Vikings in Africa

By Aislinn Sanders

Vikings, the Middles Ages Norse explorers, have a long history of exploration and contact with other civilizations. They settled from the Greenland to the western coast of Canada. Their history in Africa, however, remains a forgotten part of their expeditions.

According to sources in the Vikings’ fragmented historical texts, the 9th century chieftain Hastein led a fleet to the African coast around 859 C.E. after raiding multiple Mediterranean cities. Described as “fierce, mightily cruel, pestilent, and untrustworthy” by others in his time, Hastein was one of the most infamous and successful of the Vikings.

The fleet landed in Maurentania (preset-day Morocco) and sacked the city of Nekor over a period of eight days. Multiple written accounts of this event can be found, including from the 10th century historian Ilb al-Qūṭīya and the 13th century historian and geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri.

Though archaeologists have been unable to find physical evidence of this event, skeletal rodent remains found on the Madeira archipelago suggests that mice may have travelled via Viking ships and been introduced to the islands around 1000 years ago. These mice share a genetic likeness to Scandinavian and German mice but not to the mice found in Portugal, adding validity to this theory.

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