AncientPages.com - Clash among scientists! There is currently a heated debate in the scientific community. Archaeologists maintain geneticists have totally misunderstood the Viking occupation in England.
Geneticists, on the other hand say that archaeologists feel threatened by a new form of historical data that they do not control. The debate has turned, more or less into an argument, and it’s certainly not the first time scientists disagree on certain subjects.
It all started with a large and controversial Viking DNA study that questioned several aspects of Vikings’ presence in England.
Scientists cannot agree on how many Danish Vikings visited England. Image credit: Amazon's LOVEFILM
Why Is The Viking DNA Study Controversial?
In 2015, a large DNA Viking study was conducted and it immediately sparked an intense debate. According to the study, there is “no clear genetic evidence” of the Danish Viking occupation of England.
“How can it be? Thousands of Vikings moved to England”, archaeologists said.
“We see no clear genetic evidence of the Danish Viking occupation and control of a large part of England,” write DNA scientists in a study published in the scientific journal Nature in 2015.
A new study has reignited the debate by claiming that somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 Vikings relocated to England.
“We don’t think that the Nature study analysis of the Danish Vikings is correct. We think that they incorrectly interpret the DNA material and that they don’t take into account all of the archaeological discoveries and the knowledge that historians and archaeologists have gathered concerning the Danish Vikings in England,” co-author Jane Kershaw, an archaeologist and Viking researcher Jane Kershaw, a post doc at the University College London said
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In the recent decades, DNA studies have helped scientists to unravel many ancient mysteries, but not all archaeologists and historians are thrilled over genetics experts have delivered an entirely new form of historical evidence.
“The debate on the Vikings in England sets a trend that is often debated among archaeologists—that geneticists don’t have all the necessary knowledge of the historical sources.
It has helped to create a new interdisciplinarity, where we’ve started to get biologists and geneticists involved in archaeological research. It’s exciting because we’ve obtained masses of new data from it. But it’s essential that we work together to interpret and understand each other’s sources.
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It’s not enough for DNA scientists to just read what appears in popular scientific history books. You need to understand the context and the details in order in order to get it right,” says Søren Sindbæk, archaeologist and professor with special responsibilities in the School of Culture and Society from Aarhus University, Denmark.
The new result is pretty much what Viking researcher Søren Sindbæk, a professor at the School of Culture and Society from Aarhus University, Denmark, had expected.
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“It’s very interesting because it gives a very precise estimate of how many Vikings that moved to England. Both their analysis of the genetic material and archaeological remains indicate that the Danish Vikings had quite a significant influence,” says Sindbæk.
“It all fits together beautifully and I’m in total agreement with their critique of the original DNA study conclusions about the Vikings,” he says.
Archaeologists And Historians Feel Threated Because The Do Not Understand And Control A New Form Of Historical Data - Geneticists Say
It is possible that DNA scientists do not always understand the historical context or overlook important historical details, says Professor Rasmus Nielsen from the Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics at the University of California, Berkeley, USA.
However, according to Nielsen, the lack sufficient historical knowledge among genetic experts is not the cause of the argument. The argument is based on the feeling of being threatened, Nielsen explained.
“The debate is also a result of archaeologists who feel threatened by a new form of historical data that they don’t control,” Nielsen said.
Archaeologists and historians disagree with geneticists scientists over a Viking DNA study.
Peter Donnelly, Professor and director of The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford has a calmer attitude and points out that DNA research can provide new information and a different view of history.
“Archaeology often tells us about the rich in society--jewellery and many other artefacts tell us about society's elite. There is a famous saying that history is written by the victors. But genetic material does not distinguish between rich and poor or winners and losers,” says Donnelly.
“Therefore, DNA studies contribute new pages to our written history, but it’s obviously very important that we work together with archaeologists and historians,” said Donnelly, who co-authored a large DNA study to map historical migrations to the UK using modern DNA—one being the Danish Viking invasions from the 9th to the 11th century.
It's safe to assume this debate will go on for some time. It should be added that researchers have debated the number of Vikings in England for decades, only this time, now even DNA scientist are involved in the discussion.
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