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Professor David Goldstein
"We're hoping to find genetic signatures"
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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
TV hunt for Viking bloodline

How much Viking blood runs in British veins?
Scientists are searching for 2,500 British male volunteers willing to take part in a groundbreaking study of the nation's Viking heritage.

DNA samples will be used to find out how many Britons have Viking blood running in their veins and to answer questions that still surround the enigmatic invaders.

Modern genetics has opened up a powerful new window on the past

Professor David Goldstein
Geneticist Professor David Goldstein, from University College London, will lead the 15-month study.

The results will form the basis of a new BBC Two television series next year, Blood of the Vikings.

More than 1,000 years ago, Vikings spread further and conquered more widely than the Romans, but little is known about their time in Britain and Ireland during the Dark Ages.

The study will attempt to discover how many stayed in the British Isles after the raids of rape and pillage.

Nationwide search

Professor Goldstein said science could now trace the past movements of peoples and address questions which studies of history and archaeology could not answer alone.

"Modern genetics has opened up a powerful new window on the past," he said.

Julian Richards
Researchers hope to track the Vikings' descendants
"This project will collect genetic data on an unprecedented scale, from Cornwall to Shetland, to identify the genetic consequences of the Viking invasions."

Prof Goldstein told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are hoping and depending on people being interested in finding out about their genetic history and approaching the BBC and volunteering to participate in this project."

He added: "We know the Vikings made a huge impression, but what we want to know is 'What else did they do?'.

You also have to question some of the [Viking] history - it was mostly written by their victims

Julian Richards, archaeologist
"When we are through with this, we hope we will be able to answer that question."

Men are being used in the study because male Y chromosomes provide detailed information about male ancestry.

Men also possess a female X chromosome that holds clues about the female ancestral line and could tell whether the first Viking invaders brought their families with them or came alone.

Researchers are looking for 100 mouth-swab samples of male DNA from each of 25 locations across the British Isles, together with comparative samples from the continent.

Unique project

Volunteers must be over 18 and living within 20 miles of 22 specific small towns and cities, or from Glasgow, London or Liverpool.

Those from the first 22 places should also be able to trace either their father's father or their mother's mother to the same location.

BBC 2 controller Jane Root: "Unique, nationwide project"
BBC Two Controller, Jane Root, said the station's work with UCL was a unique, nationwide project.

"This is the kind of thing that the BBC does so well; pooling our expertise in TV and online, in science and education in an endeavour that will enable all of us to find out more about our genetic origins," she said.

The series will be presented by Meet the Ancestors archaeologist Julian Richards who said the Vikings had always fascinated him.

"Considering their huge impact, there's not a lot of archaeological evidence for them," he said.

"You also have to question some of the history - it was mostly written by their victims.

"I'm fascinated by the idea of the genetics project and the idea that we may be able to discover the Viking in all of us."

Volunteers for the Viking study are wanted from: Stornoway (Lewis); Durness (Sutherland); Stonehaven (Aberdeenshire); Kirkwall (Orkney); Lerwick (Shetland); Oban (Argyll); Pitlochry (Perthshire); Penrith (Cumbria); Morpeth (Northumberland); York (North Yorkshire); Llanidloes (Powys); Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire); Uttoxeter (Staffordshire); Horncastle (Lincolnshire); Dorchester (Dorset); Midhurst (West Sussex); Faversham (Kent); Sheringham (Norfolk); Penzance (Cornwall); Castlerea (Roscommon, Irish Republic); Rush (North County of Dublin, Irish Republic); Ramsey (Isle of Man); Glasgow; London; Liverpool.

Anyone wanting to take part in the survey should call the BBC History Line on 08700 106060 or visit the web site

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