Ancient Worlds

26
Aug

Who Braved the North Atlantic 500 Years Before the Vikings?

Back when many of us were kids, we learned in school about the Age of Exploration, that time when Europeans started venturing farther and farther across the ocean. They discovered, from the European perspective, a number of what were thought to be new lands. That, of course, wasn’t true on many levels, including the fact that Vikings had set foot on some of those lands hundreds of years earlier. In addition to beating Columbus to North America, historians and archaeologists give the Vikings credit for sailing to Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands before any of their neighbors.

faroe-islands
Someone beat the Vikings to the Faroe Islands by 500 years.

But now that last “first” is being questioned by new archaeological evidence. Here’s Josephine Lethbridge, writing for Ars Technica:

The Faroe Islands, a remote archipelago between Scotland and Iceland, could have been inhabited 500 years earlier than was previously thought, according to a startling archaeological discovery. The islands were thought to have been colonized by the Vikings in the 9th century AD. However, dating of peat ash and barley grains has revealed that humans had actually settled there somewhere between the 4th and 6th centuries AD.

The discovery hasn’t answered all the questions, though. While archaeologists have been able to date the evidence, they’re unsure about its provenance. Pre-Viking Norwegians are a possibility, as are Picts from the British Isles. One thing is for certain, though—“firsts” in history are always subject to revision.