Tracking Viking-assisted dispersal of biodiversity using ancient DNA
About the project
Humans have affected global biodiversity since prehistoric times, greatly altering landscapes and species compositions in areas where they settled.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to directly assess the evolutionary impacts of past modifications, as traditional archeological approaches are limited in scope for a thorough understanding of biological processes. Here, we investigate the effects of human-driven modification during the Viking Age, a period in which the highly mobile people of Scandinavia colonized regions throughout the North Atlantic, and when extensive trade and agricultural practices promoted the transport and exchange of many species. Specifically, we exploit the latest technological advances in ancient DNA research and high throughput sequencing to directly investigate relatedness and patterns of functional genomic variation in unique archeological material. We focus on species of great agricultural, cultural and industrial importance (horse, flax and barley) for which excellent genomic tools have recently been developed. The analysis of whole genome variation will enable us to elucidate demographic processes, characterize the distribution of functional biological variation in the Viking Age, and identify their evolutionary heritage in contemporary populations. This approach allows us to answer specific archeological questions related to the cultural use of plants and animals, and provides an understanding of the evolutionary processes that accompany human-driven dispersal and domestication. Overall, the combination of the latest genomic technology and material of distinctive cultural and historical value will yield unparalleled insights in Viking archaeology while simultaneously assessing the impact of these people on biodiversity in Scandinavia and surrounding territories.
This project is funded by the Research Council of Norway.
- Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen
- McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge
- University Museum - Natural History Collections, University of Bergen
- School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick
01.12.2014 - 01.12.2018