From the Guardian.co.uk First Americans 'reached Europe five centuries before Columbus discoveries'Scientists claim first Americans arrived long before Columbus bumped into an island in the Bahamas in 1492
Giles Tremlett Madrid guardian.co.uk,
Tuesday 16 November 2010 17.43 GMT
When Christopher Columbus paraded his newly discovered American Indians through the streets of Spanish towns at the end of the 15th century, he was not in fact introducing the first native Americans to Europe, according to new research.
Scientists who have studied the genetic past of an Icelandic family now claim the first Americans reached Europe a full five centuries before Columbus bumped into an island in the Bahamas during his first voyage of discovery in 1492.
Researchers said today that a woman from the Americas probably arrived in Iceland 1,000 years ago, leaving behind genes that are reflected in about 80 Icelanders today.
The link was first detected among inhabitants of Iceland, home to one of the most thorough gene-mapping programs in the world, several years ago.
Initial suggestions that the genes may have arrived via Asia were ruled out after samples showed they had been in Iceland since the early 18th century, before Asian genes began appearing among Icelanders.
Investigators discovered the genes could be traced to common ancestors in the south of Iceland, near the Vatnajˆkull glacier, in around 1710.
"As the island was practically isolated from the 10th century onwards, the most probable hypothesis is that these genes correspond to an Amerindian woman who was taken from America by the Vikings some time around the year 1000," Carles Lalueza-Fox, of the Pompeu Fabra university in Spain, said.
Norse sagas suggest the Vikings discovered the Americas centuries before Columbus got there in 1492.
A Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in the eastern Canadian region of Terranova, is thought to date to the 11th century.
Researchers said they would keep trying to determine when the Amerindian genes first arrived in Iceland.
"So far, we have got back to the early 18th century, but it would be interesting to find the same sequence further back in Icelandic history," Lalueza-Fox said.
The genetic research, made public by Spain's Centre for Scientific Research, was due to be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
Vikings brought Amerindian to Iceland 1,000 years ago: study
– Wed Nov 17, 12:09 pm ET
MADRID (AFP) – The first Native American to arrive in Europe may have been a woman brought to Iceland by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago, a study by Spanish and Icelandic researchers suggests.
The findings boost widely-accepted theories, based on Icelandic medieval texts and a reputed Viking settlement in Newfoundland in Canada, that the Vikings reached the American continent several centuries before Christopher Columbus travelled to the "New World."
Spain's CSIC scientific research institute said genetic analysis of around 80 people from a total of four families in Iceland showed they possess a type of DNA normally only found in Native Americans or East Asians.
"It was thought at first that (the DNA) came from recently established Asian families in Iceland," CSIC researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox was quoted as saying in a statement by the institute.
"But when family genealogy was studied, it was discovered that the four families were descended from ancestors who lived between 1710 and 1740 from the same region of southern Iceland."
The lineage found, named C1e, is also mitochondrial, which means that the genes were introduced into Iceland by a woman.
"As the island was virtually isolated from the 10th century, the most likely hypothesis is that these genes corresponded to an Amerindian woman who was brought from America by the Vikings around the year 1000," said Lalueza-Fox.
The researchers used data from the Rejkjavik-based genomics company deCODE Genetics.
He said the research team hopes to find more instances of the same Native American DNA in Iceland's population, starting in the same region in the south of the country near the massive Vatnajokull glacier.
The report, by scientists from the CSIC and the University of Iceland, was also published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
The journal said 75 to 80 percent of contemporary Icelanders can trace their lineage to Scandinavia and the rest to Scotland and Ireland.
But the C1e lineage is "one of a handful that was involved in the settlement of the Americas around 14,000 years ago.
"Contrary to an initial assumption that this lineage was a recent arrival (in Iceland), preliminary genealogical analyses revealed that the C1 lineage was present in the Icelandic mitochondrial DNA pool at least 300 years ago.
"This raised the intriguing possibility that the Icelandic C1 lineage could be traced to Viking voyages to the Americas that commenced in the 10th century," said the journal.