Researchers say their findings invalidate many notions of famous warriors
For Vikings we always thought blondes were Scandinavian warriors who fought and plundered all over Europe. We thought, in fact, we knew everything about the Vikings. But new research suggests we are not right.
In the largest study of its kind, published in the journal Nature Wednesday, the researchers found that many Vikings actually had brown hair and that they were not only from Scandinavia. In a six-year study, archaeologists and academics used DNA technology to analyze more than 400 Viking skeletons from sites in Scandinavia, Greenland, and the United Kingdom.
They discovered that the Vikings did not only originate from Scandinavia – they also had genes from Asia and Southern Europe in their blood. The study, conducted by academics from the University of Cambridge in the UK and the University of Copenhagen, found that Viking cemeteries in Scotland contained locals who may have assumed a “Viking identity”.
Researchers say their findings nullify many notions of the Vikings.
– The results change the perception of who the Vikings really were. History books will need to be updated, said Eske Willerslev, an associate with St John’s College in Cambridge.
The new research calls into question the traditional image of blonde Vikings, because “many had brown hair and were influenced by genetic influx from outside Scandinavia.” The study also revealed genetic differences between different Viking populations within Scandinavia, suggesting that different groups were more isolated than previously thought.
Two skeletons were found at Orkney, on the northeast coast of Scotland, which had DNA similar to today’s Irish and Scots, and were buried in Viking-style tombs. This suggests that they may have assumed the identity of the Vikings, the researchers say.
The word “Viking” comes from the Scandinavian term “vikingr,” meaning “pirate,” and the Viking Age refers to the medieval period between the 800s and 1050s, the researchers explained. It is known that the Vikings traveled through Europe and the sea. Many of these expeditions involved looting monasteries, but the Vikings also traded in goods such as fur, tusks, and seal fat. The researchers found that these male robbery groups consisted of friends, family members, and neighbors.
The data collected will also be useful in studying natural selection in the past, according to lead author Fernando Racima, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen. He said the data “allows us to understand how natural selection took place before, during, and after the Viking movements across Europe”.
The genetic heritage of the Vikings is still present today, the researchers said, with an estimate that 6 percent of people in the UK and 10 percent of people in Sweden carry Viking DNA in their genes.