The medieval Norsemen or Vikings had an important biological and cultural impact on many parts of Europe through raids, colonization and trade, from about AD 793 to 1066. To help understand the genetic affinities of the ancient Norsemen, and their genetic contribution to the gene pool of other Europeans, we analysed DNA markers in Late Iron Age skeletal remains from Norway. DNA was extracted from 80 individuals, and mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms were detected by next-generation sequencing. The sequences of 45 ancient Norwegians were verified as genuine through the identification of damage patterns characteristic of ancient DNA. The ancient Norwegians were genetically similar to previously analysed ancient Icelanders, and to present-day Shetland and Orkney Islanders, Norwegians, Swedes, Scots, English, German and French. The Viking Age population had higher frequencies of K*, U*, V* and I* haplogroups than their modern counterparts, but a lower proportion of T* and H* haplogroups. Three individuals carried haplotypes that are rare in Norway today (U5b1b1, Hg A* and an uncommon variant of H*). Our combined analyses indicate that Norse women were important agents in the overseas expansion and settlement of the Vikings, and that women from the Orkneys and Western Isles contributed to the colonization of Iceland.
© 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.