4 June 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

A Connection Between Viking Knots And Quantum Vortices Discovered

14 December 2022

14 December 2022

Scientists demonstrated how three vortices can be linked in such a way that they cannot be dismantled. Although this study...

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of what may be one of the four lost Ancient Egyptian “Sun Temples”

31 July 2022

31 July 2022

A Polish and Italian archaeological mission, while conducting an excavation in the Abusir necropolis near Saqqara in Egypt, unearthed the...

3600 years old Unique ancient drinking bowls on display at Boğazkale Museum

15 August 2021

15 August 2021

The 3,600-year-old fist-shaped drinking bowls found in excavations in Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite Civilization, which shaped the Anatolian...

Archaeologists in northern Spanish have discovered what they believe to be the oldest Basque language text

15 November 2022

15 November 2022

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the oldest Basque language text, on  Irulegi archaeological site, near the Aranguren...

Vikings arrived in Newfoundland 1,000 years ago: Scientists

20 October 2021

20 October 2021

Vikings’ first permanent settlement in North America – the coastal outpost in Newfoundland known as L’Anse aux Meadows now has...

Samen Underground City Getting Prepared for Public Visits

6 June 2021

6 June 2021

Samen Underground City is a unique structure in Iran and the extent of such a structure has not been observed...

The Largest Circular Tomb of the Ancient World Is Opening

16 February 2021

16 February 2021

The restoration of Augustus’ colossal tomb, which is expected to be opened in 2014, has been completed. The Augustus mausoleum...

In Moravia, archaeologists discover divine thrones, thousands of artifacts and a new settlement

13 August 2021

13 August 2021

During a four-year dig in the Moravian city (Czech Republic) of Perov, rare gems, mysterious burial places, and divine thrones...

An intact Punic Tomb was Discovered in Malta

29 May 2021

29 May 2021

İntact a tomb dating to the Punic period was found in Tarxien. The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has announced the...

Archaeologists may have found the Sanctuary of Samian Poseidon described in ancient texts

11 October 2022

11 October 2022

During excavations in the foothills at the ancient acropolis of Samicum in Greece, archaeologists may have found the sanctuary of...

Severed right hands reveal Trophy-Taking practices in Ancient Egypt

2 April 2023

2 April 2023

Twelve severed hands were found in Egypt as part of a horrifying “trophy-taking” practice that was just made revealed by...

Saudi shipwreck excavation reveals hundreds of 18th-century artifacts on sunken ship in the north Red Sea

25 February 2022

25 February 2022

Divers from Saudi Arabia’s Heritage Authority have discovered a shipwreck in the Red Sea from the 18th century filled with...

Largest Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered in Britain illuminates ‘Dark Ages’

16 June 2022

16 June 2022

Archaeologists working on HS2 (the purpose-built high-speed railway line) have discovered a rich Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, where almost...

A Roman tomb where magical nails were used to fend off the ‘restless dead’ has been discovered in Türkiye

15 March 2023

15 March 2023

In the ancient city of Sagalassos in southwestern Türkiye, archaeologists have identified an unusual burial practice from the early Roman...

Stunning Roman-looking sandal found deep in the snow in the Norwegian mountains

16 April 2022

16 April 2022

Global warming is leading to the retreat of mountain glaciers. Incredibly well preserved and rare artifacts have emerged from melting...

Comments
Leave a Reply

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