Long before Columbus was even a twinkle in his distant relatives’ eyes, a Native American woman may have voyaged to Europe with Vikings, according to a new genetic study. Scientists analyzed portions of DNA passed only from mother to child, finding that about 80 people living in Iceland today possess a genetic variation distinct to one found mostly in Native Americans, National Geographic reports.
From the study, they deduced that the mysterious genetic signature likely entered into Icelandic bloodlines around 1000 AD—just around the same time the first Vikings sailed from Iceland to reach Greenland, soon pushing on to Canada. A Native American woman, the researchers reasoned, could have fallen for one of the Vikings or been forced on board, returning with them to Iceland. Statistically, this scenario is more likely than the alternative explanation that this specific genetic trait independently arose in disparate populations twice.
Questions still abound, however, and the researchers say the genetic puzzle is still “a big mystery.” Until the DNA pattern’s exact origins are determined, they told NatGeo, the story will not be clear, though it could eventually lead to writing history anew.
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