7 February 2023 The Future is the Product of the Past

New study investigates the development of the Scandinavian gene pool over the latest 2000 years

A new study resolves the complex relations between geography, ancestry, and gene flow in Scandinavia – encompassing the Roman Age, the Viking Age, and later periods.

Researchers investigated a 2,000-year genetic transect through Scandinavia spanning the Iron Age to the present, based on 48 new and 249 published ancient genomes and genotypes from 16,638 modern individuals.

A surprising increase of variation during the Viking period indicates that gene flow into Scandinavia was especially intense during this period.

An international study coordinated from Stockholm and Reykjavik investigates the development of the Scandinavian gene pool over the latest 2000 years. In this effort the scientists relied on historic and prehistoric genomes, and from material excavated in Scandinavia. These ancient genomes were compared with genomic data from 16,638 contemporary Scandinavians. As the geographical origin and the datings were known for all these individuals, it was possible to resolve the development of the gene pool to a level never realised previously.

Archaeological excavation at Sandby Borg. Photo: Daniel Lindskog
Archaeological excavation at Sandby Borg. Photo: Daniel Lindskog

Dr Ricardo Rodríguez Varela at the Centre for Palaeogenetics*, who analyzed all the data and extracted some of the ancient DNA used in the study, explains: “With this level of resolution we not only confirm the Viking Age migration. We are also able to trace it to the east Baltic region, the British-Irish Isles and southern Europe. But not all parts of Scandinavia received the same amounts of gene flow from these areas. For example, while British-Irish ancestry became widespread in Scandinavia the eastern-Baltic ancestry mainly reached Gotland and central Sweden.”

The gene pool bounced back after the Viking period

Another new discovery in this study was what happened to the gene pool after the Viking period. The scientists were surprised to find that it bounced back in the direction of what it looked like before the Viking period migration.

Professor Anders Götherström at the Centre for Palaeogenetics, who is a senior scientist on the study, is intrigued: “Interestingly, the non-local ancestry peaks during the Viking period while being lower before and after. The drop in current levels of external ancestry suggests that the Viking-period migrants got less children, or somehow contributed proportionally less to the gene pool than the people who were already in Scandinavia.”

Yet a new discovery was the history of the northern Scandinavian gene pool. There is a genetic component in northern Scandinavia that is rare in central and western Europe, and the scientists were able to track this component in northern Scandinavia through the latest 1000 years.

Underwater excavations of the ship Kronan. Photo: Lars Einarsson.
Underwater excavations of the ship Kronan. Photo: Lars Einarsson.

Dr Ricardo Rodríguez Varela comments, “We suspected that there was a chronology to the northern Scandinavian gene pool, and it did indeed prove that a more recent influx of Uralic ancestry into Scandinavia define much of the northern gene pool. But if it is recent, it is comparatively so. For example, we know that this Uralic ancestry was present in northern Scandinavia as early as during the late Viking period”.

Based on well-known Swedish archaeological sites

The study is based on a number of well-known Swedish archaeological sites. For example, there are genomes from the 17th century warship Kronan, from the Viking and Vendel period boat burials in the lake Mälaren Valley, and from the migration period ring fortress Sandby borg on Öland.

Anders Götherström conclude: “We were working on a number of smaller studies on different archaeological sites. And at some point it just made sense to combine them into a larger study on the development of the Scandinavian gene pool.

The study, published today in Cell, is an international effort with several collaborators, but it was led by Dr Ricardo Rodríguez Varela and Professor Anders Götherstörm at Stockholm University, and Professor Agnar Helgason, and Kristjáan Moore at deCODE in Reykavijk.

The article “The genetic history of Scandinavia from the Roman Iron Age to the present” is published in Cell.

10.1016/j.cell.2022.11.024

Cover Photo: Sandby borg archaeological excavations. DANIEL LINDSKOG

Banner
Related Post

15 new sculptures discovered in Turkey’s sculpture paradise Yesemek

8 December 2021

8 December 2021

Archaeologists discovered 15 new sculptures during recent digs around the Yesemek Open Air Museum and Sculpture Workshop in the Islahiye...

The bronze age village Afragola buried by the Plinian eruption of mount Vesuvius 4,000 Years Ago

30 September 2022

30 September 2022

Mount Vesuvius’ Plinian eruption about 4,000 years ago—2,000 years before it buried the Roman city of Pompeii—left remarkable preservation of...

1,500-year-old feast mosaic found in Turkey

2 February 2022

2 February 2022

A 50-square-meter mosaic depicting an open-air feast dating back 1,500 years ago was unearthed during excavations in the ancient city...

Medieval ship found off the west coast of Sweden

5 February 2022

5 February 2022

A previously undiscovered wreck has been found outside of Fjällbacka on the Swedish west coast. Analysis of wood samples shows...

1300-year-old baby footprints found in excavations at the ancient city of Assos in western Turkey

3 September 2021

3 September 2021

1300 years ago, a baby stepped on baked bricks prepared to make a bread baking oven. The baby was probably...

The earliest Buddha statues in China found in northwestern Shaanxi

10 December 2021

10 December 2021

The two copper-tin-lead alloy Buddha statues discovered in northwestern Shaanxi Province became the earliest Buddha statues of this kind unearthed...

A rural necropolis from Late Antiquity discovered in northeastern France

5 November 2022

5 November 2022

Inrap archaeologists have unearthed a small rural necropolis from the late 5th century (Late Antiquity) at Sainte-Marie-aux-Chênes in northeastern France....

The greatest Anglo-Saxon treasure trove ever unearthed has been discovered by a metal detectorist

10 November 2021

10 November 2021

A metal detector in West Norfolk, England, unearthed 131 coins and 4 golden artifacts going back 1,400 years. This is...

Remains of the summer palace of Genghis Khan’s grandson, Hulagu Khan, found in eastern Turkey

7 July 2022

7 July 2022

The archeology study team, consisting of Turkish and Mongolian scientists, found important findings in the study carried out to find...

Artifacts for sale offered at a Dutch auction house returned to Peru

9 July 2021

9 July 2021

The Dutch government announced in a press release today that the artifacts that were put up for sale at an...

9 Relics of Neanderthal Found in The Guattari Cave

8 May 2021

8 May 2021

Archaeologists in Italy have discovered the remains of nine Neanderthals who were reportedly killed and mauled by hyenas in their...

Middle Ages living space uncovered at an altitude of 1,800 meters in eastern Turkey

20 December 2021

20 December 2021

A living space carved into a bedrock considered to belong to the Middle Ages was found at a point overlooking...

Archaeologists have unearthed an incredible hoard of over 300 Iron Age ‘potins’ in West London

17 July 2021

17 July 2021

Archaeologists at an HS2 construction site in Hillingdon, West London discovered an astonishing treasure of over 300 Iron Age ‘potins”....

Archaeologists discover ‘exceptional’ ancient Roman sanctuary in near intact condition in Netherlands

23 June 2022

23 June 2022

Archaeologists have unearthed a relatively intact 1st-century Roman sanctuary in the town of Herwen-Hemeling in the province of Gelderland in...

Remains of a 5-year-old girl found under Real Alcázar in Spain

9 May 2021

9 May 2021

The body of a five-year-old fair-haired girl who lived in the late Middle Ages and was most likely of noble...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *