Human DNA from a tomb in Normandy may answer a centuries-old question: was the Viking leader Rollo, the founder of the Norman dynasty, Danish or Norwegian?
Rollo, who lived around 846 – 932 AD, came from a noble warrior family of Scandinavian origin and emerged as a great leader of the Norsemen who secured a permanent foothold on Frankish soil in northern France.
His presence in the region was first recorded in a charter dated 918 AD and he ruled Normandy until at least 927. Before his death, he gave his son, William I Longsword, governance of the region and his descendants went on to rule as the Dukes of Normandy.
The Norman dynasty had an enduring political, cultural and military impact on medieval Europe and the Near East – their most important conquest being the kingdom of England by Rollo’s great-great-great grandson, William the Conqueror.
Rollo’s origins are obscure and Danish and Norwegian historians have long debated whether Rollo came originally from Denmark or Norway. Some accounts name Rollo as the son of a Danish king, while many Icelandic and Norwegian sagas equate Rollo with Ganger Hrólf, the son of a Norwegian earl from Sunnmøre in west Norway.
It was a team of Norwegian researchers who last week were given permission to open the tomb of Rollo’s great-grandson Richard II, also called Richard the Good, in Normandy’s Fécamp Abbey. They found Richard the Good’s lower jaw with eight teeth, which will now be subject to DNA analysis.
The team hopes that any DNA recovered from the teeth of Rollo’s great-grandson will prove that Rollo was indeed the Norwegian Ganger Hrólf, as Danish and Norwegian Viking kings had separate familial lines.
Project leader Ole Bjørn Fausa said: “Finding teeth is key, because DNA can be found there even after this many years. Two forensic experts from Norway and Denmark took five teeth that will now be sent to the University of Oslo and the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen for analysis.”
Fausa added that if Rollo is confirmed to be Ganger Hrólf, it will have great historical significance: “If the British royal family originates from the northern part of Western Norway, it will change the perception that the Norwegian royal family is relatively young with origins from the British and Danish royal houses.”
Source: The Local.dk