Evidence in the form of animal remains shows that Nordic Vikings settled in the Azores long before they were discovered by the Portuguese. This is made clear by a group of scientists after examining a number of seabed sediments in the Atlantic archipelago.
The Azores are said to have been discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1427, but new research shows that Vikings landed there centuries earlier.
The investigated sediments were found to be rich in organic remains found in cow and sheep faeces. At the same time, these samples were also found to contain high levels of charcoal, but with low levels of pollen from native trees. The real surprise came in dating the samples – the researchers were able to date the finds to sometime between 700 and 850 AD – that is, several centuries earlier than the Portuguese arrival in the islands.
– Our reconstructions provide unequivocal evidence for pre-Portuguese settlement in the Azores, said the team, led by ecologist Pedro Raposeiro, from the University of the Azores, in an article published in the American scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to The Guardian.
As for the identity of these settlers, the researchers are clear. “These results indicate that Northerners were most likely the earliest settlers on the islands,” reads the article.
The conclusions are supported by the evolutionary biologist Jeremy Searle from Cornell University, who has also argued that Vikings were the first in the Azores. Searle’s work is based on a completely different biological source, namely mice. Mice sneak aboard ships and travel with people around the world, and Searle’s studies have shown that house mice have different genetic signatures depending on where they come from.
– By analyzing mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited through the female line, we can see differences between mice from different parts of Europe, says the biologist himself.
Searle and his team believe they have identified the “Viking mouse”, by comparing mice from parts of the British Isles that were Nordic colonies with mice from Norway. They have since been looking for signs of the presence of mice in various places – and found such in ancient remains of mice from Iceland and Greenland, where the Vikings settled over a thousand years ago.
A few years ago, Searle found mice with the same genetic signature as Viking mice in both the Azores and Madeira. Crucially, they found very few mice that carried genetic signatures similar to the mice found in Portugal.