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, 5 (7), e11898

Genetic Diversity Among Ancient Nordic Populations


Genetic Diversity Among Ancient Nordic Populations

Linea Melchior et al. PLoS One.


Using established criteria for work with fossil DNA we have analysed mitochondrial DNA from 92 individuals from 18 locations in Denmark ranging in time from the Mesolithic to the Medieval Age. Unequivocal assignment of mtDNA haplotypes was possible for 56 of the ancient individuals; however, the success rate varied substantially between sites; the highest rates were obtained with untouched, freshly excavated material, whereas heavy handling, archeological preservation and storage for many years influenced the ability to obtain authentic endogenic DNA. While the nucleotide diversity at two locations was similar to that among extant Danes, the diversity at four sites was considerably higher. This supports previous observations for ancient Britons. The overall occurrence of haplogroups did not deviate from extant Scandinavians, however, haplogroup I was significantly more frequent among the ancient Danes (average 13%) than among extant Danes and Scandinavians (approximately 2.5%) as well as among other ancient population samples reported. Haplogroup I could therefore have been an ancient Southern Scandinavian type "diluted" by later immigration events. Interestingly, the two Neolithic samples (4,200 YBP, Bell Beaker culture) that were typed were haplogroup U4 and U5a, respectively, and the single Bronze Age sample (3,300-3,500 YBP) was haplogroup U4. These two haplogroups have been associated with the Mesolithic populations of Central and Northern Europe. Therefore, at least for Southern Scandinavia, our findings do not support a possible replacement of a haplogroup U dominated hunter-gatherer population by a more haplogroup diverse Neolithic Culture.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Map of Denmark.
Locations and time periods of the sites investigated. The success rates of DNA analyses are shown in bold.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Median joining network of 56 ancient Danes.
Median joining network relating the 56 ancient HVR-1 sequences (nt 16064–16405) genotyped for mtDNA haplogroup defining coding region substitutions. The samples are from the Danish Medieval Age: Riisby (R:10 individuals), Danish Viking Age: Galgedil (G:11 individuals) and Kongemarken (K:Eight individuals), Danish Roman Iron Age: Bøgebjerggård (B:Seven individuals), Skovgaarde (S:11 individuals) and Simonsborg (Si:Six individuals), Danish Early Bronze Age Bredtoftegård (Bt: One individual) and Danish Neolithic Age Damsbo (D: Two individuals). Sample codes correspond to Tables 1, 2, 3, haplogroups are shown in grey front and the blue and black sample codes correspond to published data (black) and unpublished data (blue). Variable sites are shown along the branches of the network. Substitutions at nucleotide positions 11719, 14766 and 10238 (shown in parentheses) were inferred from the haplogroup tree drawn using completely sequenced mtDNA genomes , , . Reticulations between haplogroups, e.g. R0a vs. JT (16126 parallelism) and U1 vs. U7 (16189 parallelism) were solved manually considering phylogenetic analyses based on complete sequence data. L3 is used as the root.

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