Archaeogenetics in Popular Media: Contemporary Implications of Ancient DNA


  • Anna Källén Department of Culture and Aesthetics Stockholm University
  • Charlotte Mulcare University of Liverpool
  • Andreas Nyblom Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University
  • Daniel Strand Center for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism, Uppsala University



Genetics, aDNA, communication of science, mediatization, Viking, female warrior, migration, Birka, Sigtuna


If most academic debates surrounding the recent boom of ancient DNA (aDNA) so far have concerned conflicting research epistemologies, this article is a call for taking aspects of media and communication more seriously. Analyzing the fates of two recent research papers on Viking Age Scandinavia, we show how aDNA research is communicated, narrated and infused with meaning in the public sphere, particularly in relation to popular narratives and political debates. We observe significant interlacing of scientific, political and media discourses in and around the papers, and conclude that archaeogenetics is a highly mediatized scientific field.


Download data is not yet available.


Altmetric Attention Score. [Accessed 8 October 2019].

Anderson, C. 2017. A Female Viking Warrior? Tomb Study Yields Clues, The New York Times. 14 September 2017. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

ATLAS project. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Bojs, K. 2015. Min europeiska familj de senaste 54 000 åren. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers förlag.

Bucchi, M. 1996. When Scientists turn to the Public: Alternative Routes in Science Communication. Public Understanding of Science- Vol. 5(4) pp. 375–394.

Bucchi, M. & Trench, B. 2014. Science Communication Research: Themes and Challenges. In: Bucchi, M. & Trench, B. (eds). Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology, second edition, pp. 1–14. London: Routledge.

Callaway, E. 2018. The Battle for Common Ground. Nature. Vol. 555 pp. 573–576.

de Chadarevian, S. 2010. Genetic Evidence and Interpretation in History. BioSocieties. Vol. 5 pp. 301–305.

Clack, T. & Brittain, M. 2007. Archaeology and the Media. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Cocozza, P. 2017. Does new DNA Evidence Prove that there were Female Viking Warlords? The Guardian. 12 September 2017. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Dobson Jones, E. 2017. The Search for Ancient DNA in the Media Limelight: A Case Study of Celebrity Science. Diss. University College London.

Egorova, Y. 2010. DNA Evidence? The Impact of Genetic Research on Historical Debates. BioSocieties. Vol 5 pp. 348–365.

Franzen, M., Weingart, P. & Rödder, S. 2012. Exploring the Impact of Science Communication on Scientific Knowledge Production: An Introduction. In: Rödder, S., Franzen, M. & Weingart, P. (eds). The Sciences’ Media Connection. Public Communication and its Repercussions, pp. 3–14. Dordrecht: Springer.

Furholt, M. 2018. Massive Migrations? The Impact of Recent aDNA Studies on our View of Third Millennium Europe. European Journal of Archaeology. Vol 21(2) pp. 159–191.

Goulden, M. 2013. Hobbits, Hunters and Hydrology: Images of a ‘Missing Link’ and its Scientific Communication. Public Understanding of Science. Vol 22(5) pp. 575–589.

Götherström, A. 2018. The king (well, queen in this case, or lady…) is gone but he’s not forgotten. Ancient DNA Research, blogpost 5 March 2018. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Hagelberg, E. 2013. Analysis of DNA from Bone: Benefits versus Losses. In: Fossheim, H. (ed). More than just Bones: Ethics and Research on Human Remains, pp. 95–112. Oslo: The National Research Ethics Committees of Norway.

Hallman, A. 2017. Konsten att upptäcka en kvinnlig vikingakrigare. Universitetsnytt. För medarbetarna vid Stockholms universitet. Vol 2017(5) pp. 24–25.

Hedenstierna-Jonson, C., Kjellström, A., Zachrisson, T., Krzewińska, M., Sobrado, V., Price, N., Günther, T., Jakobsson, M., Götherström, A. & Storå, J. 2017. A Female Viking Warrior Confirmed by Genomics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Vol. 164 pp. 853–860.

Henson, D. 2013. Digital Media and Public Engagement in Archaeology: an Opinion Piece. Archäologische Informationen. Vol. 36 pp. 13–20.

Hilgartner, S. 1990. The Dominant View of Popularization: Conceptual Problems, Political Uses. Social Studies of Science. Vol. 20(3) pp. 519–539.

Hilgartner, S. 2012. Staging High-Visibility Science: Media Orientation in Genome Research. In: Rödder, S., Franzen, M. & Weingart, P. (eds). The Sciences’ Media Connection. Public Communication and its Repercussions, pp. 189–215. Dordrecht: Springer.

Hofmann, K.P. 2016. With Víkingr Into the Identity Trap. Medieval Worlds. Vol. 2016(4) pp. 91–122.

Holtorf, C. 2004. From Stonehenge to Las Vegas: Archaeology and Popular Culture. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.

Ion, A. 2017. How Interdisciplinary is Interdisciplinarity? Revising the Impact of aDNA Research for the Archaeology of Human Remains. Current Swedish Archaeology. Vol 25 pp. 177–198.

