Scandinavians, Brits Have More In Common With Icelandic Settlers Than Icelanders - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Scandinavians, Brits Have More In Common With Icelandic Settlers Than Icelanders

Published December 8, 2016

Main photo by
Art Bicnick

A series of tragic and catastrophic events in Icelandic history has had a big impact on the genetic composition of the country. In fact, Scandinavians and Brits have more genetically in common with the original Icelandic settlers than the Icelanders themselves do.

Agnar Helgason, a biological anthropologist at deCODE, shared this new discovery with Vísir.

“We had the Black Death,” he said. “We had smallpox in the beginning of the 18th century that killed off about 25% of the population. We had the [Laki-induced] famine, which killed off maybe 20% of the population. And what happens then? We lose a lot of genetic information. There were so few who had children that their DNA was not passed on to the next generation.”

As a result of these tragedies and others, as well as mass migration movements from Iceland, the genetic composition of the modern Icelander is greatly unlike that of the Vikings.

“So due to what happened over these 1,100 years, there is a lot of genetic information that the settlers brought that did not make it all the way to modern times,” Agnar said. “But in Britain and in Scandinavia, this genetic information has been preserved much better.”

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