The Kronan shipwreck (1676)

Eastern Baltic, Uralic, and British Genetic Components in the Viking Age DNA

A study analysed ca. 300 ancient human genomes from Scandinavia spanning 2,000 years, revealing influences from the Eastern Baltic and the British Isles over the Scandinavian Viking Age DNA.

The journal Cell published a study with the result analysis from ca. 300 ancient human genomes from Scandinavia spanning 2,000-year, including Viking Age DNA samples. 

16,638 genomes from modern humans were compared to 48 new and 249 previously published ancient genomes collected from several archaeological sites, including the recently studied wreckage of the Swedish warship Kronan

Three gene flows were detected, with different concentrations across time and space:

  • British and Irish Isles – present across Scandinavia, originated from Christian missionaries and monks and from enslaved people from these areas.
  • Eastern Baltic – a strong female component impacted the genetic make-up of Sweden and Gotland during the Viking Ages, with a peak in the Lake Mälaren area.
  • Southern Europe – discovered in remains from southern Scandinavia
Map summarizing sample locations of ancient Scandinavian genomes
Map summarizing sample locations of ancient Scandinavian genomes. Source: Rodriguez-Varella et ali.

The same study constated a lesser percentage of these genetic components in the modern Scandinavian gene-pool.  

Gene flows in Scandinavia from Roman Iron Age to Early Modern Ages
Gene flows in Scandinavia from Roman Iron Age to Early Modern Ages. Source: Rodriguez-Varella et ali.

A genetic line was clearly depicted in modern Scandinavians’ DNA gradually from north to south, especially in regards to the Uralic component, which is found among the Sami of northern Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltic States, and even among Siberian and Native American populations.  

This component seems to have diminished during the Early modern Ages. The sample from the 17th century onwards displayed a similar percentage of the Uralic component to modern Scandinavian populations.

Three samples from the Kronan, from 1676, displayed genetic similarity to people from Finland and the Baltic States. At the moment, Finland and Livonia – comprising half of modern-day Latvia and Estonia – were part of the Swedish Empire. 

Battle of Öland, by Claus Møinichen. 1676. The Kronan is depicted exploding. Public domain.
Battle of Öland, by Claus Møinichen. 1676. The Kronan is depicted exploding. Public domain.

During the following centuries, the Eastern Baltic, Uralic, and Southern European components diminished compared to the Viking Age DNA sample due to the historic changes in Europe.

It should be noticed that the Northern Wars and the Deluge considerably altered the balance of power in Scandinavia, Central, and North-Eastern Europe, with the partition of Poland, the defeat of Sweden, and consequent land-grabbing by Muscovy.   

Sweden from 1560–1815
Sweden from 1560–1815. CC BY 3.0


  • https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ancient-dna-reveals-a-genetic-history-of-the-viking-age-180981404/
  • Lars Einarsson (1990) Kronan—underwater archaeological investigations of a 17th‐century man‐of‐war. The nature, aims and development of a maritime cultural project, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 19:4, 279-297, DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-9270.1990.tb00276.x
  • Ricardo Rodríguez-Varela et al, The genetic history of Scandinavia from the Roman Iron Age to the present, Cell (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.11.024



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Andris Mucenieks
Andris Mucenieks

Andris Mucenieks, Dr hist, is a historian, writer, and musician.
He is the author of Saxo Grammaticus: Hierocratical Conceptions and Danish Hegemony in the Thirteenth Century, several chapters and articles in English, Portuguese, and Latvian, and textbooks.
Andris taught History of Church, Archaeology, Medieval History, and History of Music for more than ten years in several institutions, including the Federal University of Ouro Preto, the Baptist Theological Faculty of Sao Paulo, and a short time as visitor at the Latvijas Kristīgā akadēmija.

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