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

What is a Viking? The phrase conjures an unmistakable mental graphic: the stereotype of daring Scandinavian invaders, fearsome marauders with white skin and pale hair, ruthlessly raiding and voyaging their way throughout the globe above 1,000 years in the past.


Only, there is a blunder immediately after all, it would seem – very important specifics in this longstanding legend are mistaken, new analysis reveals. According to a substantial genetic investigation of above 400 Viking skeletons scattered throughout Europe, numerous Vikings weren’t of Scandinavian ancestry, and numerous would have experienced dark hair, not blonde.

Artistic reconstruction of ‘Southern European’ Vikings. (Jim Lyngvild)

“The success modify the perception of who a Viking basically was,” states evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev, jointly affiliated with the University of Cambridge and the University of Copenhagen.

“The background publications will have to have to be up to date.”

Willerslev is rather a recurring trouble for the publishers of background publications. His pioneering studies have reshaped our comprehending of the historic genetic makeup of populations all about the entire world – from Australia, to South East Asia, North The us, the South Pacific, and much more.

In the new study – the greatest genetic investigation of Vikings to date – Willerslev led a team of dozens of researchers, examining the remains of 442 Viking skeletons recovered from archaeological web sites in Scandinavia, the British isles, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Russia, and in other places, most of which date to the Viking Age (about 793–1066 CE).

010 vikings 3A female skeleton, ‘Kata’, observed at a Viking burial web page in Sweden. (Västergötlands Museum)

DNA sequencing of the remains – comprising bones from men, ladies, children, and infants – indicates that the two prior to and all through the Viking Age, a assorted array of overseas genetic influences flowed into Scandinavian bloodlines, from Asia, Southern Europe, and the British Isles.

“We did not know genetically what they basically looked like until now,” Willerslev states.


“[This] debunks the modern day graphic of Vikings with blonde hair, as numerous experienced brown hair, and had been affected by genetic influx from the outdoors of Scandinavia.”

Within Scandinavia, the southern locations had been much more probably to be diversity hotspots, the success suggest, possibly because they had been geographically closer to Southern Europe and Asia. In distinction, gene circulation inside interior Scandinavia was much more limited, with some Viking populations much more isolated than previously believed.

010 vikings 3Mass grave of headless Vikings in Dorset, British isles. (Dorset County Council/Oxford Archaeology)

In other places, all through the period, Viking voyages did not just spread conquest and trade, but also genetic seeds that can still be seen in folks these days, with 6 {0841e0d75c8d746db04d650b1305ad3fcafc778b501ea82c6d7687ee4903b11a} of folks in the British isles estimated to have Viking DNA, and in Sweden, as much as ten {0841e0d75c8d746db04d650b1305ad3fcafc778b501ea82c6d7687ee4903b11a}.

“The Danish Vikings went to England, whilst the Swedish Vikings went to the Baltic and the Norwegian Vikings went to Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland,” states to start with writer Ashot Margaryan from the University of Copenhagen.

“Nonetheless, the Vikings from these 3 ‘nations’ only quite not often blended genetically. Potentially they had been enemies or perhaps there is some other valid clarification. We just never know.”


But the success also expose that all through the Viking Age, becoming a Viking was as much a concept and a society as it was concern of genetic inheritance, with the team finding that two Viking skeletons buried in the Northern Isles of Scotland experienced what appears to be like to be reasonably pure Scottish and Irish heritage, with no Scandinavian influence, at least not genetically talking, that is.

“Scandinavian diasporas founded trade and settlement stretching from the American continent to the Asian steppe,” clarifies archaeologist Søren Sindbæk from Moesgaard Museum in Denmark.

“They exported strategies, systems, language, beliefs and tactics and developed new socio-political structures.”

The conclusions are claimed in Character.