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Iceland: Physical Anthropology of Colonization and Evolution


Iceland was one of the last European countries to be settled, with the main period of migration taking place from the 9th to 10th centuries. After these initial migrations, the population of Iceland is thought to have been largely genetically isolated until the 20th century. It has been suggested that the initial populations were of Scandinavian and Irish descent, with some scholars suggesting that individuals of Irish decent accompanied the Scandinavian Vikings to Iceland as slaves. However, the accuracy of these suggestions is debated, making the genetic and cultural composition of the initial Icelandic population unclear. Therefore, there are a number of important questions regarding the settlement of Iceland and the mobility of early Europeans that remain unanswered. Three of these questions will be the focus of this study: Who were the initial settlers of Iceland? Did the colonisation of Iceland involve elements of the Viking slave trade? How did migration and subsequent isolation impact the biocultural diversity of the Icelandic human population? The proposed project will address these questions by investigating cranial shape with cutting-edge three-dimensional (3D) shape analysis techniques. The project will include analyses of Icelandic archaeological populations and individuals deriving from the two proposed colonizing populations – i.e. early Scandinavian and Irish human remains. Cranial shape variation will be analysed to identify relationships between the different populations and how Icelandic variation changed after settlement of the island. The findings of this project will significantly add to our understanding of early European migrations, as well as provide new insight into how migration to a new environment, possible adoption of a new diet, and exposure to a new gene pool influenced modern Icelandic population diversity.


Net EU contribution
€ 183 454,80
L69 7ZX Liverpool
United Kingdom

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North West (England) Merseyside Liverpool
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 183 454,80