The Vikings were not the first colonizers of the Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands were colonised much earlier than previously believed, and it wasn't by the Vikings, according to new research. New archaeological evidence places human colonisation in the 4th to 6th centuries AD, at least 300-500 years earlier than previously demonstrated.
The research, directed by Dr Mike J Church from Durham University and Símun V Arge from the National Museum of the Faroe Islands as part of the multidisciplinary project "Heart of the Atlantic," is published in the Quaternary Science Reviews.
The research challenges the nature, scale and timing of human settlement of the wider North Atlantic region and has implications for the colonisation of similar island groups across the world.
The Faroes were the first stepping stone beyond Shetland for the dispersal of European people across the North Atlantic that culminated on the shores of continental North America in the 11th century AD, about 500 years before Columbus made his famous voyage.
The research was carried out on an archaeological site at Á Sondum on the island of Sandoy.
Analysis showed an extensive windblown sand deposit containing patches of burnt peat ash from human activity, dating human settlement to pre-Viking phases. These ash spreads contained barley grains which were accidentally burnt in domestic hearths and were then spread by humans onto the windblown sand surface during the 4th-6th centuries and 6th-8th centuries, a common practice identified in the North Atlantic during this period to control wind erosion.
Lead author Dr Mike Church, from Durham University's Department of Archaeology, said: "There is now firm archaeological evidence for the human colonisation of the Faroes by people some 300-500 years before the large scale Viking colonisation of the 9th century AD, although we don't yet know who these people were or where they came from.
"The majority of archaeological evidence for this early colonisation is likely to have been destroyed by the major Viking invasion, explaining the lack of proof found in the Faroes for the earlier settlement. This also raises questions about the timing of human activity on other islands systems where similarly evidence may have been destroyed."
Co-author, Símun V Arge from the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, said: "Although we don't know who the people were that settled here and where they came from, it is clear that they did prepare peat for use, by cutting, drying and burning it which indicates they must have stayed here for some time.
"We now have to digest these dates of this early evidence in relation to other sources and consider whether there may be other similar sites, elsewhere on the islands, which may be able to provide us with further structural archaeological evidence."
The study was led by Durham University and the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, with the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Bradford, Stirling and Glasgow, the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre and the City University of New York.
It was funded by the Faroese Research Council, Leverhulme Trust, US National Science Foundation, Anadarko Faroes Company and BP Amoco Explorations.
Source: Durham University
- Mystery settlers, whoever they were, reached islands before Vikingsfrom MSNBC: ScienceThu, 22 Aug 2013, 13:31:02 EDT
- Mystery Settlers Reached 'Step to Americas' Before Vikingsfrom Live ScienceWed, 21 Aug 2013, 16:00:37 EDT
- Europe Set to Impose Sanctions on Faroe Islands Over Herringfrom NY Times ScienceWed, 21 Aug 2013, 10:10:09 EDT
- EU slaps trade sanctions against Faroes in herring spatfrom PhysorgTue, 20 Aug 2013, 17:00:38 EDT
- Study suggests Vikings not the first people to colonize Faroe Islandsfrom UPITue, 20 Aug 2013, 16:00:13 EDT
- The Vikings were not the first colonizers of the Faroe Islandsfrom PhysorgTue, 20 Aug 2013, 11:02:08 EDT
- The Vikings were not the first colonizers of the Faroe Islandsfrom Science DailyTue, 20 Aug 2013, 11:00:20 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- 'Perfect storm' quenching star formation around a supermassive black hole
- Ancient, hydrogen-rich waters discovered deep underground at locations around the world
- Surprising theorists, stars within middle-aged clusters are of similar age
- Switching to spintronics
- NOAA/NASA satellite sees holiday lights brighten cities
- Study supports the theory that men are idiots
- Researchers detect possible signal from dark matter
- Swarms of Pluto-size objects kick-up dust around adolescent Sun-like star
- Affluence, not political complexity, explains the rise of moralizing world religions
- Oil-dwelling bacteria are social creatures in Earth's deep biosphere, new study shows