Most people have this idea that Vikings were all giants with blond hair, blue eyes, and a thirst for raiding and pillaging foreign lands before returning how to bask in the icy, Nordic cold.
And while the latter may still turn out to be true, a new study is pretty much proving the homogenous physical description in our minds incorrect.
The study, published in Nature, indicates the Viking Empire arched over genetically distinct groups that emerged from different Scandinavian regions – some of which contained Southern European and Asian genes.
It took the study authors six years to sequence the genomes of 442 Viking-age skeletons that dated from 2400 BCE to 1600 CE. When they were done, they had data that revealed how different factions within the Viking world had trickled throughout Northern Europe.
Author Martin Sikora delved deeper into their research in a statement.
“We found that Vikings weren’t just Scandinavians in their genetic ancestry, as we analyzed genetic influences in their DNA from Southern Europe and Asia, which has never been contemplated before.
Many Vikings have high levels of non-Scandinavian ancestry, both within and outside Scandinavia, which suggest ongoing gene flow across Europe.”
Norwegian Vikings mainly traveled to Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and Greenland, while Swedish Vikings preferred the Baltic countries.
Danish Vikings headed off to England.
The genetic consequences of those specific raiding tendencies can be seen today, with around 6% of British people bearing Viking genes.
The study also revealed that Vikings likely traveled in family units as they pillaged foreign lands – one of the earliest raise involved 41 men from Sweden traveling to Estonia in the mid-8th century.
They all perished, and genetic analysis revealed the group included 4 brothers and a bunch of other closely related men.
They also found Vikings with no Scandinavian ancestry at all, so theories arise that certain Northern European cultures were likely assimilated into the Viking world without ever mixing genetically with their overlords.
So, researcher Eske Willerslev says we need to come to grips with the idea that the Vikings did not all look alike – and they wouldn’t have all passed Hitler’s muster, either.
“Our research debunks the modern image of Vikings with blonde hair as many had brown hair and were influenced by genetic influx from the outside of Scandinavia.”
There you have it, folks – history is not always what we believe, and if you ask me, that’s one of the best things about it.