Cereal indicates agriculture on Faroe Islands before Viking Age

- Thursday January 31st, 2013 - 12:25 - Source: ScienceNordic - New signs of pre-Viking life on the...
Cereal pollen found in soil samples from Faroe Islands sites suggest that human habitation and agriculture could date back to much earlier than 800 AD. Thus far human habitation of the islands was thought to take place from the Viking Age onward. Further studies and samples are now required to conclusively date human habitation on the Faroe Islands.

The earliest known human habitation of the Faroe Islands dates to the Viking Age, however there have been speculations that Irish monks could have migrated north to the Faroe Islands before the Vikings. No archaeological proof was found thusfar that indicated human presence on the islands previously.


A pollen sample from the Shetland Islands, showing larger cereal pollen. In comparison, a dandelion pollen is indicated below. Photo by Daniela Richter and Kevin Edwards / ScienceNordic

Recent pollen analysis of earlier soil samples, done by a group of researchers at Aberdeen University in Scotland, resulted in cereal pollen. The find indicates that early agriculture could have taken place on the Faroe Islands before 800 AD.


"One of the main problems with cereal pollen is that it is produced in tiny quantities. Cereal pollen grains are also very large, and that means they don’t spread far with the wind. That’s why it’s so important to find it." says Kevin Edwards, professor of physical geography and archaeology at Aberdeen University.


The soil samples, although promising, are however somewhat cluttered up due to soil erosion. The researchers are eager to find better samples from the moors on the islands, to be sure of an accurate pollen analysis. While the archaeobiological finds now suggest habitation on the Faroe Islands took place before the Viking Age, further studies are still required to answer this conclusively.

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