DNA testing of the remains of Vikings shows that not all were Scandinavians. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The researchers are affiliated with the universities of Cambridge and Copenhagen. They analyzed 442 skeletons of Vikings buried throughout Europe and Greenland. The conclusion is that the Viking ship should not be limited to people with ancestors from Scandinavia.
According to researcher Eske Willerslev, there are significant gene spreads to Scandinavia from southern Europe and Asia before the Viking era is believed to start with the sack of Lindisfarne Monastery on Britain’s northeast coast in 793.
For the next three centuries, the Scandinavian diaspora set up settlements and trading posts from the Americas to the Asian steppe. “Across that huge area,” says Soren Sindbaek of the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, “the Vikings have spread ideas, technologies and languages.”
While there were Vikings who carried out brutal raids into Russia and the Middle East and also engaged in the slave trade, they also founded a city like Dublin in Ireland and gave the name ‘Normans’ to a region of Normandy in France. In the 9th century they founded Kievan Rus, a forerunner of the Russian state. So their achievements evoke admiration as much as their boldness and impudence have instilled fear.
The skeletons in Scotland were buried “with swords and other artifacts of the Vikings” before mixing with Scandinavians, the researchers say. They say that the way of burial shows a very different side of the Vikings than the image we have of them as brutal marauders.