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Beowulf single-authorship claim is unsupported

Matters Arising to this article was published on 11 November 2021

The Original Article was published on 08 April 2019

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Fig. 1: Full-line pattern variation.
Fig. 2: Hierarchical agglomerative clustering of overlapping samples of 300 lines from Beowulf based on 25 and 100, 150, 200, … , 1,000 most frequent character 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-grams.

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The data necessary to reproduce the analyses are provided at

Code availability

The complete set of analysis code is available at, allowing all the analyses to be fully examined.


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Authors and Affiliations



P.P., A.C., B.N. and A.Š. designed the study. P.P. and B.N. wrote the code. All authors analysed the results and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Petr Plecháč, Andrew Cooper, Benjamin Nagy or Artjoms Šeļa.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Human Behaviour thanks Michael Drout and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Half-line pattern variation.

Relative proportions of each pattern, taken over a 200-line rolling window throughout the text. The horizontal line shows the start of the disputed section.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Usage of hapax compounds.

a. Difference between slopes for two samples of Elene is comparable to the difference reported between Genesis A and B in supplementary figure 4 of the original article (sample 1: slope = 31.25; r = 0.9792; sample 2: slope = 22.67; r = 0.9798). b. When Elene, Genesis B and Phoenix are merged together, the quality of linear fit is comparable to that of Beowulf (slope = 28.05; r = 0.9983). Merging together Genesis A and Andreas produces a good quality fit as well (slope = 23.88; r = 0.9972).

Extended Data Fig. 3 Shared compounds.

Replication of original figure 3 with Christ I and Christ III added to the chart. Despite the fact that Christ I, II, III are claimed to be written by different authors, their mutual correlations do not significantly differ from those of poems signed by Cynewulf (t(7) = 0.19; p = 0.8567). This suggests that the method is sensitive to a common topic and as such cannot be accepted as “further support for unitary composition” of Beowulf.

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Supplementary Fig. 1 and Discussion.

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Plecháč, P., Cooper, A., Nagy, B. et al. Beowulf single-authorship claim is unsupported. Nat Hum Behav 5, 1481–1483 (2021).

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