In one of our previous posts, we included Vikings in the list of greatest warrior cultures from across the world. Even historical accounts have suggested the boisterousness of Viking raiders. But a new study based on Viking DNA shows that these daredevil seafarers might have been more than just pillagers and raiders. To that end, the groups mostly comprised of family men who traveled with their wives on the long expeditions.
The study in question was done on 45 Norse skeletons dating from the so-called Viking Age, from 796 AD to 1066 AD. These remains were salvaged from different parts of Norway, while their examination entailed the close assessment of the DNA carried in the mitochondria (which are basically the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell). In biological terms, mitochondria are initially stored in the cytoplasm of a mother’s egg, and as such are passed from generation to generation by ONLY following a maternal lineage.
The researchers studied these salvaged components by comparing them with present-day mitochondrial DNA extracted from 5,191 people of European descent. The material was additionally cross-examined and compared with DNA of ancient Icelanders. The interesting results showed that the maternally-passed DNA related to the modern people from the North Atlantic region, including English, Swedes and Scots. However, the closest matches were found in the case of the present-day natives from Orkney and Shetland Islands.
This pattern does signify that women (and also perhaps their children) accompanied the much heralded Viking raiders, especially when they took part in extended, far-flung campaigns and colonization expeditions. This is what Erika Hagelberg, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oslo and co-author of the study, had to say about the findings –
It overthrows this 19th century idea that the Vikings were just raiders and pillagers. They established settlements and grew crops, and trade was very, very important.
And, partly related to this ‘civilized’ nature of the Vikings, the Norsemen were also known for their spatially efficient innovations. In that regard, evidences have been found that demonstrate their resourcefully designed storage systems on-board longships.