Christians in China from about 300, and there were even small communities of Jews.

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