Westray project will look at prehistoric genetics

Archaeologist Sean Mullan at work revealing the a crouched burial at the Knowe o’ Skea in 2004.

A new project is about to get under way, looking specifically at the genetics of the Westray’s prehistoric inhabitants.

Hazel Moore, of Westray-based EASE Archaeology, explained that their study will focus on two significant assemblages of prehistoric human remains from Westray – from the Knowe of Skea and Links of Noltland.

Hazel said: “These remains hold the potential to investigate further the origins of the 75 per cent of the genetic make up which is not attributable to the vikings.

“The genetic work planned here will build on detailed osteological analyses of the Knowe of Skea Iron Age human assemblage, currently the subject of a PhD study by Dawn Gooney, of the University of Edinburgh, and ongoing osteological analyses of the Neolithic to Bronze Age assemblage from the Links of Noltland.

“Together, these should provide us with a profile of the pre-Viking population between c. 3000 BC and c.500 AD. While the extraction of genetic material from ancient remains can be difficult, the quality of the bone is very good and preliminary DNA analyses at both sites have already proved successful.

“The great news is that we have secured funding to undertake genetic investigations in 2015-16, in collaboration with an academic body.”

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