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The First Pocahontas May Have Been a Viking

A DNA strand from an aboriginal group thought to be extinct, the Beothuk, has been discovered in some Icelanders.
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Genes from the Beothuk, a long-extinct branch of Canada's aboriginal peoples, have shown up in samples of 80 people from Iceland, a team of anthropologists and geneticists has revealed.

A study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology indicates that a woman of that line may have been brought to Iceland by the Vikings 1,000 years ago, the Montreal Gazette and other media outlets reported. The study was conducted by researchers from Iceland and Spain.

"First American in Europe 'was native woman kidnapped by Vikings and hauled back to Iceland 1,000 years ago,' " trumpeted the UK’s Daily Mail.

The truth may be a tad less dramatic, but either way, the discovery of possible First Nations DNA among Icelanders raises a few intriguing possibilities, according to the Gazette. Besides revealing the existence of long-lost DNA, the finding may explain the identity of a people who the medieval Vikings called “skraelings,” the natives who repelled Leif Ericcson from the settlement he and others founded at what is today L’Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland, the Gazette reported.

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The genes in question, from the C1e family, do not appear to be European, study co-author Agnar Helgason was quoted as saying. He said that that plus other evidence suggests the DNA is likely from "the great human genealogical tree through the female line that has, to date, only been found in Native Americans"—the aboriginal nations of Canada, the U.S. and Central and South America, he said according to the newspaper.

In addition the study lends credence to prevailing theories that Christopher Columbus was not in fact the first European to make it to the Americas. It has long been suspected that Icelandic Vikings discovered the North American continent centuries before the Spanish explorer did.