The last Viking King: a royal maternity case solved by ancient DNA analysis

The last Viking King: a royal maternity case solved by ancient DNA analysis


The last of the Danish Viking Kings, Sven Estridsen, died in a.d. 1074 and is entombed in Roskilde Cathedral with other Danish kings and queens. Sven’s mother, Estrid, is entombed in a pillar across the chancel. However, while there is no reasonable doubt about the identity of Sven, there have been doubts among historians whether the woman entombed was indeed Estrid. To shed light on this problem, we have extracted and analysed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from pulp of teeth from each of the two royals. Four overlapping DNA-fragments covering about 400?bp of hypervariable region 1 (HVR-1) of the D-loop were PCR amplified, cloned and a number of clones with each segment were sequenced. Also a segment containing the H/non-H specific nucleotide 7028 was sequenced. Consensus sequences were determined and D-loop results were replicated in an independent laboratory. This allowed the assignment of King Sven Estridsen to haplogroup H; Estrid’s sequence differed from that of Sven at two positions in HVR-1, 16093T???C and 16304T???C, indicating that she belongs to subgroup H5a. Given the maternal inheritance of mtDNA, offspring will have the same mtDNA sequence as their mother with the exception of rare cases where the sequence has been altered by a germ line mutation. Therefore, the observation of two sequence differences makes it highly unlikely that the entombed woman was the mother of Sven. In addition, physical examination of the skeleton and the teeth strongly indicated that this woman was much younger (approximately 35 years) at the time of death than the 70 years history records tell. Although the entombed woman cannot be the Estrid, she may well be one of Sven’s two daughters-in-law who were also called Estrid and who both became queens.


  • Dissing, Jorgen; Binladen, Jonas; Hansen, Anders; Sejrsen, Birgitte; Willerslev, Eske & Lynnerup, Niels (2007). The last Viking King: a royal maternity case solved by ancient DNA analysis. Forensic Science International, 166(1), 21-27.

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Peoples: - | Places: - | Topics: - | DNA Type: mtDNA

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