Two Viking warriors from the same family were reunited on Wednesday at Denmark’s National Museum after being separated for 1,000 years, as DNA analysis helps shed light on the Vikings’ migrations through Europe.
In the 11th century, one of the Vikings died in England in his twenties from brain injuries. He was laid to rest in a mass burial at Oxford.
The other died in his 50s in Denmark, his bones displaying signs of strikes indicating he took part in conflicts.
DNA mapping of skeletons from the Viking era — from the eighth to the 12th century — enabled archaeologists to determine by chance that the two were related.
“This is a big discovery because now you can trace movements across space and time through a family,” museum archeologist Jeanette Varberg told AFP.
Two of her colleagues spent more than two hours on Wednesday piecing together the skeleton of the man in his 20s, from the remains freshly arrived from Oxford.
The 150 bones have been lent to the Danish museum by the Oxfordshire Museum in Britain for three years.
The historical consensus is that Danish Vikings invaded Scotland and England from the late eighth century.
The younger of the two men “may have been killed in a Viking raid,” Varberg said, “but there is also a theory that they (the skeletons in the mass grave) were victims of a royal decree by English King Ethelred the Second, who commanded in 1002 that all Danes in England should be killed.”
According to Varberg, it is quite unusual to uncover linked skeletons, yet royals have an easier time determining their links.
While the two were verified to be related, it is hard to pinpoint their precise relationship.
They may have been half-brothers, grandfathers and grandchildren, or uncles and nephews.
“It’s very difficult to tell if they lived in the same age or they differ maybe by a generation, because you have no material in the grave that can give a precise dating. So you have a margin of 50 years plus or minus,” Varberg said.