A small group of Danish islands were colonized hundreds of years before scientists had previously thought.
New archeological evidence shows that Vikings were not the first settlers on the land but another people between the 4th and 6th centuries, according to a new study published in the Quaternary Science Reviews.
"There is now firm archeological evidence for the human colonization of the Faroes by people some 300-500 years before the large scale Viking colonization of the 9th century AD, although we don't yet know who these people were or where they came from,” lead author Dr. Mike Church, from Durham University's Department of Archeology, said in a statement.
Archeologists studied windblown sand deposits at an archeological site of Á Sondum on the island of Sandoy. It contained patches of burnt peat ash that suggested they came from domestic hearths during the 4th and 6th centuries.
"Although we don't know who the people were that settled here and where they came from, it is clear that they did prepare peat for use, by cutting, drying and burning it, which indicates they must have stayed here for some time,” co-author, Símun V Arge, from the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, said.
Most of the evidence that led to the discovery was destroyed by the major Viking invasion, Church said, adding that similar evidence on surrounding islands may also have been destroyed.
This isn’t the first theory surrounding the original settlers of the Faroe Islands. Legend has it that Irish monks who were in search of the “Promised Land of the Saints” were the first humans to set off on the archipelago. Others believe that Norsemen or Vikings arrived in 800 A.D. Most were farmers looking for new land to cultivate.
"We now have to digest these dates of this early evidence in relation to other sources and consider whether there may be other similar sites, elsewhere on the islands, which may be able to provide us with further structural archeological evidence," Arge said.