British search for Viking genes in France rankles anti-racist groups

British researchers on Monday began collecting the DNA of residents from Normandy in northern France in search of Viking heritage, but the project has raised concerns amongst some local anti-racism activists.

Around a hundred volunteers from the Cotentin peninsula area are giving DNA samples to academics at the University of Leicester, who are trying to find descendants of the Vikings who invaded what is now Normandy in the 9th century.

The aim is to learn more about “the intensity of the Scandinavian colonisation” in the 9th and 10th centuries in the Cotentin Peninsula, said Richard Jones, a senior history lecturer at the University of Leicester.

That includes trying to find out whether the colonisers kept to themselves or married amongst the locals, he added.

The French volunteers have been chosen because they have surnames that are of Scandinavian origin or that have been present in France since at least the 11th century. They also qualify if all four of their grandparents lived within a 50-kilometre radius of their current home.

French data protection authorities gave their green light to the study, which will be published in 2016, but the DNA testing has raised eyebrows in some quarters.

“We’re worried this will build on the idea that there are real Normans and fake Normans,” said Jacques Declosmenil, head of the local wing of the Movement Against Racism (MRAP) group.

“In the current context of xenophobia, it’s very dangerous. Racists could use this to say: ‘I’ve got proof that I haven’t got any Arab blood,’ for instance.”

But Jones dismissed such concerns, saying the scientists were only studying 2% of a person’s DNA in order to potentially establish Scandinavian ancestry dating back more than 10 centuries. “Anything is possible” for the other 98%, he added.

The team are searching for Viking roots amongst residents in three areas of Britain as well as in Normandy.

But at the nearby University of Caen, medieval history professor Pierre Bauduin said he had warned the Leicester academics that racial origins are “an extremely sensitive topic in France”.

“It’s important that the results of this are not misrepresented by anyone,” he said. – theguardian.com

  • Johann Theron

    In those days people were very protective of their children and would have concentrated on trade mostly. But French women would have found the Vikings attractive no less.

  • asd

    I don’t know why so many whites want to be associated with the Vikings. But all historical records, these Vikings were quite savage and barbaric. They were also known for having public orgies as well as engaging in human sacrifice: When the clan Chief died, the village would sacrifice a young maiden who would then be placed in the same boat as the dead Chief. But before the actual sacrifice, there would be 3 days of drunken orgies where the young maiden would have sex with as many men in the village as she could.

    • Rooikop

      It is interesting how many people are turning back to these ancient pagan religions. Another interesting fact that I read recently was that there is not nearly as much “raping” that happened during the Norse invasions as everybody thought as the prevalence of the Viking genes are a lot less than what people have been led to believe.

  • rissiepit

    asdfasfasd, is totally correct. I read the same information during a visit in Scandinaivia. So if you have Viking blood will you then want to become savage? Or will you then have an excuse to be savage?

  • Karel Combrinck

    The Normans Under William the Conqueror who invaded Britain in 1066 were of course the descendants of the Viikings who settled in France in the 9th and 10th centuries. However the Normans who invaded Britain spoke French, which makes it seem obvious that hey must have mingled with the French on a rather large scale. The squeamishness of French racial activists about the study passes me by completely.

  • Karel Combrinck

    Incidentally, does anyone know the difference between a “real Norman” and a “fake Norman”?