February 18, 2010

Analysis of Putative Remains of St. Birgitta

Even though the paper casts serious doubt on the identification of the relics with St. Birgitta and her daughter, it is still interesting as it gives us two late medieval sequences from Sweden:

16189C, 263G, 315.1C, 3010A, 16519C
16126C, 16294T, 16296T, 16304C, 73G, 263G, 309.1C, 315.1C, 16519C

PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008986

Analysis of the Putative Remains of a European Patron Saint–St. Birgitta

Martina Nilsson et al.


Saint Birgitta (Saint Bridget of Sweden) lived between 1303 and 1373 and was designated one of Europe's six patron saints by the Pope in 1999. According to legend, the skulls of St. Birgitta and her daughter Katarina are maintained in a relic shrine in Vadstena abbey, mid Sweden. The origin of the two skulls was assessed first by analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to confirm a maternal relationship. The results of this analysis displayed several differences between the two individuals, thus supporting an interpretation of the two skulls not being individuals that are maternally related. Because the efficiency of PCR amplification and quantity of DNA suggested a different amount of degradation and possibly a very different age for each of the skulls, an orthogonal procedure, radiocarbon dating, was performed. The radiocarbon dating results suggest an age difference of at least 200 years and neither of the dating results coincides with the period St. Birgitta or her daughter Katarina lived. The relic, thought to originate from St. Birgitta, has an age corresponding to the 13th century (1215–1270 cal AD, 2σ confidence), which is older than expected. Thus, the two different analyses are consistent in questioning the authenticity of either of the human skulls maintained in the Vadstena relic shrine being that of St. Birgitta. Of course there are limitations when interpreting the data of any ancient biological materials and these must be considered for a final decision on the authenticity of the remains.



pconroy said...

Based on my own mtDNA T1a HVR1 and HVR2 markers, it would seemthat the first is possibly mtDNA T and the second mtDNA T1??

Does anyone know for sure?

Unknown said...

They only tested HVR1 and HVR2 with 3010 and 16519.

Individual 1
16189C, 263G, 315.1C, 3010A, 16519C

315.1 and 16519 are not useable given the high mutation rate.
263G means not H2a2.
3010A is characteristic of H1.
16189 is characteristic of a group of subclades within H1.

Individual 2
16126C, 16294T, 16296T, 16304C, 73G, 263G, 309.1C, 315.1C, 16519C

Again ignore 309.1C, 315.1C, 16519C.

263G so not H2a2
73G so (probably) not in the R0 group.
16126 puts it probably in JT.
16294 puts it in T
16296 puts it in T2
16304 puts it in T2b

With a very large pinch of salt.

So probably H1 and T2b.

pconroy said...


I think your analysis of Individual 1 seems incorrect?

As based on what I've been able to glean from the internet, my own markers are indicative as follows:

HVR1 differences from CRS
16126C - J/T

16163G - T1
16186T - T1a
16189C - T1

16294T - T
16519C - H

HVR2 differences from CRS
73G - H

152C - T1a
195C - T1a

263G - H
309.1C -
315.1C -

So on re-evaluating, I would now say:
#1 = T1
#2 = T2

Unknown said...

You look to be a T1a, but Individual 1 is not as she does not have 73G, 16129 or 16294 which are required for T. Plus she has 3010 which defines H1.

All sequences are defined with respect to H2a2 (rCRS). Basically the more mutations, the futher away from H2a2a. I would not dare to rely just on HVRs these days, which I guess is why the author did not quote the haplogroups in the final paper. :)

Unknown said...

Looks like the same is happening with Tutankhamun and his (very close) family. They don't dare clearly state the haplogroups.

Anyone got access to the raw data? I can't believe they did STRs. Some guy used the publicity video to try and work out the haplogroup but that may have been stock footage (he identified R1b1b2 from the STR pattern on the screen).

Basically if we are interested we are going to have to do it ourselves (like "not St Brigitte" and her "not daughter")

pconroy said...


So are you saying then that 16189C - with in T, is indicative of T1, is also a parallel marker in H1??

Unknown said...

Yes although not a particularly significant ones. Have a look at the most parsimonious trees.

Unknown said...

If anyone is interested it is looking like Tutankamun truly was R1b1b2, or at least his Dad Akenaten was.


Unknown said...


Tuts STRs. Closest match apparently a Druze sequence.

Matt said...

Your comments interest me as I inherited a "relic" of "s. Birgittae
vid" It is in cased in a silver-colored locket and is sealed with I
believe the papal seal. Above he seal is the inked number 269; below
the seal is the number 73.
If anyone can shed any light on this subject, I would be appreciative.