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New study reveals that not all Vikings were Scandinavian

Artistic recreation of southern European Vikings showing the flow of foreign genes in Viking-era Scandinavia – © Jim Lyngvild

The Vikings, who are often portrayed as a blonde-haired, slaughtered hungry Scandinavian people, had much more different origins than their current image suggests, according to this new study.

A stereotypical image

Published in the magazine Nature, this new research suggests it Vikings, legendary invaders from the seas who are said to have frightened the coastal communities inNorthern Europe for three centuries, could come from different geographical horizons. The sequencing ofADN of more than 400 Viking skeletons buried Europe and at Greenland revealed that some were genetically linkedsouthern Europe et al ‘Asia, like the old Scotlandand that they were far from all blonde. According to the researchers, dark hair was even common among the latter.

« We have this stereotypical image of Vikings mingling with each other, shopping and going on raids to fight kings all over Europe because that is what we see on TV and read in the books. But we have shown genetically that this is not the case “, Advance Eske Willerslev, lead author of the study. ” No one could have predicted that these important gene flows to Scandinavia from southern Europe and Asia occurred before and during the Viking Age.. »

By mapping the genome of 442 men, women and children found in Viking cemeteries, researchers have revealed previously unknown stories behind these places – including the burial of a ship in Estonia, with four brothers who died the same day, probably during a raid with members of the same village.

A mass grave of about 50 headless Vikings from a site in Dorset, UK – © Dorset County Council / Oxford Archeology

High levels of non-Scandinavian ancestry

While male skeletons from a Viking burial ground in Orkney, i Scotland, were not found to be genetically linked to the Vikings, although they were buried with swords and other memorabilia characteristic of this people, the researchers found that Picts and Celtic after inhabiting the east and northScotland at the end of the British Iron Age and the beginning of The Middle Ages, « would be » Vikings without mixing genetically with Scandinavians.

« We found that the Vikings were not just Scandinavians in their genetic origin, because we analyzed genetic influences in their DNA from southern Europe and Asia, which has never been considered before. Many Vikings have high levels of non-Scandinavian ancestry, both inside and outside Scandinavia, which indicates a continued gene flow throughout Europe “, Explain Martin Sikora, professor atUniversity of Copenhagen and co-author of the study.

At the same time, the study showed remarkable differences in where the Scandinavian groups had visited. The Vikings of the current Norway had thus accosted in Ireland, i Scotland, i Iceland and at Greenland, de av Denmark mainly in England, while those of Sweden used to carry out raids and looting in the Baltic states.

Tomb was discovered in Sweden and escaped the skeleton of a Viking woman named Kata whose DNA was sequenced as part of the study – © Västergötlands Museum

“The genomes allow us to dissect how the selection took place before, during and after the Vikings’ movements throughout Europe”

For study authors, it is important to use a large dataset to study complex properties and natural selection in the past. ” This is the first time we can examine in detail the development of varieties under natural selection in the last 2000 years of European history. », Underlines the professor Fernando Racimo.

« The genomes allow us to find out how the selection took place before, during and after the Vikings’ movements throughout Europe, which affects genes associated with important properties such as immunity, pigmentation and metabolism. », The researcher continues. ” Which also helps us to determine the physical appearance of the ancient Vikings and compare them with today’s Scandinavians. »

Research also found that the genetic heritage of these frequent travelers had spread widely in populations, with about 6% of the population in UK hasADN viking versus 10% sv Sweden. « These results change our perception of what a Viking really was. History books need to be updated », Ends Willerslev.

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