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Internet Myth? The Viking Age Inca

Myth: an idea or story believed by many people but that is not true.

This story is about the myth of an Inca in Viking Age Norway, published online in the summer of 2007.

The myth starts with the article on Its source is a short article by the NRK (Norwegian Public Broadcasting Corporation). This text is in Norwegian, and not used much after June 2007. Most web sites, news aggregators and blogs re-use the English article by Bitsofnews.

The Plot

Who comes up with the idea of the Viking Age Inca? The story starts in the Norwegian town of Sarpsborg, better known as Borg back in the medieval day. Borg had its own church dedicated to St Nicholas, the patron saint of sea farers. By 2006, the church ruins are part of the Borgarsyssel museum (see a fine photo on Digital One day during construction work the remains of two men and a baby are unearthed. The skeletons date back to the Middle Ages. One skeleton has a remarkable aspect. “(…) a particular bone in the back of the head was not fused”. The local archaeologist is understandably excited. This particular oddity is almost only found among the Incas of Peru.

The Truth

The English article acknowledges the if’s and possibilities of the original source. It also omits important parts. Adds wild goose chases by referring to the Vinland saga and the Oseberg ship burial. In short, it sensationalises the plot.

Can this be still the skeleton of an Inca who lived in Norway during the Viking Age? It’s safe to say this is not likely. Several more creditable sources are quick to point out the holes in the English article. Forums and science journalists confirm the statement of the museum’s archaeologist. “While it is tempting to speculate, seeing as St. Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors, it’s hard to imagine a Peruvian making his way here at the time. This is quite puzzling.” Furthermore, they observe that this unfused bone occurs also in medieval Norwegians. Just not that often. And last but not least, no South American items have been found near the skeleton.

It is now ten years later, and no further research or DNA-study has appeared online either…

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