In The Farfarers: Before the Norse, Mowat revisits a theme he previously discussed in Westviking: The Ancient Norse in Greenland and North America (1965) and The Curse of the Viking Grave (1966): the pre-Columbian exploration and settlement of North America. He begins with the Celtic invasion of northern Europe in the seventh century b.c.e., when the Celtics killed, drove out, or enslaved the people who were already there. Mowat names these earlier people the “Albans” and cites as examples the Aquitainians, the Picts, and the builders of Stonehenge. He speculates that the Albans eventually fled to the Orkney and Shetland islands off northern Scotland. He further theorizes that they developed a maritime culture that used advanced oceangoing fishing boats with hulls made of hides, rather than wood. Mowat calls these boats “farfarers,” which, he says, enabled the Albans to sail to and eventually colonize Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, and Labrador.
Mowat observes that Iceland appears on ancient maps centuries before it was discovered and settled by the Norse. He argues that the Albans got there first because they were following the walrus herds to harvest their ivory. His sources include the Norse historians, who mention that the Norse found people on Iceland, and the Greek explorer Pytheas, who sailed from the Mediterranean to Iceland around 330 b.c.e. Mowat...
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