Norwegian researchers have finally got to open the tomb of the Viking leader Rollo’s descendants. They will find out whether Rollo was the same Rollo as Rollo from Møre. In that case the British royal family originaed from Norway.
A Norwegian-led delegation was in Normandy on Monday and opened the sarcophagus of two of Rollo’s descendants. The aim is to put an end to a centuries-long debate: Was Rollo Danish or Norwegian?
– We have been working to get this investigated in about seven years, so to finally get collected material to test DNA was huge historian and project initiator Sturla Ellingvåg of the foundation Explico said.
Rollo was the founder of Normandy, Count of Rouen and great great great grandfather of William the Conqueror, who is the ancestor of the English royal house. While Norwegian-Icelandic historical documents and historians have argued since the Snorre Sagas that Rollo and Rollo are one and the same person, the Danish historians believed that he came from Denmark. Rollo, the son of Rognvald was exiled from Norway and was said to have settled in France.
Plucked out teeth
In January the French authorities and the French church granted the Norwegian application to open the tomb of Rollo’s grandson and great-grandson, Duke Richard the fearless and son Duke Richard the good. The tomb is a sarcophagus in the floor of a monastery in Fécamp. When they opened the grave Monday, researchers found, among other things, a lower jaw with eight teeth in the tomb of Richard the good:
– The key is to find teeth, for the DNA of the teeth may, even all these years, be sufficent for a DNA analysis. Two forensic experts from Norway and Denmark snatched five of his teeth and those teeth are now being sent to the Institutes of Forensic Medicine in both of the countries for analysis, Chairman of Samlerhuset and The Norwegian Mint, Ole Bjørn Fausa says.
A result of the analysis will probably be available in the autumn and will be presented in cooperation with the French authorities. So it remains to be seen whether the results indicates Denmark or Norway.
The small sarcophagi at first glance looks like they only accommodate toddlers, but Fausa explains:
– When they were buried in a floor, it was a matter of space. The most important thing was to preserve the skeleton. We do not know how this was done here, but it was common to either cut the bodies into pieces or boil them so the meat loosened from the bones. This meant that the the sarcophagus didn’t have to be longer than a femur, which is the longest bone in the body, Fausa says.
Fausa describes the atmosphere at the tomb as an amazing experience:
– As far as we know this is only the second time since the war that a king’s tomb has been opened in France. Just being a part of it, and find the skeletons in there, it was exciting, solemn and unreal at the same time.
In the work process, he also found that he is a 35th generation descendant of Rollo.
– Of course it enhances this experience, to know that this was my ancestors, Fausa says.
If Rollo and Rollo proves to be the same person, it will be of historical significance:
– If the British royal family originates from the northwest coast it will, among other things, change the notion that the Norwegian royal family is young, with origins from the British and Danish, says Fausa.