Population genomics of the Viking world

Ashot Margaryan, Daniel J. Lawson, Martin Sikora, Fernando Racimo, Rasmus Nielsen, Thomas Werge, Eske Willerslev, Tom Christensen, Peter Pentz, Mads Dengsø Jessen, Anne Pedersen, Jette Arneborg, Andrés Ingason, Mikkel W. Pedersen, Thorfinn Korneliussen, Peter de Barros Damgaard, Gabriel Renaud, J. Víctor Moreno-Mayar, Hugh McColl, Jade Cheng, Jesper Stenderup, Jilong Ma, Sturla Ellingvåg, Morten E. Allentoft, Anna K. Fotakis, Enrico Cappellini, Gabriele Scorrano, Inge Lundstrøm, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Simon Rasmussen, Ida Moltke, Lara M. Cassidy, Emil Jørsboe, Helene Wilhelmson, Magdalena M. Bus, Rui Martiniano, Claude Bhérer, Marie Allen, Raili Allmäe, Martyna Molak, Alexandra Buzhilova, Allison Fox, Anders Albrechtsen, Berit Schütz, Birgitte Skar, Caroline Arcini, Ceri Falys, Charlotte Hedenstierna Jonson, Dariusz Blszczyk, Denis Pezhemsy, Gordon Turner-Walker, Hildur Gestsdóttir, Ingrid Gustin, Ingrid Mainland, Inna Potekhina, Italo M. Muntoni, Julie Gibson, Jüri Peets, Jörgen Gustaffson, Katrine H. Iversen, Linzi Simpson, Lisa Strand, Louise Loe, Maeve Sikora, Marek Florek, Maria Vretemark, Mark Redknap, Monika Bajka, Tamara Pushkina, Morten Søvsø, Natalia Gigoreva, Ole Kastholm, Otto Uldum, Pasquale Favia, Per Holck, Sabine Sten, Símun V. Arge, Vayacheslav Moiseyev, Wieslaw Bogdaniwicz, Yvonne Magnusson, Ludovic Orlando, Mark Collard, Daniel G. Bradley, Marie Louise Jørkov, Niels Lynnerup, Neil Price, Jan Bill, Søren M. Sindbæk, Lotte Hedeager, Kristian Kristiansen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The Viking maritime expansion from Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) marks one of the swiftest and most far-flung cultural transformations in global history. During this time (c. 750 to 1050 CE), the Vikings reached most of western Eurasia, Greenland, and North America, and left a cultural legacy that persists till today. To understand the genetic structure and influence of the Viking expansion, we sequenced the genomes of 442 ancient humans from across Europe and Greenland ranging from the Bronze Age (c. 2400 BC) to the early Modern period (c. 1600 CE), with particular emphasis on the Viking Age. We find that the period preceding the Viking Age was accompanied by foreign gene flow into Scandinavia from the south and east: spreading from Denmark and eastern Sweden to the rest of Scandinavia. Despite the close linguistic similarities of modern Scandinavian languages, we observe genetic structure within Scandinavia, suggesting that regional population differences were already present 1,000 years ago. We find evidence for a majority of Danish Viking presence in England, Swedish Viking presence in the Baltic, and Norwegian Viking presence in Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland. Additionally, we see substantial foreign European ancestry entering Scandinavia during the Viking Age. We also find that several of the members of the only archaeologically well-attested Viking expedition were close family members. By comparing Viking Scandinavian genomes with present-day Scandinavian genomes, we find that pigmentation-associated loci have undergone strong population differentiation during the last millennia. Finally, we are able to trace the allele frequency dynamics of positively selected loci with unprecedented detail, including the lactase persistence allele and various alleles associated with the immune response. We conclude that the Viking diaspora was characterized by substantial foreign engagement: distinct Viking populations influenced the genomic makeup of different regions of Europe, while Scandinavia also experienced increased contact with the rest of the continent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-396
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2020

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