Unmatched DNA preservation prove arctic hare and sheep wool in Norse Greenlandic textile from “The Farm Beneath the Sand”

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GUS (Gården under sandet- The Farm Beneath the Sand) is a Greenlandic Norse settlement site 80 km from Nuuk in the former Norse western settlement occupied between 1000 and 1400 CE. Renowned for its excellent preservation caused by its interment under large quantities of sand and permafrost after its abandonment, GUS is unique in Norse Greenlandic contexts as perishable materials and artefacts are extremely well preserved. Some aspects of fibre admixtures used in Norse Greenlandic clothing are unknown to us, but of great relevance to understanding the history of the colony and its subsistence practices. Here we present the results of shotgun genomic data from 11 samples originating from ten archaeological textiles from a variety of different Norse Greenlandic sites. The obtained sequences were mapped to mitochondrial genomes of 15 diverse mammals and only samples from GUS had any endogenous DNA (4,5 and 3,5%), resulting in a 70x mt-genome of arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) and a 20x mt-genome of domestic sheep (Ovis aries). The evidence of arctic hare in Greenlandic textile is one of the few examples confirming the use of exotic textiles and mixtures of wool types in Norse clothing. Furthermore, the study overall finds the biological material from GUS to have unmatched DNA preservation, indicating potential for genetic investigations in the future from this locality.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Pages (from-to)603-608
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

ID: 203872789