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Thread: Cavalli-Sforza's View of Icelander Genetics

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    Lightbulb Cavalli-Sforza's View of Icelander Genetics

    Below is Cavalli-Sforza’s elaboration on Icelander genetics with the emboldened and underlined being my stresses. According to him, below, Icelanders are CLOSER genetic kin (in order of kinship) to Norwegians, Englishmen/women, Belgians, and Danes. The popular notion of Icelanders being HIGHLY Celtic by stock/genetic heritage is, IMO, erroneous. Icelanders are a 'Nordid' , 'Germanic' folk, by-and-large.


    5.6.d. ICELAND

    The other isolate that appears as an outlier of Europe is Iceland. This island was settled beginning in a.d. 874, according to tradition, by western Norwegians from the region between Trondheim and Bergen, and the settlement was completed in a relatively short time. Moreover, Icelandic cattle, which were certainly imported by the first settlers on their long boats, are genetically Norse (Kidd and Cavalli-Sforza 1974). From the ninth century until the twelfth century, the Vikings settled widely on the coasts of northern Europe, including the northern coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and other islands in the North Sea; a lively exchange was certainly established among these Viking colonies. The first settlers of Iceland numbered about 20,000 according to tradition (the Landnahmabok), but after the first two centuries there were no further major settlements. The island soon fell under Danish rule, but there probably was very little additional immigration, if any. It is only recently that Iceland became independent of Denmark. The population has multiplied by a factor of about 10 since the beginning, and the language is still more similar to old Scandinavian than to other Scandinavian languages.

    In earlier genetic analyses (Bjarnason et al. 1973), it became clear that, for blood-group ABO, Icelanders were more similar to Scots and Irish than to Norwegians; the hypothesis was proposed that the population of Iceland was mostly of Scottish and Irish origin, perhaps because the original settlers made many slave raids in the British Isles. There is also one toponym in Iceland, Papar, which suggests that Irish monks may have come to the island before the Norwegian settlers. Even if this is true, it is unlikely that a few Irish monks could have been demographically as effective as required by the Irish-Icelandic similarity for the ABO data. It has become increasingly clear, however, that ABO data are not necessarily as reliable as one would like them to be for assessing ethnic origins. They are known to be subject to natural selection for some infectious diseases, many examples of which are summarized by Mourant et al. (1983). ABO was extremely popular for a long time for human evolutionary studies, being the first polymorphic gene discovered and having considerable clinical importance. It is still the gene for which the most data exist. When a few other loci were added to the analysis, the conclusions did not change dramatically. However, when a larger number of markers were tested and data from Ireland or Scotland were taken from provinces that were less frequently settled by other Scandinavians (Wijsman 1984), western Norwegians showed the greatest similarity to Icelanders. In our data, the population closest to Icelanders is that of Norwegians (distance, 0.0074) followed by the English (0.0076), Belgians (0.0079), and Danes (0.0088). The distance from the Irish is 0.0099, from Scots 0.0112, and from central Europe, a somewhat higher average. The location in the PC map of figure 5.5.2 may seem closer to the British Isles than to Scandinavia, but PC maps give only approximate indications of the distance from nearest neighbors. The standard errors attached to the distances show that the information is not adequate for solving the problem with complete confidence, but at least the data are in the expected direction and in agreement with the traditional information that Icelanders came principally from Norway.

    Citation: L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, Alberto Piazza; The History and Geography of Human Genes (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), pp 276-7.

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    Post Re: Cavalli-Sforza's View of Icelander Genetics

    The Vikings bought many Scotland and Ireland slaves with them, during the Iceland colonization.

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