The cadre of researchers responsible for gathering the data is amazing and the effort took them 4 1/2 years.
Well worth your attention should you harbor a real interest in your own heritage, or the Norse people and their wanderings. (Ed.)
Population Genomics of the Viking World
Scandinavian genetic ancestry and the beginnings of the Viking era
Although VA Scandinavians shared a common cultural, linguistic and material background, there was no common word for Scandinavian identity at that time1. The word ‘Viking’ is used in contemporary sources to mean a ‘pirate’ or ‘sea warrior’2. As such, there is no single ‘Viking world’, but a coalescence of ‘Viking worlds’ marked by rapidly growing maritime exploration, trade, war and colonization, following the adoption of deep-sea navigation among the coastal populations of Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea area7,8. Thus, it is unclear whether the Viking-phenomenon refers to people with a recently shared genetic background and if foreign influence initiated or accompanied the transition from the Scandinavian Iron Age into the Viking era.
To assess the genetic relationship of the VA Scandinavians with that of earlier European peoples, we performed genetic clustering using multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) on a pairwise identity-by-state (IBS) sharing matrix, as well as latent mixed-ancestry models (Admixture)9.
We find that the majority of our samples broadly cluster within the range of European Bronze Age (BA) and Iron Age (IA) populations, characterized by an ancestry component that is related to pastoralist populations from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (Fig. 2a and Extended Data Fig. 2) entering Europe around 5000 BP10,11.
A different dimensionality reduction technique using uniform manifold approximation and projection (UMAP) revealed additional fine-scale genetic structure. European individuals from the Bronze Age and onwards are generally distributed within a broad area anchored by four ancestry clusters across the two UMAP dimensions: Early BA individuals from the Steppe; pre-BA Neolithic Europeans; Baltic BA individuals; and Scandinavian IA and early VA individuals (Fig. 2b).
We observe a wide range of distributions for VA individuals within this broad area, with notable differences between geographic regions (Fig. S8.10), indicating complex fine-scale structure among the different groups. Modelling Scandinavian groups from the BA and onwards as mixtures of three ancestral components (Mesolithic hunter-gatherers; Anatolian Neolithic; Steppe early BA), again revealed subtle differences in their composition.
We find that the transition from the BA to the IA is accompanied by a reduction in Neolithic farmer ancestry, with a corresponding increase in both Steppe-like ancestry and hunter-gatherer ancestry (Extended Data Fig. 6).
While most groups show a slight recovery of farmer ancestry during the VA, there is considerable variation in ancestry across Scandinavia. In particular, we observe a wide range of ancestry compositions among individuals from Sweden, with some groups in southern Sweden showing some of the highest farmer ancestry proportions (40% or more in individuals from Malmö, Kärda or Öland).
Ancestry proportions in Norway and Denmark on the other hand appear more uniform (Extended Data Fig. 6).
Finally, we detect an influx of low levels of “eastern” ancestry starting in the early VA, mostly constrained among groups from eastern and central Sweden as well as some Norwegian groups (Extended Data Fig. 6).
Testing of putative source groups for this “eastern” ancestry revealed differing patterns among the Viking Age target groups, with contributions of either East Asian- or Caucasus-related ancestry (Supplementary Note 10).
|Map of the “Viking World” from 8th till 11th centuries.|
Different symbols on the map (a) correspond to ancient sites of a specific age/culture. The ancient samples are divided into the following five broad categories: Bronze Age (BA) - c. 2500 BC - 900 BC; Iron Age (IA) - c. 900 BC to 700 CE; Early Viking Age (EVA) - c. 700 to 800 CE; VA - c. 800 to 1100 CE; Medieval - c. 1100 to 1600 CE. b, All ancient individuals from this study (n=442) and published VA samples (n=21) from Sigtuna6 are categorized based on their spatio-temporal origin.