Vibrant Metal Trade Drove Early Migration to Scandinavia

(CN) – An economic heyday spurred migration from a variety of foreign locales and greater distances starting in 1600 B.C. in what is now Denmark, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

Modern-day Copenhagen, Denmark. (William Dotinga / CNS)

The study’s authors from the National Museum of Denmark believe establishment of new cultural alliances through a long-distance metal trade drove what is dubbed the Nordic Bronze Age and a period of significant increase in wealth in southern Scandinavia.

“Around 1600 B.C., the amount of metal coming into southern Scandinavia increased dramatically, arriving mostly from the Italian Alps, whereas tin came from Cornwall in south England. Our results support the development of highly international trade, a forerunner for the Viking Age period,” co-author Kristian Kristiansen said in a statement.

Fellow author Karin Frei added: “Our data indicates a clear shift in human mobility at the breakthrough point of the Nordic Bronze Age, when an unprecedented rich period in southern Scandinavia emerged. This suggests to us that these aspects might have been closely related.”

Frei and colleagues examined skeletal remains of 88 individuals from 37 localities across present-day Denmark. They determined the origins of individuals using strontium isotopes in tooth enamel which record geographic signatures from an early age. The use of radiocarbon dating helped to determine the age of each skeleton, while physical anthropological analyses provided information on sex, age and potential injuries or illness.

The authors say further study is needed. They propose looking at the ancient DNA of migrants as the next step to help illustrate large scale social dynamics of migration patterns.

Grants from the Carlsberg Foundation and the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences funded the study.

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