The newcomers who arrived in the little farming villages of medieval Germany would have stood out: They had dark hair and tawny skin, spoke a different language and had remarkably tall heads.
Now scientists who investigated the unusually shaped skulls say they provide evidence that women also migrated long distances across medieval Europe, not just men. A genetic analysis showed the women traveled from what is now Romania, Bulgaria and northern Greece at a time when the continent was being reshaped by the collapse of the Roman Empire.
In a study published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers say the women’s elongated heads — a result of binding done after birth — suggest they might have been high-class individuals.
“These women looked extremely different to the local women, very exotic if you will,” said one of the researchers, Joachim Burger, a population geneticist at the University of Mainz, Germany.
With colleagues from Europe and the United States, Burger compared the genetic profile of almost 40 human remains unearthed from 5th and 6th century burial sites in Bavaria, along the Isar and Danube rivers.