March 20, 2010
Norsemen who settled in southern Greenland carried more Celtic than Nordic blood but they were still decidedly Scandinavian.
An analysis of DNA from a Viking gravesite near a 1000 year-old church in southern Greenland shows that those buried there had strong Celtic bloodlines, reported science website Videnskab.dk.
The analysis performed by Danish researchers on bones from skeletons found during excavations in south Greenland revealed that the settlers' Nordic blood was mixed with Celtic blood, probably originating from the British Isles.
Danish archaeologists are currently conducting the first regional study of southern Greenland's original settlers, whose colonies date back to the year 985. The skeletons disinterred outside the old church also date back to just a few years after that period.
'The research results haven't yet been published, but initial results somewhat surprisingly suggest that the people in the graves were more Celtic than Nordic,' said Jette Arneborg, curator and senior scientist at the National Museum, and one of the Danish archaeologists involved in the project.
'We've always known that Norsemen traveled a lot and we also know that the early inhabitants of the Faroe Islands and Iceland had traces of Celtic genes. But now we also have evidence of this in Greenland as well,' she added.
Although the DNA analysis reveals the inhabitants had Celtic blood in their veins, Arneborg said there was no question that the settlers were Nordic.
'Everything these people did their culture, means of nourishment and so on was clearly Scandinavian,' she said.
Earlier studies of populations living in the Faeroe Islands and Iceland have shown that it was primarily the women who were of Celtic origin.
Arneborg said that indicated the Vikings may have come from Norway down past the British Isles -- where they took women with them -- and then continued on into the North Atlantic, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland.