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The Composition of the Founding Population of Iceland: A New Perspective From 3D Analyses of Basicranial Shape

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The settlement of Iceland in the Viking Age has been the focus of much research, but the composition of the founding population remains the subject of debate. Some lines of evidence suggest that almost all the founding population were Scandinavian, while others indicate a mix of Scandinavians and people of Scottish and Irish ancestry. To explore this issue further, we used three-dimensional techniques to compare the basicrania of skeletons from archaeological sites in Iceland, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. Our analyses yielded two main results. One was that the founding population likely consisted of roughly equal numbers of Scandinavians and people from the British Isles. The other was that the immigrants who originated from the British Isles included individuals of southern British ancestry as well as individuals of Scottish and Irish ancestry. The first of these findings is consistent with the results of recent analyses of modern and ancient DNA, while the second is novel. Our study, therefore, strengthens the idea that the founding population was a mix of Scandinavians and people from the British Isles, but also raises a new possibility regarding the regions from which the settlers originated.
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