The popular image of Viking colonisation of the British Isles is of the arrival of male warriors, but what about Viking women? New evidence of the contribution of women comes in a report in Heredity.
Sara Goodacre, Agnar Helgason and colleagues surveyed modern North Atlantic populations, studying two forms of DNA: one that is passed only from father to son, and one that is only passed down female lineages. They discovered that the Vikings settlements set up closer to their homeland, like on the Shetlands and Orkneys, seemed to have involved similar numbers of men and women. However, the Viking genetic signature from the frontiers of their Empire, such as the Scottish Western Isles is strongly male biased.
Echoing a pattern of human colonising behaviour, the more secure settlements close to colonial strongholds seem to have been founded by families, whilst the more distant ones fit the popular image of male invaders. This issue is discussed in a companion commentary by Ceiridwen Edwards.
Sara Goodacre (UEA, Norwich, UK)
Ceiridwen Edwards (Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland)
Also available online.
(C) Heredity press release.
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