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What is 'Ask an Elf'?

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1350725.  Wed Jun 17, 2020 5:06 am Reply with quote

There was a genetic study in Iceland that was able to trace the ancestry of a few individuals back to a possible arrival of an American Indian in Iceland around 1100AD, and this fits in with oral tradition that Vikings had travelled to the Americans and returned - possibly with one or more extra passengers.

1350739.  Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:16 am Reply with quote

I think Deke is talking about the man the Pilgrim Fathers met when they came ashore, who could already speak English. He was some kind of freed slave iirc, and had already crossed the Atlantic twice. Can't remember any more details atm....

1350742.  Wed Jun 17, 2020 8:48 am Reply with quote

If you mean Samoset, he was the first Indian to greet the Pilgrims, and did so in English, but this was over a century after Columbus. I thought you meant pre-columbian.

1350745.  Wed Jun 17, 2020 11:26 am Reply with quote

Ah, ok, mis read the question. Move along, nothing to see here......

1350746.  Wed Jun 17, 2020 11:28 am Reply with quote

This question takes us into one of my areas of interest, so two posts to avoid extreme length.

As CB27 notes, a genetic peculiarity found in a small number of Icelanders is best explained by supposing that a Native American woman went to Iceland circa 1100. There is no evidence for this, but the idea fits the genetic facts better than does any other explanation.

Scholars of the Norse find the idea puzzling though. Everything that is known about the Norse suggests that they weren't keen on diluting their Nordic genes, and there are references in the Sagas to Norsemen saying words to the effect of "Oh, we could have gone around shagging the local girls - but they were ugly, so we didn't".

If that was their attitude to the Native Americans, why would they have brought one home to breed with? I suppose it's possible that one Native American girl stowed away on a Norse ship, and when she was discovered the sailors decided to keep her as a sex toy rather than throw her overboard. That episode didn't get into the Sagas because it didn't show the sailors in a very good light, but it might explain the presence of the Native American genes in Iceland,

So for now, we just don't have a full explanation of those genes; it is possible that we never will. Here is an article from National Geographic on the matter.

1350747.  Wed Jun 17, 2020 11:49 am Reply with quote

But onto another aspect. Did Europeans "even know it was over there" before Columbus? The Norse folk in Iceland clearly did because they went there, but did they tell anyone?

While the Norse had writing by about 700, they thought of it as a novelty skill of no actual use, perhaps as we think of (let us say) yodeling. While everyone knew that it was a thing that existed, few saw much point in learning how to do it, and even those who could do it didn't very often. Not until they became Christian in around 1100 did the idea of writing stuff down really catch on, so some of the material recorded in the Sagas was already two hundred years old, having been passed on by old men to their grandchildren for those two centuries.

Iceland didn't get the Black Death until 1402, fifty years later than the rest of Europe, which shows just how few people went there in the medieval era. It was a long way, the weather wasn't great, and the beer was desperately expensive.

So few in the rest of Europe knew about the Sagas, but there were a few who did. A German monk whom we know as Adam of Bremen mentioned Vinland in a work of history called Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum in about 1075. He could only have learned about it from the Sagas, but his work had a limited circulation, and its very existence was forgotten for five hundred years until it was rediscovered in a Danish monastery in around 1590.

An English monk named Ranulf of Chester wrote a history book called Polychronicon in around 1330, and mentioned a place that he called Wyntlandia. That work had a much wider circulation, and even got itself translated into English and printed by Caxton. From the description presented, Wyntlandia has to be Vinland - but it was generally assumed to be either a joke or a myth.

Maybe not by Columbus, though. Although there is no cast iron proof that he ever got further north than Galway, Columbus is believed to have visited Iceland in 1477.

Now, if you're a professional sailor visiting a strange country, you're probably going to hang out with the sailors there. While he was carousing in the sailors' pubs in Reykjavík, he would certainly have been told about Greenland. The Norse settlements on Greenland are known still to have existed in 1408, and seem to have been abandoned not very much later. It's not impossible that he met an old man whose father had been there.

Once he'd been told about Greenland, and a bit more ale had been quaffed, is it perhaps plausible that the old man then said "Now then my Italian friend, this happened a long long time ago but our people also tell of a place called Vinland. If you want to make a name for yourself, buy me another drink and I'll tell you the way ...".

Columbus's son Ferdinand wrote a biography of his father. In places it's rather vague, in a way that seems deliberate. What didn't he want to talk about? Perhaps the notion that Columbus knew that he was onto a winner when he sought funding for his mission to discover America. He knew that he was onto a winner because he already knew it was there, and he knew that because he'd heard it from an old man in a pub in Reykjavík.

Yes, that is decidedly speculative, but when I'm retired I'd quite like to write a book about it!

1350750.  Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:20 pm Reply with quote

Vikings were known to have taken slaves from Scotland and Ireland, so it won't be too surprising to learn that they may have taken some from other shores too.

You can also consider that some journeys may have stayed for several months or years in North America, and the DNA link could be from a child conceived during that period, and then brought back.

There are various theories based on bits of evidence for contact between the Americas and other parts of the world, from Russia, China, Japan, Oceania, and Africa, not just Europeans.

There are unexplained findings of bronze and obsidian artefacts which would certainly be pre columbus, and are not from the Americas, and this suggests there may even have been some trade at times.

Similarly, there have been questions over certain plants or their remains that seem to have been present in other continents long before Columbus, such as sweet potatoes and nicotine.

An interesting pointer to a possible contact is the existence of the Kuroshio currents, and that when Europeans began to settle the western coast of North America, they regularly came across washed up Japanese vessels and hundreds of survivors. It's seems reasonable to consider that ships and survivors were washing up long before 1492 as well.

The Inuit are also an interesting people to look at, with evidence they may have travelled between North America and Europe several times, not just the once.

1375629.  Thu Feb 25, 2021 2:26 pm Reply with quote

elf's are real?

1375641.  Thu Feb 25, 2021 3:19 pm Reply with quote

They can usually be enticed with some well placed chocolate hob nobs, but they don't react well to misplaced apostrophes :p

1375642.  Thu Feb 25, 2021 3:22 pm Reply with quote

Elf'n'safety innit?


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