For quite some time, scientists suspected that the two skeletons were related. One was found in 2005 on Denmark's Funen Island, in the town of Otterup, and the other in 2008 among a mass grave in Oxford, England.
Now, after years of study and analysis, researchers were finally able to establish a groundbreaking link between the two Danish Vikings.
DNA technology and access to massive amounts of data enabled scientists to determine that the skeletons were related. Analyses revealed that the Otterup Viking and the Oxford Viking had a 2nd-degree relationship. So, the two Vikings were either half-brothers, or uncle and nephew.
One of the two Vikings died in England in his 20s, while the other died in Denmark in his 50s. Both were alive during the 11th century.
Building on traditional methods with DNA analyses
Lasse Sørensen, research director at the Danish National Museum, shared some exciting details related to the use of the new technology.
"We know so much about DNA that we can start finding family relationships due to the fact that we have so much material to research. That's new," Sørensen stated.
According to the expert, traditional archaeological methods would not have sufficed to determine whether the two Vikings were related.
This is an extraordinary find. Researchers think it will help advance our understanding of the Vikings' living conditions during the famed Viking Age (which lasted from roughly the 8th century to the 11 century).
Scientists hope the new method will lead to other, equally if not more exciting, discoveries down the road.
The skeletons – separated for 1,000 years – were reunited as a part of a showing at the National Museum in Copenhagen. Entitled "Togtet," Danish for "The Raid," the exhibition opened in June of 2021.
Personal details unveiled
Both men were likely originally from the area of Otterup in England.
According to researchers, the younger suffered numerous severe injuries during his life. His skull had traces of nine lesions caused by sharp objects. He was hit by several arrows in his lifetime and suffered a number of spear attacks before his violent death. Though it's undefined (at least for now) why he traveled there, England was the young man's final resting place. He was found in a mass grave along with at least 35 other men in 2008. The others were also brutally murdered.
Experts determined that the young man's older relative (that is, his half-brother or uncle) mostly worked as a farmer. He enjoyed a peasant diet, with loads of meat and fish from time to time. But analyses showed that this man also lived a tough life – his body bore marks of extreme violence, too. Scientists believe he was 50 years old when he died and was subsequently buried in a grave at Otterup in the middle of the 1000s. His remains were excavated in 2005 by archaeologists from the Odense City Museums.
The level of personal details reached by scientists in this case, as well as the establishment of kinship, have opened the door to a slew of revolutionary future discoveries. By making such connections, scientists can continue to decipher the ever-elusive mystery of human history.
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