Scientists speculate that a Native woman might have traveled from America to Europe a thousand years ago. This bold theory is based on the genetic research by Agnar Helgason, a scholar at Iceland’s deCODE Genetics and an associate research professor at the University of Iceland. According to an article published on the Time Magazine website, Helgason was researching the origin of the Icelandic population when he discovered that a small group of Icelanders — roughly 350 in total — carried a particular genome known as C1, usually seen only in Asians and Native Americans, and transmitted from mother to daughter. “We figured it was a recent arrival from Asia,” said Helgason. “But we discovered a much deeper story than we expected.”

Helgason’s graduate student Sigridur Sunna Ebenesersdottir traced the matrilineal sequence to a date that was much earlier than when the first Asians started appearing in Iceland. She concluded that all the people who carry the C1 genome are descendants of one of four women who lived around the year 1700. She also posited that these four likely shared a common female ancestor.

The occurrence of this genome was also studied by Spain’s CSIC scientific research institute, reported. “As the island was virtually isolated from the 10th century, the most likely hypothesis is that these genes corresponded to an Amerindian woman who was brought from America by the Vikings around the year 1000,” said CSIC researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox.

Today’s scientific community accepts that the Vikings—and not Columbus–were the first Europeans to step on the American soil.  In 1960, archeologists discovered a Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland in Canada. The site has been tentatively identified with Vinland–the name given to an area of North America by the Vikings about the year 1000. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, a collection of stories describing events that took place in Iceland about a thousand years ago, a settlement at Vinland was established by the Norse explorer Leif Ericson. It was those Viking sailors, Icelandic and Spanish scholars think, who could have brought a Native woman with them to Europe.

Did it really happen? Was it a love story or yet another sad tale of European violence against indigenous women? Whatever the answer, the report by scholars from the CSIC and the University of Iceland was published in the January issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.