Land of the Ice and Snow


January/February 2019

Trenches Sweden Sigtuna SkeletonThe Vikings are renowned for having traveled great distances from their homeland in Scandinavia. A new study suggests that many residents of Sigtuna, a major Viking town in eastern Sweden, were themselves immigrants from afar. Researchers from Stockholm University sequenced the genomes and analyzed strontium isotopes from the remains of 16 people buried in Sigtuna between the tenth and twelfth centuries. Isotope analysis showed that eight of the 16 individuals had grown up in or near the town, and eight had grown up elsewhere. Of those who moved to the town, four had genetic features suggesting they had come from other parts of Scandinavia, while four appeared to have arrived from farther away, most likely Eastern Europe. Two of those who had grown up locally had unusual genetic profiles for the area, suggesting that they were second-generation immigrants. “We knew that Sigtuna had a lot of contact with other regions,” says researcher Maja Krzewinska, “but we didn’t know to what degree and we didn’t know whether the foreigners actually lived and stayed in Sigtuna. Now we can prove it.”