Half the population of the Viking-town Sigtuna were migrants

Related Articles

Related Articles

New analysis of the remains of 38 people who lived and died in the town of Sigtuna during the 10th, 11thand 12thcentury reveals high genetic variation and a wide scale migration.

The study is the largest of its kind so far in Sweden and a combination of several methods, including DNA analysis and Strontium isotope analysis of teeth. The results are published in a new article in Current Biology.

Sigtuna is well known as one of the earliest actual cities in the area and was formally founded around 980 AD when Sweden’s first Christian king Olof Skötkonung resided here. More unknown is the fact that the picturesque town, which today is home to around 10000 people, was a distinctly cosmopolitan place back then. Researchers at Stockholm university, in cooperation with Uppsala University, Middle Eastern Technical University in Turkey, the British Geological Survey in the UK, and Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie in Germany, have analyzed the remains of 38 individuals from six different burial sites in Sigtuna.


The analysis is based on a combination of methods from archeology and osteology, including DNA analysis and Strontium analysis of the teeth (isotope and level of Strontium in teeth varies depending of where the individual lived in their youth). The results are clear: around half the population of Viking age Sigtuna originated from outside Mälardalen.

– We´re used to thinking of the Vikings as a travelling kind, and can easily picture the school books with maps and arrows pointing out from Scandinavia, as far as Turkey and America, but not so much in the other direction, says Maja Krzewinska, researcher at the Archaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University and primary author behind the study.

Roughly half of the individuals examined grew up in or around the Sigtuna area. The other half is equally divided in to regional immigrants (from southern Scandinavia, Norway and Denmark) and long-distance immigrants from further away: the British Isles, Ukraine, Lithuania, northern Germany and other parts of central Europe. The immigration to Sigtuna was common for both males and females. Approximately 70 per cent of the female population was immigrants, compared to 44 per cent of the men.

– The archaeological record from Sigtuna never ceases to fascinate as it shows such a wide variety of cultural expressions. And here we see who grew up there and who moved to Sigtuna, says Anna Kjellström, osteologist at Stockholm University and one of the authors of the study.

-I especially like that we find 2ndgeneration immigrants among the buried, that kind of migratory information has never been encountered before as far as I know, says Anders Götherström, one of the leaders of the ATLASproject in which this study was conducted.

Similar studies even further back in history would be very difficult, since before the arrival of Christianity the deceased were normally cremated, thus leaving insufficient material for DNA analysis.

Stockholm University

Header Image – “An adult man (ID 2072) buried at “Götes mack”, in Sigtuna (Photo: Sigtuna Museum). The skeleton was discovered in 2008 when archaeologists took down a tree in a cemetery from the 11th century. The skeleton was attached to the roots.”

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Some Dinosaurs Could Fly Before They Were Birds

New research using the most comprehensive study of feathered dinosaurs and early birds has revised the evolutionary relationships of dinosaurs at the origin of birds.

Searching the Ancient Depths of a Reptilian Genome Yields Insight into all Vertebrates

Scientists searching the most ancient corners of the genome of a reptile native to New Zealand found patterns that help explain how the genomes of all vertebrates took shape, according to a recently published study.

Researchers Unlock Secrets of the Past With New International Carbon Dating Standard

Radiocarbon dating is set to become more accurate than ever after an international team of scientists improved the technique for assessing the age of historical objects.

New Findings Dispel the View That Australia’s First Peoples Were ‘Only Hunter Gatherers’

Archaeologists at The Australian National University (ANU) have found the earliest evidence of Indigenous communities cultivating bananas in Australia.

Bones Recently Found on the Isle of Wight Belong to a New Species of Theropod Dinosaur

A new study by Palaeontologists at the University of Southampton suggests four bones recently found on the Isle of Wight belong to new species of theropod dinosaur, the group that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and modern-day birds.

Cremation in the Middle-East Dates as Far Back as 7,000 B.C.

The gender of the human remains found inside a cremation pyre pit in Beisamoun, Israel remains unknown. What is known is that the individual was a young adult injured by a flint projectile several months prior to their death in spring some 9,000 years ago.

Academics Develop New Method to Determine the Origin of Stardust in Meteorites

Meteorites are critical to understanding the beginning of our solar system and how it has evolved over time.

Primate Voice Boxes are Evolving at a Rapid Pace

Scientists have discovered that the larynx, or voice box, of primates is significantly larger relative to body size, has greater variation, and is under faster rates of evolution than in other mammals.

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.