So far, scientists have been much concerned with Viking expansions in the North Atlantic. Old Norwegian sagas tell of the colonization of Iceland, and in the sagas of the Icelandic Vikings, evidence of journeys to Greenland and Newfoundland on the American mainland has been preserved. Archaeological finds have confirmed the truth of these stories. It would probably be worthwhile for archaeologists to search for the remains of a Viking settlement in the Azores.
So far, scientists have taken it for granted that the Portuguese were the first to sail to the Azores in their attempts to reach the shores of Asia by the western route. In 1427 they discovered the island of Santa Maria and in 1452 the island of Flores Corvo.
Recent research, however, suggests that The Azores were inhabited seven centuries earlier. A large international team led by Pedro Raposeiro of the Universidade dos Acores in Ponta Delgada, Azores published evidence of this settlement in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Traces of cattle breeders
Raposeiro and his colleagues removed sediments from several island lakes and analyzed them. At the same time, they determined the age of these sediments. They searched for pollen from plants that could only reach the islands with humans, and for clues revealing the presence of large mammals — humans and livestock. Originally, no large terrestrial mammals lived in the Azores. Their discovery would be clear evidence that humans have settled on the islands.
Scientists have indeed found unmistakable traces of human settlement. They found mud in layers substances derived from faeces of large ruminants together with spores of fungi growing on manure with faeces of domestic animals. They found it there too substances derived from human excrement.
The age of these traces of human presence is a surprise. They date from 700 to 800 AD. In the same period, pollen from local woody plants decreased in sediments, and conversely, pollen from grasses increased. Among these was a significant amount of ryegrass, which is not native to the islands. All this testifies to the clearing of forests and their transformation into pastures.
Mice point to Vikings
Pedro Raposeiro and his colleagues are convinced that they can in all likelihood determine the origins of the first inhabitants of the Azores. “It simply came to our notice then. They were among the excellent sailors in their time, “says Raposeiro.
Reports of the first Viking invasion outside Scandinavia date from 789 AD. At that time, they were already making long journeys that could lead them to the Azores. Climatic conditions also testified to their trips to the Azores. Raposeiro and his team concluded that just in the eighth century AD there was a change in climate and in the Atlantic regular winds began to blow from the northeast to the southwest.
These could easily push ships with sails from the coast of Norway to the Azores. The direction of the winds over the Atlantic changed with the advent of the medieval “Little Ice Age”, and in the 15th century these winds helped the Portuguese to reach the Azores.
In favor of Nordic immigration also testifies circumstantial evidence revealed by previous researchers. For example, the remains of the skeletons and teeth of a domestic mouse were found in sediments from the 8th century AD. It is not original in the Azores and arrived there as a black passenger on ships carrying food supplies.
Genetic analyzes have confirmed that today’s Azorean mice carry variants of hereditary information typical of the Scandinavian mouse population and that this “Scandinavian blood” admixture is older than variants of hereditary information typical of Iberian Peninsula mice, which apparently arrived in the 15th-century Azores with the Portuguese. .
The results of the Viking transoceanic voyages can count not only the discovery of Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, but also the discovery of the Azores.