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University of Copenhagen scientists have excavated the remains of several Vikings in an effort to prove that it is possible to study uncontaminated ancient DNA
Viking skeletons have been excavated by Danish scientists wearing full protective body suits, hairnets and face masks. They may not have looked quite as tough as their 1,000 AD counterparts, but it was necessary in order not to contaminate the aDNA of the remains with modern human DNA.
This is according to the blog, Target Health.
While it is generally very difficult to analyse the DNA of ancient organisms due to the scarcity of intact molecules, ancient human DNA is in a whole other league. Results in previous studies have often been discredited due to contamination with the DNA from modern humans.
Some scientists have even gone as far as to claim that it is impossible to acquire meaningful results from the DNA of ancient humans at all, due to all the problems affiliated with trying.
Jørgen Dissing and his University of Copenhagen band of Viking researchers, working in the carefully controlled environment of a ‘clean-laboratory’ and forced by circumstance to wear uncomfortable clothing, have now proven them wrong.
As soon as the bones were unearthed from a burial site on the Danish island of Funen, the scientists extracted the teeth from the Viking remains, and transported them in sterile tubes to the equally sterile lab.
The Viking DNA showed no evidence of contamination, and proved that the ten Vikings were just as diverse as modern human beings. This reliable retrieval of aDNA can pave the way for using prehistoric human remains to illuminate the genetic history of our past and present populations.
The work of Jørgen Dissing and his team can help provide a valuable insight into questions of the migration patterns of our species, tribal and family patterns, as well as the origin of genetic diseases.
The study can be read here.