Recently (April 2022), LivingDNA added an option to their DNA testing service to evaluate your DNA for “Viking”. Being a sucker for DNA tester and also having a soft-spot for LivingDNA I thought I would try the test. As a European the test cost me €20 to unlock, so I’m guessing the pricing in US dollars and British pounds is similar
What is the Viking Test ?
The test generates two pieces of information. Your “Viking Index” (a score between 0 and 100%) and a “Viking Population Match” which identifies which of four Viking populations you most closely match. The four choices are Norwegian Vikings, Swedish and Danish Vikings, British and North Atlantic Vikings, and Eastern European Vikings. It’s important to understand that the Viking Index is a relative score i.e. in “comparison to the whole range of Viking Indexes across the Living DNA user base”. It is similar to the Neanderthal results that other DNA tester, such as 23andMe, where I’m apparently “have more Neanderthal DNA than 45% of other customers”.
The Science behind the Results
Before we get into the excitement of the test results, it’s important to understand the framework used to generate the tests. As the LivingDNA website states the test used DNA data from 446 Viking samples from 80 archaeological sites across Europe. This data is from three papers Margaryan et al., 2020, Krzewińska et al., 2018, Ebenesersdóttir et al. More accessible copies/reporting on two of these papers can be read at the following links Margaryan et al., 2020 and Ebenesersdóttir et al. Interstingly these reports look similar to this Viking Product from Genomelink, which also uses the “Population genomics of the Viking world” study published by Margaryan et Al.
The Big Viking Reveal
Now on to the results. The “good” news (I use the term quite loosely). It turns out I’m 63% on the scale of “Vikingness” amongst LivingDNA customers. I assume, although I’ve not read it anywhere, that this percentage will change as other more or less Vikingy people unlock the tests. The other part of the tests reveals that I’m most related to Norwegian Vikings. There is a nice illustration and text to accompany these results. The later result is probably not surprising. DNA testing behemoth, Ancestry.com, has consistently given my quite a high Norwegian “Ethnicity Estimate”, currently 13%. This figure is in reality a more “Are your ancestors genetically similar to ?” type of question as my known ancestry is, for at least the last couple of hundred years, northern and eastern British Isles.
Beware Rant Ahead
I must admit I’m honestly not interested in my Vikingness and I struggle to understand why it seems to be so highly regarded, especially within some sections of the genetic genealogy world. My yDNA haplogroup is part of the I-M253 haplotree. This haplogroup is believed to be derived from European Hunter-Gatherer ancestors and most-common in Scandinavian populations. The author Bryan Sykes, “in his 2006 book Blood of the Isles, gives the members – and the notional founding patriarch of I1 the name Wodan“. This seems to have created an interest in the idea that this haplogroup is “Viking”. It ignores the fact that for most people this tells nothing about how you personally inherited the rather puny y Chromosome. Was your ancestor an heroic leader of the Great Heathen Army or the result of rape by one of the aforementioned Heathens ?
More generally I find the idea that you are genetically connected to any group of ancient warriors at best stupid and irrelevant and at worst creating a false connectively with ancestors who were killers, rapists and slave-traders. Human history is undoubtedly messy and horrible and I personally doubt anyone’s ancestors, mine included, were all saints.