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Keywords:

  • ancient DNA;
  • haplotype;
  • D-loop;
  • teeth;
  • Roman Iron-Age

Abstract

The Roman Iron-Age (0–400 AD) in Southern Scandinavia was a formative period, where the society changed from archaic chiefdoms to a true state formation, and the population composition has likely changed in this period due to immigrants from Middle Scandinavia. We have analyzed mtDNA from 22 individuals from two different types of settlements, Bøgebjerggård and Skovgaarde, in Southern Denmark. Bøgebjerggård (ca. 0 AD) represents the lowest level of free, but poor farmers, whereas Skovgaarde 8 km to the east (ca. 200–270 AD) represents the highest level of the society. Reproducible results were obtained for 18 subjects harboring 17 different haplotypes all compatible (in their character states) with the phylogenetic tree drawn from present day populations of Europe. This indicates that the South Scandinavian Roman Iron-Age population was as diverse as Europeans are today. Several of the haplogroups (R0a, U2, I) observed in Bøgebjerggård are rare in present day Scandinavians. Most significantly, R0a, harbored by a male, is a haplogroup frequent in East Africa and Arabia but virtually absent among modern Northern Europeans. We suggest that this subject was a soldier or a slave, or a descendant of a female slave, from Roman Legions stationed a few hundred kilometers to the south. In contrast, the haplotype distribution in the rich Skovgaarde shows similarity to that observed for modern Scandinavians, and the Bøgebjerggård and Skovgaarde population samples differ significantly (P ≈ 0.01). Skovgaarde may represent a new upper-class formed by migrants from Middle Scandinavia bringing with them Scandinavian haplogroups. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.