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Sunday, 6 August, 2000, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Hunt on for British Vikings
UCL geneticist working on DNA
Geneticists hope to fill gaps in knowledge about Viking invasions of Britain
Scientists are to begin testing thousands of men to find out how much Viking blood is left in the UK.

The research is being carried out for a new BBC documentary, Blood of the Viking, to be screened next year.

Genetics can actually start to look back in history

Paul Bradshaw
BBC producer

The Vikings carried out repeated raids on British soil from the eighth to the 11th centuries, but archaeological evidence about them is scarce.

Researchers hope that comparing mouth swabs from British-based volunteers with DNA samples from Scandinavian locals will reveal more about how many Vikings settled in the UK and where they lived.

Andy Pine, a computer programmer from south east London, is one of those being tested. "It would be nice if they did come up with something," he told BBC News 24.

"If they said 'It's more than likely that your forefathers a thousand years ago did sail across the Northern seas and settled in England', it would be quite an exciting thing to know about your family."

Andy Pine
Andy Pine: Volunteered for experiment
Paul Bradshaw, producer of the BBC documentary, said it was clearly a topic of interest genetically.

"Genetics can actually start to look back in history and follow the movement of populations across the world," he said.

"The question is how Viking are the people of the British Isles and where are the most Viking people of the British Isles," he told BBC News 24.

Scientists at University College London (UCL) will take mouth swabs from 2,500 people from 25 different locations across Britain.

They are only testing men because some of the information they are interested in is on the Y chromosome - which women do not have.

The genetic material in the samples will be compared to DNA taken from people in Scandinavia where some locals are thought to be most similar to the Vikings.

Jim Wilson, a human geneticist at UCL, said archaeology could not reveal whether the blood of people changed over time.

Paul Bradshaw
Paul Bradshaw: 'A topic of real genetic interest'
"We can finally know whether the genetics tracks the culture or not," he said.

The project should be completed by the end of 2001.

The BBC 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."

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