Researchers uncover unexpected facts about our ancestors by studying Viking DNA

Fareeha Arshad
Photo byPhoto by photo by Gioele Fazzeri on Unsplash

New research based on a genetic analysis of over 400 Viking skeletons challenges the traditional image of Vikings as solely Scandinavian and predominantly fair-haired.

The study, led by geneticist Eske Willerslev and his team, analysed the remains of Vikings from various European regions, including Scandinavia, the British Isles, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and Russia. The DNA sequencing revealed that Vikings had diverse genetic influences from Asia, Southern Europe, and the British Isles before and during the Viking Age (793-1066 CE).

This suggests that the Viking population was more genetically diverse than previously thought, and many Vikings would have had dark hair rather than blonde hair, contrary to the popular stereotype. The study also indicated that southern regions of Scandinavia had higher genetic diversity, likely due to their proximity to Southern Europe and Asia. In contrast, gene flow within inner Scandinavia was more limited, with some Viking populations being more isolated than previously believed.

The Viking voyages not only spread conquest and trade but also introduced genetic influences that can still be observed in modern populations. Approximately 6 per cent of people in the UK and up to 10 per cent in Sweden are estimated to have Viking DNA. The study suggests that Danish Vikings travelled to England, Swedish Vikings journeyed to the Baltic region, and Norwegian Vikings explored Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland. Surprisingly, genetic mixing between these different Viking groups was rare, and the reasons are unclear. Whether they were enemies or other factors played a role is uncertain.

However, the research also highlights that being a Viking was not solely determined by genetic inheritance but was also shaped by cultural and societal factors. The study identified two Viking skeletons buried in the Northern Isles of Scotland that exhibited relatively pure Scottish and Irish heritage without significant Scandinavian genetic influence. This suggests that Viking identity was a concept and culture that extended beyond genetic origins.

The findings of this study challenge the prevailing perception of Vikings and indicate the need to update historical narratives about this ancient culture. The research expands our understanding of the genetic makeup and diversity of the Viking population, emphasising their complex interactions with other regions and cultures during the Viking Age.

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

More from Fareeha Arshad

Comments / 0