Ancient DNA unravels the truth behind the controversial GUS Greenlandic Norse fur samples: the bison was a horse, and the muskox and beats were goats

Mikkel-Holger Sinding, Jette Arneborg, Georg Nyegaard, M. Thomas. P. Gilbert

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The Norse Greenlandic archaeological site known as ‘the Farm Beneath the Sand’ (GUS) has sourced
many well-preserved and unique archaeological artefacts. Some of the most controversial finds are tufts
of hair, which previous morphological-based examination concluded derive from bison, black bear,
brown bear and muskox, all species whose natural presence in South Greenland is unlikely. If true, the
consequences are potentially significant, as they could imply Viking trading with, or hunting within,
North America. To validate these previous findings, we genetically profiled the samples, through mitochondrial
16S DNA analysis. The results revealed that the putative bison was, in fact horse, while the
bears and muskox were goat. The results demonstrate the importance of using genetic analyses to
validate results derived from morphological analyses on hair, in particular where such studies lead to
sensational claims.
TidsskriftJournal of Archaeological Science
Sider (fra-til)297-303
StatusUdgivet - 2015


  • dirt-DNA
  • Norrøn arkæologi
  • Grønland
  • Gården under Sandet