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For the record

"DNA clears the Vikings of rape" Image

"DNA clears the Vikings of rape"

Articles in The Daily Mirror, The Daily Express, The Times (£) and the Guardian on Thursday 19th March 2015 reported on new research into the genetic ancestry of the UK population. Many of the headlines claimed the study shows that Vikings were "not rapists". In fact the study didn't look at the behaviour of Vikings.

Professor Peter Donnelly, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford and corresponding author of the study:

"Our study can’t say anything about the behaviour of individual Danish Vikings. There may, or may not, have been considerable raping, pillaging, and marauding. This would only have left an imprint on modern DNA if it involved extremely large numbers of people (many tens of thousands). In our study we saw no clear signal of Danish Vikings in the genetic ancestry of modern Britons. This makes it very unlikely that there were large numbers (again, many tens of thousands) of Danish Viking settlers to the UK, or similarly large numbers of children born to Danish Viking fathers."

 

The Guardian also claimed the study showed that "people living in southern and central England typically share about 40% of their DNA with the French, 11% with the Danes and 9% with the Belgians." In fact, these numbers refer to shared ancestry, not the total amount of shared DNA.

Responding, Professor Donnelly said:

"All humans carry extremely similar DNA, and in particular people of European ancestry in the UK are very similar genetically. Our study focused on the subtle genetic differences between different parts of the UK. We used these to detect differences in the patterns of ancestry of different regions, and related these to patterns of ancestry carried by modern-day people in continental Europe. The percentages we found related to this sharing of ancestry. So for example, for people living in central and southern England today, about 40% of their ancestry is most similar (among the 6,000 people we studied from continental Europe) to the ancestry of groups in modern France, 11% of the ancestry is most similar to that of modern Danish people, and so on."

Viking DNA for the record

Author: Mabon Elis

Document type: For The Record

Published: 20 March 2015


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