Iceland: Who Settled Iceland?

Iceland landscape

Beyond the Shetland and Orkney Islands, further west into the North Atlantic, lie the Faeroe Islands and Iceland. The windy, cold climate of these North Atlantic islands is tempered by the warm waters of the gulf-stream, creating a sparsely forested, grassy landscape, while the surrounding seas teem with birds and marine mammals. Although climatically and environmentally similar, do these North Atlantic islands have a shared history? Common wisdom holds that the Shetlands and Orkneys were settled by Picts and Scots before the 6th century and, by the mid-9th century the Vikings had taken up residence in the Faeroes Islands and Iceland. Had the Celtic people reached the Faeroes and Iceland before the Vikings? A few Celtic monks may have journeyed to Iceland and the Faeroes, but the evidence certainly indicates the settlement of the Faeroes and Iceland was a Viking Age phenomenon. According to the sagas, this migration was primarily westward from Norway. Historical documents and genetic studies indicate that the settlement of these islands was not exclusively a Viking activity; rather, the mixed Viking-Celtic population that had developed in the Western Isles played a major part in the culture that developed on the Faeroes and Iceland. Archeological evidence for this has been less forthcoming, however, so the question remains unresolved.

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