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European Journal of Human Genetics (advance online publication)
The scale and nature of Viking settlement in Ireland from Y-chromosome admixture analysis
Brian McEvoy et al.
The Vikings (or Norse) played a prominent role in Irish history but, despite this, their genetic legacy in Ireland, which may provide insights into the nature and scale of their immigration, is largely unexplored. Irish surnames, some of which are thought to have Norse roots, are paternally inherited in a similar manner to Y-chromosomes. The correspondence of Scandinavian patrilineal ancestry in a cohort of Irish men bearing surnames of putative Norse origin was examined using both slow mutating unique event polymorphisms and relatively rapidly changing short tandem repeat Y-chromosome markers. Irish and Scandinavian admixture proportions were explored for both systems using six different admixture estimators, allowing a parallel investigation of the impact of method and marker type in Y-chromosome admixture analysis. Admixture proportion estimates in the putative Norse surname group were highly consistent and detected little trace of Scandinavian ancestry. In addition, there is scant evidence of Scandinavian Y-chromosome introgression in a general Irish population sample. Although conclusions are largely dependent on the accurate identification of Norse surnames, the findings are consistent with a relatively small number of Norse settlers (and descendents) migrating to Ireland during the Viking period (ca. AD 800–1200) suggesting that Norse colonial settlements might have been largely composed of indigenous Irish. This observation adds to previous genetic studies that point to a flexible Viking settlement approach across North Atlantic Europe.