Thursday 6 December 2007

Ancient mtDNA from Iron Age Denmark

Rare mtDNA haplogroups and genetic differences in rich and poor Danish Iron-Age villages.

Melchior L, Gilbert MT, Kivisild T, Lynnerup N, Dissing J.

The Roman Iron-Age (0-400 AD) in Southern Scandinavia was a formative period, where the society changed from archaic chiefdoms to a true state formation, and the population composition has likely changed in this period due to immigrants from Middle Scandinavia. We have analyzed mtDNA from 22 individuals from two different types of settlements, Bøgebjerggård and Skovgaarde, in Southern Denmark. Bøgebjerggård (ca. 0 AD) represents the lowest level of free, but poor farmers, whereas Skovgaarde 8 km to the east (ca. 200-270 AD) represents the highest level of the society. Reproducible results were obtained for 18 subjects harboring 17 different haplotypes all compatible (in their character states) with the phylogenetic tree drawn from present day populations of Europe.

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Tuesday 4 December 2007

He digs less to learn more about Vikings

The joke is that, in John Steinberg's home, they know an awful lot about Vikings.

On one side you have his wife, Andrea Kremer, whose job requires her to be an expert on the Minnesota Vikings (and the other 31 National Football League teams) as a reporter for NBC Sports' football coverage.

And then there's Steinberg, a senior researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, who is one of the world's foremost specialists on the real Vikings, the tough-guy (and girl) Scandinavian peoples who really knew how to blitz.

Steinberg, 41, has been exploring archeological sites in Iceland since 1999, and for the last two years has led the Skagafjord Archaeological Settlement Survey, which seeks to study the evolution of settlements in a northern fjord for clues as to how Iceland evolved from the era of Viking chiefdoms into a more organized central government.

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Jorvik Viking Centre in York is celebrating its 15 millionth visitor with a special event on December 6 for a select group including the actual 15 millionth visitor.

The group, made up of competition winners and the Chief Executive of the City of York Council, Bill McCarthy, as well as the lucky visitor no. 15 million, will take a journey on foot through Jorvik’s reconstructed Viking age streets. The village is normally only accessible to the public via cable car.

Leading the tour will be one of the men that made the whole place happen, Richard Hall. Hall, now Deputy Director of York Archaological Trust, began excavating the very site upon which the Jorvik Centre is built, back in 1972, with the help of a 600-strong team.

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Monday 3 December 2007

Proof of Liverpool's Viking past

The region around Liverpool was once a major Viking settlement, according to a genetic study of men living in the area.

The research tapped into this Viking ancestry by focusing on people whose surnames were recorded in the area before its population underwent a huge expansion during the industrial revolution. Among men with these "original" surnames, 50% have Norse ancestry.

The find backs up historical evidence from place names and archaeological finds of Viking treasure which suggests significant numbers of Norwegian Vikings settled in the north-west in the 10th century. "[The genetics] is very exciting because it ties in with the other evidence from the area," said Professor Stephen Harding at the University of Nottingham, who carried out the work with a team at the University of Leicester led by Professor Mark Jobling.

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