Research Press Release

Anthropology: Evidence for the earliest human occupation of the Faroe Islands

Communications Earth & Environment

December 17, 2021

Humans may have settled on the Faroe Islands around 500 CE, approximately 300 years earlier than previously thought, suggests an article published in Communications Earth & Environment. The study proposes that livestock rearing was taking place on the islands earlier than the documented arrival of Norse Vikings.

The arrival of the Vikings between 800–900CE has remained the earliest direct evidence of human occupation of the Faroe Islands. However, it has been suggested that earlier settlers, perhaps Celtic peoples from the British Isles, had already arrived on the islands some time before the Vikings. There had been little evidence to support this, though.

Lorelei Curtin and colleagues studied DNA deposited within 1,500-year-old sediment from the bottom of a Faroese lake. They found sheep DNA and indications of sheep fecal matter from around 500 CE which coincided with an increase in the DNA of grasses and the disappearance of woody plants, both signs of grazing. The findings suggest that human settlers were grazing livestock on the islands before Viking settlement, and could change our understanding of the early peopling of the Faroe Islands.


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