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Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know.

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author








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5.28.2008

Researchers Recover Thousand-Year-Old Viking DNA

Pone0305dissing

By Brandon Keim

The Vikings buried on the Danish island of Funen may very well have sailed all the way to Constantinople or Baghdad or Moscow, looting and pillaging with lusty ferocity. And now we've got their DNA.

In a study published today in Public Library of Science ONE, Danish scientists describe the retrieval of genetic material from ten Viking skeletons found in an ancient burial site near the city of Odense. The remains date to 1000 AD, the twilight of Viking civilization.

The scientific team was led by the Institute of Forensic Medicine's Jorgen Dissing, who previously showed that the last Viking king was buried with his daughter-in-law, not his mom.

The discovery of the DNA is not in itself extraordinary (though it certainly is cool to have Viking DNA samples). The significance instead lies in the steps the researchers took to keep the DNA free from contamination.

Recovering ancient DNA is a notoriously tricky task. First scientists must find a decently preserved sample. Then they have to keep it from becoming tainted by other genetic material. This isn't easy. Stray DNA is to researchers what dust is to regular people: inevitable and nearly escapable.

That's what spoiled Cretaceous-era dinosaur DNA and Neolithic remains found in Spain. Academic literature is full of reports on promising samples gone bad, or parsing the techniques needed to be sure that ancient DNA doesn't actually come from a stray flake of lab technician skin.

Read the rest here.