The Viking Rollo (c. 846 – c. 930 AD), the first Duke of Normandy, was according to the sagas so big that no horse could carry him, hence the nickname “Gange Rolv”, meaning Walking Rolv / Rollo. (Illustration: © Stian Dahlslett)
Editor’s Note: The article was first published on normandescendants.com. The text is edited by ThorNews.
A genetic study conducted by scientists from the University of Leicester (UK) and the University of Caen Normandy (France), have determined that some of today’s Normans probably are Viking descendants.
“Norman” is literally meaning “Man of the North”, and the region where these Normans settled was named “Normandy” after them.
Many local places and residents have names of Scandinavian origin and the genetic study, the “Viking DNA Project”, was conducted in the Cotentin region. The purpose was to determine if Vikings did leave their DNA signature, and if so, the biological portion of the Scandinavian heritage.
The first results were announced on 21 April 2016.
Researchers are interested in Normandy because it is the only sustainable colony established by the Vikings in mainland Europe outside of Scandinavia.
The study was focused on the population of the Cotentin peninsula because the density of places and people whose names are of Scandinavian origin is particularly strong.
Section of the Bayeux Tapestry and the Normans crossing the English Channel with horses and equipment in their dragon ships late September 1066 AD: just like their Viking ancestors before them. (Photo: Unknown)
“We were interested in men with Scandinavian-sounding surnames that could reflect this legacy: names such as Anquetil, Dutot, Equilbec, Gonfray, Ingouf, Lanfry, Osouf, Osmont, Quetel, Tougis, Tostain, Raoult – and their many variations”, explained Richard Jones at the University of Leicester.
“We have also retained only people whose four grandparents were born and lived within fifty kilometers of their current home. This stable residence is often indicative of a longer history of the family in one area.”
The researchers selected eighty-nine men according to these criteria. They were asked to complete a genealogical questionnaire and submit to a saliva test. The scientists then looked for a “Viking signature” on the Y chromosome (present only in males and passed down from father to son) extracted from cells in saliva. Specifically, they were interested in genetic variations present on this chromosome.
These changes can be grouped according to several criteria allowing the researches to classify an individual in a haplogroup, depending on the type of detected changes in their DNA.
Of the eighty-nine men who participated in the study, the majority (52) represented haplogroup R1b, the type of Y chromosome variations most common in Northern and Western Europe.
This is not a typical Viking DNA signature, but according to experts, this genetic variation could mean an indirect link to the Vikings. However, haplogroup I1, found in eleven of the Normans, suggested more clearly a possible Viking ancestry.
Rollo’s grave at the Cathedral of Rouen, Normandy. (Photo: © Raimond Spekking)
Haplogroup I1 is indeed very present among the Scandinavians (over 45% of the population belongs to this genetic group in some areas). But a Germanic origin is also possible. In fact, “when we look at fingerprints’ underlying haplogroup I1, some Norman Y chromosomes show an affinity with the Germanic, while others show an affinity with the Scandinavians,” said Richard Jones. Still, “it’s very tempting to consider l1 as a mark left by the Vikings in Normandy because it is present in approximately the same proportions as those observed in other populations with known Viking history”.
Finally, two participants presented a haplogroup often regarded as typical Nordic: R1a. The other haplogroups found among the Normans were unrelated to the Vikings.
These results are however not definitive, and they reflect a high genetic diversity within the population of Cotentin.
The researchers intend to refine their analysis of haplogroups in order to more clearly identify the geographic origins of the Normans.