Geneticists reveal true Viking legacy

THEY came, they pillaged and then settled down to leave an indelible genetic legacy. Scientists have discovered that modern Britons have more in common with the Vikings than was previously thought.

More than a thousand years after the first Viking longships landed on British shores, a new study has shown the blood of the Norse warriors still flows through the veins of swathes of the population.

The groundbreaking research has also cast doubt on the widely-held belief that there was a distinctly Celtic race in Scotland, with scientists from University College London (UCL) finding mainland Scots have a similar level of Celtic genetic input as those living in southern England.

Shetland, Orkney and the far north of the Scottish mainland, around Durness, have been found to have the highest input of Viking genes in Britain with at least 60% of men in these areas discovered to have Norwegian ancestry.

The research involved taking genetic samples from mouth swabs given by 2,000 men from Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Norway, Denmark and northern Germany.

Geneticists examined the male Y-chromosome, which provides detailed information about male ancestry. By looking for particular ‘neutral markers’ in the DNA, found to be common in Scandinavians, the researchers uncovered the clearest picture so far of the Viking invasion and their subsequent settlement in the British Isles.

The research forms part of the BBC series Blood of the Vikings.

Professor David Goldstein, who led the joint project between the Institute of Human Variation at UCL and the BBC, said: "Modern genetics has opened up a powerful window on the past.

"We can now trace past movements of peoples and address questions that have proved difficult to answer through history and archaeology alone. Who knows what we will be able to achieve in the near future?"

The full results of the genetics survey are revealed in Blood of the Vikings this Tuesday at 9pm on BBC2.