Jansson, M. 2018. Hälften invandrare i vikingastad. Vimmerby tidning, 25 August 2018. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Jesch, J. 2017a. Let’s Debate Female Viking Warriors Yet Again. Norse and Viking Ramblings, blogpost 9/9. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Jesch, J. 2017b. Some Further Discussion of the Article on Bj 581. Norse and Viking Ramblings, blogpost 18/9. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Kohlenberger, J. 2015. The New Formula for Cool. Science, Technology, and the Popular in the American Imagination. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Krzewińska, M., Kjellström, A., Günther, T. Hedenstierna-Jonson, C., Zachrisson, T., Omrak, A., Yaka, R., Kilinç G. M., Somel, M., Sobrado, V., Evans, C., Knipper, C., Jakobsson, M., Storå, J. & Götherström, A. 2018. Genomic and Strontium Isotope Variation Reveal Immigration Patterns in a Viking Age Town. Current Biology. Vol. 28(17) pp. 2730–2738.

Latour, B. 1987. Science in Action. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Lewis-Kraus, G. 2019. Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths – or Falling Into Old Traps? The New York Times Magazine, 17 January 2019. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

M’charek, A. 2005. The Human Genome Diversity Project: An Ethnography of Scientific Practise. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Myers, G. 2003. Discourse Studies of Scientific Popularization: Questioning the Boundaries. Discourse Studies. Vol. 5 pp. 265–279.

Nash, C. 2004. Genetic Kinship. Cultural Studies. Vol 18 pp. 1–33.

Nash, C. 2015. Genetic Geographies: The Trouble with Ancestry. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Nelson, A. 2016. The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation after The Genome. Boston: Beacon Press.

Nordström, L. 2017. Viking Warrior found in Sweden was a Woman, Researchers Confirm. The Local, 8 September 2017. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Nutt, A.E. 2017. Wonder Woman lived: Viking warrior skeleton identified as female, 128 years after its discovery. The Washington Post, 14 September 2017. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Price, N., Hedenstierna-Jonsson, C., Zachrisson, T., Kjellström, A., Storå, J., Krzewinska, M., Günther, T., Sobrado, V., Jakobsson, M. & Götherström, A. 2019. Viking Warrior Women? Reassessing Birka Chamber Grave Bj.581. Antiquity. Vol. 93(367) pp. 181–198.

Reich, D. 2018. Who We Are And How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rödder, S. 2009. Reassessing the Concept of a Medialization of Science. Public Understanding of Science. Vol. 18 pp. 452–463.

Rödder, S., Franzen, M. & Weingart, P. (eds). 2012. The Sciences’ Media Connection. Public Communication and its Repercussions, Dordrecht: Springer.

Samida, S. & Feuchter, J. 2016. Why Archaeologists, Historians and Geneticists Should Work Together – and How. Medieval Worlds. Vol. 2016(4) pp. 5–21.

SAU. n.d. Vikingarna i populärkulturen – han gör dem autentiska. Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis website. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Sayer, D. & Walters, T. 2016. Digging the Dead in a Digital Media Age. In: Williams, H. & Giles, M. (eds). Archaeologists and the Dead: Mortuary Archaeology and Contemporary Society, pp. 367–395. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schäfer, M. S. 2014. The Media in the Labs, and the Labs in the Media: What we know about the Mediatization of Science. In: Lundby, K. (ed). Mediatization of Communication, pp. 571–594. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.

Scully, M., King, T. & Brown, S.D. 2013. Remediating Viking Origins: Genetic Code as Archival Memory of the Remote Past. Sociology. Vol. 47(5) pp. 921–938.

Siegester. 2017. Re: Birkakrigaren – en framstående kvinna? Flashback online forum post. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Sjöberg, D. 2018. Nej DN, hälften av alla invånare i Sigtuna var faktiskt inte invandrare – och svenskar finns. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Sørensen, M. 2014. Arkæologi og aDNA. Arkæologisk Forum. Vol. 31 pp. 19–25.

Sørensen, T. F. 2017. The Two Cultures and a World Apart: Archaeology and Science at a New Crossroads. Norwegian Archaeological Review. Vol. 50(2) pp. 101–115.

Sputnik News 2018. ’No Such Thing as an Ethnic Swede’ as Half of Viking Capital Were Immigrants. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Stockholm University. 2018. Hälften av invånarna i vikingatidens Sigtuna var invandrare. Retrieved from: [Accessed 14 May 2019].

TallBear, K. 2013. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Toon, R. & Stone, L. 2017. Richard III and the Creation of Cultural Heritage. In: Stojanowski, C.M. & Duncan, W.N. (eds). Studies in Forensic Biohistory, pp. 43–66. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vagianos, A. 2017. DNA Test Reveals Powerful Viking Warrior was Actually a Woman. Huffington Post. [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Vikernes, V. 2017. Female Viking Warriors? YouTube video retrieved from [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Vocativ 2017. DNA Confirms There Were Kick Ass Female Viking Warriors. YouTube video, retrieved at [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Warrior Woman Hardcore Sex, n.d. Retrieved from: [Accessed 8 October 2019]

Weingart, P. 1998. Science and the Media. Research Policy. Vol. 27 pp. 869–879.

Welinder, S. 1997. Arkeologi i massmedia. Fornvännen. Vol. 92 pp. 19–32.




How to Cite

Källén, A. ., Mulcare, C., Nyblom, A. and Strand, D. (2019) “Archaeogenetics in Popular Media: Contemporary Implications of Ancient DNA”, Current Swedish Archaeology, 27(1), pp. 69–91. doi: 10.37718/CSA.2019.04.



Research Articles