Tomb of the Otters


Ancient DNA is being carried out by the University of Copenhagen.


The human material from Tomb of the Otters are the only samples being looked at in the whole of the UK. The samples are part of hundreds of samples throughout Europe. Funding has been obtained that will guarantee the project to be finished.


Meeting with University of Copenhagen on 22.12.16 to update progression of Ancient DNA and have been told that the initial analysis done of 6 of the 17 samples show quality is excellent. These 6 samples are remarkably well preserved with more than 30%efficiency. This is very rare to find with material this old.


Preliminary DNA analysis suggests that the ancient individuals in the tomb have genetic variants from the Middle East which is typical for the Neolithic period. These “Middle Eastern genes” are clearly observed in the bones. They are very different from the gene-variants observed in early Mesolithic time periods and likewise the skeletons do not possess gene-variants that came into Europe in the later Bronze Age Period. So, in short, the tomb is full of Neolithic farmers! It shows that Stone Age farmer genes through generations of migrations at some point also made it to Orkney. This is an important observation.


February 2018 - recent results show two adult individuals had Hepatitis B virus which may have caused their deaths.


March 2019 - Analysis is continuing during 2019 and hoping for results to be published in 2020.