Communications Earth and Environment
The Faroe Islands, a North Atlantic archipelago between Norway and Iceland, were settled by Viking explorers in the mid-9th century CE. However, several indirect lines of evidence suggest earlier occupation of the Faroes by people from the British Isles. Here, we present sedimentary ancient DNA and molecular fecal biomarker evidence from a lake sediment core proximal to a prominent archaeological site in the Faroe Islands to establish the earliest date for the arrival of people in the watershed. Our results reveal an increase in fecal biomarker concentrations and the first appearance of sheep DNA at 500 CE (95% confidence interval 370-610 CE), pre-dating Norse settlements by 300 years. Sedimentary plant DNA indicates an increase in grasses and the disappearance of woody plants, likely due to livestock grazing. This provides unequivocal evidence for human arrival and livestock disturbance in the Faroe Islands centuries before Viking settlement in the 9th century.
Curtin, Lorelei; D’Andrea, William J.; Balascio, Nicholas L.; Shirazi, Sabrina; Shapiro, Beth; de Wet, Gregory A.; Bradley, Raymond S.; and Bakke, Jostein, "Sedimentary DNA and Molecular Evidence for Early Human Occupation of the Faroe Islands" (2021). Geosciences: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.