World's largest Viking DNA study debunks many modern myths

Vast DNA Analysis of Hundreds of Vikings Reveals They Weren't Who We Thought

Viking Myths Shattered? Study Suggests They Were Neither Fair-Haired Nor Scandinavian

Blond-haired, Scandinavian warriors who pillaged their way through Europe. However, it is not possible to say anything about the Vikings' hair color based on historical sources, he said. In response, stories about mighty, blonde and uniquely Scandinavian Vikings who sailed out and conquered the world became increasingly popular.

Mass grave of headless Vikings in Dorset, UK.

A research team led by Prof Eske Willerslev of St John's College at the University of Cambridge has published its findings to Nature on the genetic sequencing of 442 mostly Viking-era men, women, children and babies.

We thought we knew everything about the Vikings.

Vikings - derived from the Scandinavian word "vikingr", meaning pirate - played a substantial role in reshaping Europe politically, culturally and geographically during the Middle Ages, with repercussions that ripple to the present.

The Germanic Iron Age ended under the weight of the invading Roman Empire , and after the Italian conquistadors themselves collapsed the Germanic migration period (400-600 AD) saw the reformation of people groups, preceding the Viking Age (AD 750-1050). Many of these expeditions involved raiding monasteries, but Vikings also traded goods such as fur, tusks and seal fat.

"We didn't know genetically what they actually looked like until now".

The study also revealed genetic differences between the various Viking populations within Scandinavia, which suggests different groups were more isolated than previously thought. Relating to the genomes of 34 Vikings, this included a burial site in Salme, Estonia, where remains were found to include "four brothers buried side by side, with two additional pairs of kin". Two skeletons from Orkney, buried with swords in the Viking tradition, were genetically most similar to present-day Irish and Scots. And Vikings from what is now Sweden went to the Baltic countries on their all male "raiding parties". "The Vikings travelled much farther, had lots of southern European genes and probably far greater cultural exchange with the outside world than the contemporary peasant communities". The movements, which confirm archaeological evidence and historical records, pose some interesting questions.

By contrast, contemporary peasants' DNA had remained unchanged since the Neolithic due to lack of exposure.

The study also revealed that some local people Irish accepted the invaders and even took on their identities: remains found in a Viking burial ground in Dublin showed little to no Scandinavian ancestry, and instead contained DNA most commonly found in the northwest of Ireland.

"In general, Irish Viking genomes harbour high levels of Norwegian-like ancestry".

A female skeleton, "Kata", found at a Viking burial site in Sweden.

Top image: Genes of the Vikings traced across Europe.

Prof Søren Sindbæk, an archaeologist from Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, said the extensive reach of the Scandinavian diaspora - from the American continent to the Asian steppe - helped shape those lands for the generations that followed. Further, the Vikings also exported ideas, technologies, language, beliefs and practices to other places. The study showed that during the Viking Age, "a foreign gene flow", spilled into Scandinavia from the south and east, and it shows what can be described as chart of Viking conquest and colonization outside Scandinavia.

The data collected will also be useful in the study of natural selection in the past, according to lead author Fernando Racimo, assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen.

"The Viking genomes allow us to disentangle how selection unfolded before, during and after the Viking movements across Europe, affecting genes associated with important traits like immunity, pigmentation and metabolism", he said.

As of today, six per cent of people in the United Kingdom are predicted to have Viking DNA in their genes as compared to 10 per cent in Sweden.

A NUMBER of Viking remains found in Ireland have yielded surprising results after undergoing DNA analysis. "The history books will need to be updated".

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