DNA research on bones sheds light on the Merovingians

DNA analysis of teeth and bones from Koksijde (West Flanders) that are 1300 years old has shed fresh light on the Merovingians, who lived here at that time.

Ancient human remains were discovered during works on a new police station in the resort. “First we thought these were the remains of Vikings or people who had died of the plague, but carbon dating showed these people lived during the Merovingian Age between 650 and 750 CE” says geneticist Maarten Larmuseau of Leuven University.

The remains of 53 people and two farmsteads were discovered. In the largest scale operation of its kind in Flanders the bones and teeth were analysed as part of the MerovingerDNA Project.  Scientists were able to draw up a good genetic profile for around 30 medieval inhabitants of Koksijde.

The scientists discovered that most of the people whose remains were discovered at this burial site were not related.

“I expected an extended family including three generations with a father and living-in sons living in isolation on the coast” says Larmuseau.

“This wasn’t the case.  Fathers with their sons, mothers with their daughters, proved to be in the minority.  It was a diverse community, not a family settlement.”

DNA research showed they were related to the Saxons of the North.  Further research may establish whether they migrated.

Research using isotopes at the VUB University in Brussels showed the members of this community had very different eating habits.  Some only ate meat, others preferred fish.

Researchers also still hope to establish whether there was any connection with the Abbey of Ter Duinen, an important centre in the close vicinity.

foto Kris Vandevorst Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed

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