Uncovering The Myth Of The Vikings
Most people have an immediate image of a Viking when they hear the word in a legend, story, or simply as a reference in a conversation. This image tends to be of a massive man with blonde or red hair, a barrel chest, and an ability to go to war and win on the sea as well as on land.
Also associated with the Vikings were their iconic battleships, made of wood but designed to weather the most extreme weather off the coasts of Northern Europe. Of course, most people also think of the Viking helmet, heavy broadswords, and armor designed to both intimidate their opponents and protect themselves.
What Science Reveals
Early archeological digs in various areas of the world, including Scandinavia, Greenland, Italy, Estonia, and England, uncovered a variety of artifacts that support some of these impressions. However, the results provided by DNA testing indicate a very different version of who the Vikings were as a people, at least in regards to their diversity and appearance.
There are a few key issues found through the DNA testing of over 442 human remains from 80 different sites across Italy, Greenland, and throughout the northern part of Europe. These are dated from 2400 B.C to about 1600 A.D. All of the remains were found in areas where Vikings visited, plundered, and lived. Some were found with actual Viking artifacts, including weapons, coins, and, in several cases, a group of bodies with a boat in the Viking design.
A few of the important issues that shake the current image of a Viking include:
- Highly diverse DNA – the DNA records show some Vikings were from areas where farming or hunter-gathers were predominant. A significant number of those remains tested provided clear evidence of ancestry from the Eurasian steppe.
- Mingled more out of Scandinavia – the DNA testing reveals that Viking populations tend to interact with partners outside of Scandinavia and less within the country. This led to a significant distribution of Viking DNA around the world.
- Mixed people – most Viking remains showed mixed heritage, with a combination of Northern and Southern European, Scandinavian, and Indigenous Scandinavian DNA.
- Some Vikings were not Vikings at all – burial sites in Scotland had Viking artifacts, including equipment and swords, but the DNA testing showed no signs of Viking DNA.
To make things a bit more complex, only about 15 to 30 percent of the population of Scandinavia today has any shared ancestry with the Vikings. Considering the relatively recent Viking era, this is surprising if the group was the majority of the population.
What it Means
Many researchers believe the DNA proves that Vikings were a very diverse group not bound by a geographic region or a specific sense of unity with a given ethnicity. Even Vikings living in the area were not the blonde, blue-eyed, bearded giants depicted in legends. They were more likely to have been darker haired and darker eyed individuals that traveled extensively and interacted with different populations on their voyages.
If you are interested in testing your ancestry DNA or finding out your Viking heritage, shop the selection of kits and reports available at Genomeline.io. You can use your raw DNA data to generate information on your ancient ancestry.