Sigtuna’s International Demographics

Genomic studies are published at a fast rate these days.

Genomic studies are published at a fast rate these days. A related paper on Sigtuna appeared in Current Biology last week, 23 August 2018.1

Sigtuna, a medieval Swedish trading town, emerges as an international hotspot by the 980s. It is at the heart of the complex of trading routes on Lake Mälaren and to the Baltic Sea. It is of commercial importance, and boasts a royal and religious connection.2 Its demography shows more men than women lived in town, and that their dietary habits differed. The diets differed, too, between the social classes. And evidence of illnesses indicate how close the people lived together.3

Sigtuna church remains (Flickr / Paulius Malinovskis)

The long-standing belief among scholars is that Sigtuna was more international than one would think. The new study, based on genomic and strontium analyses, confirms this. The researchers used 23 human remains, of which they also took 16 teeth samples and combined this with 15 further teeth samples. The results are clear. They show a high diversity in the population. Of the sample group, half are locals but the other half, predominantly women, originate from other places in northern Europe. In a few cases, the team thinks they can even point out first-generation and second-generation immigrants.

At this rate, Sigtuna might well reveal the most comprehensive demographic picture of an international Viking Age trading town.

Other online news sources covering this item mostly refer to the original article in The Local.


  1.  Maja Krzewinska et al., ‘Genomic and Strontium Isotope Variation Reveal Immigration Patterns in a Viking Age Town’, In: Current Biology Volume 28, 1–9 (2018),  ↩
  2.  Jonas Ros, ‘Sigtuna.’ In: The Viking World edited by Stefan Brink in collaboration with Neil Price (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012), pp. 140, 143 [pp. 140–143].  ↩
  3.  Anna Kjellström, The Urban Farmer osteoarchaeological Analysis of Skeletons from Medieval Sigtuna Interpreted In a Socioeconomic Perspective. Thesis in Osteoarchaeology No. 2, Stockholm University, 2005 [revised 2014], pp. ii.
    Anna Kjellström, ‘Possible cases of leprosy and tuberculosis in medieval Sigtuna, Sweden.’ In: International Journal of Osteoarchaeology Volume 22.3 (2012), Abstract [pp. 261–283]. (  ↩

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