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No. 107: Sep-Oct 1996

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The Irish In Iceland

That the Norse colonized Iceland, Greenland, and even a bit of North America is not contested today. What is a hot issue on Iceland is whether today's inhabitants are predominantly Irish or Norse. The pro-Irish faction maintains that most Iceland settlers were Irish wives and slaves installed there by the Norse. The scientific basis for this claim is the distribution of blood types; specifically, types A and AB. In Iceland these two types are present in 19% of the populace. In Norway the figure is 30%, while Ireland weighs in with 18% -- matching modern Icelanders very closely. Modern Norse match other northern Europeans in this respect, not the Icelanders.

Somewhat smugly, the pro-Irish faction notes that in Viking days the Irish had the highest literacy rate in northern Europe. And of all the Norse colonies, only the Icelanders recorded their history (the "sagas"). Ergo, the Irish exerted a strong influence in Iceland more than a millennium ago.

Possibly, say the anthropologists, but small pox may have skewed the Iceland population figures. People with blood types A and AB are much more susceptible to small pox. The six devastating Icelandic small pox epidemics between 577 and 1061 would have hit Norse settlers harder than the Irish the Norse had brought along with them, thereby boosting the fraction of Irish in the modern Iceland populace.

Whatever the scientific explanations, today's Icelanders are thronging to Ireland on shopping and drinking trips! They know where they came from!

(MacKenzie, Debora; "Icelanders Argue over their Ancestors," New Scientist, p. 10, June 1, 1996)

From Science Frontiers #107, SEP-OCT 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987