Iceland’s early ‘criminal profiling’ of Vikings

Researchers have revealed that 10th century Iceland was perhaps one of the earliest documented places to utilise ‘criminal profiling’.

Historian Dr Tarrin Wills of the University of Aberdeen told reporters this week that famous Icelandic sagas paint the picture of Vikings returning home after missions of rape and pillage to find themselves in trouble in society. Such individuals were expressively described in some of the earliest known ‘criminal profiles’, in which they were identified by physical attributes that are generally associated with high levels of testosterone.
Researchers said such profiles were created as a means to ensure that Vikings’ anti-social behaviour was not forced upon citizens of their homeland.

Dr Will said, “A good Viking should be aggressive and dominant, he should go abroad, he should rape and pillage. But many of these guys end up back home having to settle down to what is basically farming and family life. The kinds of guys that are good at rape and pillage aren’t very good husbands and farmers,” the UKPA reports.

He added, “This was a particular problem in Iceland because Icelanders, like the rest of Scandinavia, had a very sophisticated legal system but no central government, no way of enforcing the law.”

One of such men profiled was the feared Egill Skallagrimsson, who, according to the sagas, featured a wide face and forehead, bushy facial hair, a receding hairline and wide shoulders. Egill was said to have had a “lifelong interest in homicide.”