Rare mtDNA haplogroups and genetic differences in rich and poor Danish Iron-Age villages

Authors

  • L. Melchior,

    1. Research Laboratory, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Frederik V Vej 11, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
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  • M.T.P. Gilbert,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721
    Current affiliation:
    1. Ancient DNA and Evolution, Biological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
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  • T. Kivisild,

    1. Leverhulme Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, The Henry Wellcome Building, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 1QH, UK
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  • N. Lynnerup,

    1. Antrophological Laboratory, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3, DK-2200 Copenhagen, Denmark
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  • J. Dissing

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Laboratory, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Frederik V Vej 11, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
    • Research Laboratory, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Frederik V Vej 11, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
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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.

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