DUBLIN — DNA sequencing of Viking remains suggests not all the axe-swinging pillagers were blonde-haired, blue-eyed Nordics, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
A multinational team led by the University of Cambridge and the University of Copenhagen analysed 442 skeletons buried across Europe and Greenland and found that “Viking identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry.”
Research team leader Eske Willerslev said the analysis showed “significant gene flows” into Scandinavia from southern Europe and Asia before the start of the Viking Age, which is often dated to the 793 sacking of the monastery at Lindisfarne on Britain’s North Sea coast.
Over the next three centuries, “Scandinavian diasporas” set up trading posts and towns “stretching from the American continent to the Asian steppe.”
Across this vast terrain, said Soren Sindbaek, an archaeologist from Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, Vikings “exported ideas, technologies, language, beliefs and practices.”
Vikings carried out brutal raids across western Europe and enforced a slave trade through what is now Russia to the Middle East.
Dozens of stone towers- some likely built as refuges for people fleeing Viking raids – still dot the Irish landscape near the ruins of churches that were the marauders’ likely targets.
Viking invaders founded Dublin, Ireland’s capital, lent their nickname of “Norsemen” to Normandy in France, and in the late 9th century helped establish Kievan Rus, sometimes claimed as the first Russian state.
Such achievements could have spurred admiration and emulation even as Viking ruthlessness stoked fear across Europe.
Skeletons unearthed in Scotland were “buried with swords and other Viking memorabilia” – without those in the graves first “genetically mixing with Scandinavians,” according to the researchers. The internment shows “a different side of the cultural relationship from Viking raiding and pillaging,” they said, A similar discovery was made at a Viking burial site in Dublin, which contained skeletons hailing from the north-west of Ireland.
Though the researchers found indications of non-Scandinavians adopting Viking ways, their DNA analysis seems to confirm historical accounts that show Vikings from what is now Norway sailing west to Iceland and Ireland, Danes making their way to England, and Swedes heading east into what are now Poland and Russia.Show