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Viking Genetics More Diverse Than Once Thought

Recent DNA analysis shows that the Vikings, a people that many believe was mostly white skinned with blonde hair, were actually darker.

In a new study conducted by Nature of 442 Viking skeletons found in sites around the UK, Iceland, Greenland, Russia, and Scandinavia, researchers were stunned to find that before and during the Viking Age (800-1066AD), Vikings were more genetically diverse than previously believed, with ancestry from Asia, Europe, and the British Isles. This supports the theory that the Vikings didn’t see themselves as raiders of the European continent, but rather settlers.

The DNA from Vikings found in England had a strong Danish influence while Vikings found in Ireland appeared to have come from Norway.

DNA from a female skeleton found in Varnhem, Sweden, was sequenced as part of the study. Västergötlands museum

"The Danish Vikings went to England while the Swedish Vikings went to the Baltic and the Norwegian Vikings went to Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland," says lead report author Ashot Margaryan from the University of Copenhagen. "However, the Vikings from these three 'nations' rarely mixed genetically. Perhaps they were enemies or perhaps there is some other valid explanation; we just don't know."

This suggests that there was no single genetic identity; rather being a Viking was more of a cultural identifier. In fact, some of the Europeans, and even Muslims who were conquered by the Vikings ultimately chose to become Viking themselves—to such a degree that they were honored with a Viking funeral when they passed away.

If this is truly the case, then the real Vikings were much more diverse genetically, and most likely had brown or even black hair, as well as blonde.


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