Danish Viking DNA Retrieved

DNAIn May 2008 a team of Danish scientists led by Jørgen Dissing from the University of Copenhagen was able to retrieve the genetic material from the Viking burial site called Galdegil. It is located near Otterup on the island of Funen, Denmark. The remains of 3 males, 4 females and 3 more persons whose sex cannot be determined were unearthed. Carbon-14 method revealed that the burial may be dated to ca. 1000 AD.

The retrieval of DNA from the remains of the ancient humans is important since it gives a possibility to further the study of Viking migration patterns, their tribal and family structure, as well as to discover the origin of some genetic diseases. However the scarcity of intact molecules and a very high risk of contamination by modern DNA makes the retrieval of genetic material from ancient remains a great challenge for the scientists. Attempts to get Cretaceous era dinosaur and Neolithic human remains DNA proved unsuccessful.

Dissing’s team proceeded with extraordinary care: all of them wore sterile full body suites, hairnets, gloves, shoe covers and face masks. As soon as the last layer of soil was removed, two teeth were extracted from a skull, then placed into sealed sterile tubes and transported to the laboratory. In order to screen any possible contamination, the DNA of all team members who participated in the excavation, extraction and sequencing was checked.

As a result, a portion of mtDNA genome called HVR-1 (which stands for hyper-variable region 1) was retrieved from the remains of the Vikings who lived a thousand years ago. Danish Viking DNA showed no evidence of contamination with extraneous genetic material.

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14 comments… add one
  • Jacqueline Foster

    I have had my DNA done and was very surprised to find I am 70.8% Scandanavian. I have traced my father’s family back to 1734 and all of my ancestors appear to be Northumbrian (as I thought I was!) Does this mean Viking or Norse?

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