Skip to comments.Y Chromosomes Sketch New Outline of British History
Posted on 05/27/2003 3:49:55 PM PDT by Pharmboy
History books favor stories of conquest, not of continuity, so it is perhaps not surprising that many Englishmen grow up believing they are a fighting mixture of the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Vikings and Normans who invaded Britain. The defeated Celts, by this reckoning, left their legacy only in the hinterlands of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
A new genetic survey of Y chromosomes throughout the British Isles has revealed a very different story. The Celtic inhabitants of Britain were real survivors. Nowhere were they entirely replaced by the invaders and they survive in high proportions, often 50 percent or more, throughout the British Isles, according to a study by Dr. Cristian Capelli, Dr. David B. Goldstein and others at University College London.
The study, being reported today in Current Biology, was based on comparing Y chromosomes sampled throughout the British Isles with the invaders' Y chromosomes, as represented by the present-day descendants of the Danes, Vikings (in Norway) and Anglo-Saxons (in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany).
The survey began as a request from the British Broadcasting Corporation to look for genetic signatures of the Vikings in England, later broadened to include the Danes and Anglo-Saxons. Dr. Goldstein said that not enough money was available to study two other invaders, the Romans and the Normans, but that he felt that their demographic contribution had probably been small.
He assumed the original inhabitants of Britain could be represented by men living in Castlerea, in central Ireland, a region not reached by any foreign invader. In a study two years ago Dr. Goldstein and colleagues established that Y chromosomes of Celtic populations were almost identical with those of the Basques.
The Basques live in a mountainous refuge on the French-Spanish border and speak a language wholly unrelated to the Indo-European tongues that swept into Europe some 8,000 years ago, bringing the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic period. Hence they have long been regarded as likely remnants of the first modern humans to reach Europe some 30,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic.
By this chain of reasoning, the Celtic-speaking men, since genetically very close to the Basques, must also be drawn from the original Paleolithic inhabitants of Europe, and probably represent the first modern human inhabitants of Britain who settled the islands some 10,000 years ago, Dr. Goldstein said. These original Britons must later have adopted from Europe both the Celtic culture, evidence of which appears from some 3,000 years ago, and the Celtic language, which is a branch of the Indo-European language family.
Having identified Y chromosomes assumed typical of the original Britons, Dr. Goldstein and his team could assess the demographic impact of the invaders. They found that the Vikings left a heavy genetic imprint in the Orkneys, the islands off the northeast coast of Scotland, which were a center of Viking operations between A.D. 800 and 1200. Many men in York and east England carry Danish Y chromosomes. But surprisingly, there is little sign of Anglo-Saxon heritage in southern England.
"One tends to think of England as Anglo-Saxon," Dr. Goldstein said. "But we show quite clearly there was not complete replacement of existing populations by either Anglo-Saxons or Danes. It looks like the Celts did hold out."
The Y chromosome measures only the activities of men. In a survey reported two years ago, Dr. Goldstein and colleagues examined British mitochondrial DNA, a genetic element inherited through the mother. Surprisingly, the British maternal heritage turned out to be more like that of northern Europeans than British Y chromosomes are.
To explain that finding, it is not necessary to assume Britain was invaded by an army of Amazons, Dr. Goldstein said, or that the Celts had suddenly decided to replace their Celtic wives with women from the Middle East. More probably, since Celts in Britain remained in contact with those in Europe, there were continual exchanges that included women. As in many cultures, the Celtic men stayed put while women moved to their husbands' villages.
So over time, Britain's female population would gradually have become more like that of Northern Europe, Dr. Goldstein suggested.
British historians have generally emphasized the Roman and Anglo-Saxon contributions to English culture at the expense of the Celtic. A recent history of Britain, "The Isles" by Norman Davies, tried to redress the balance. The Celts were ignored, he noted, in part because no documentary histories remain, the Celts having regarded writing as a threat to their oral traditions. Generations of historians saw British history as beginning with Roman invasions of the first century A.D. and indeed identified with the Romans rather than the defeated Celts.
"So long as classical education and classical prejudices prevailed, educated Englishmen inevitably saw ancient Britain as an alien land," Dr. Davies writes. The new survey indicates that the genetic contribution of the Celts has been as much underestimated as their historical legacy.
Dr. Davies said in an interview that "traditionally, historians thought in terms of invasions: the Celts took over the islands, then the Romans, then the Anglo-Saxons."
"It now seems much more likely that the resident population doesn't change as much as thought," he continued. "The people stay put but are reculturalized by some new dominant culture."
The Y chromosome is a useful way of tracking men because it is passed unchanged from father to son, escaping the genetic shuffle between generations that affects the rest of the genome. Also, all men carry the same Y chromosome, a surprising situation derived from the fact that in the ancestral human population some men had no children or only daughters, so that in each generation some Y chromosomes disappeared until only one was left.
This one and only Y has the same sequence of DNA units in every man alive except for the occasional mutation that has cropped up every thousand years so and is then inherited by all that individuals' descendants. Geneticists can draw up family trees based on these mutations as branching points and then assign specific lineages to historic events or locations, like the entry of Neolithic farmers into Europe.
Well of course they do.
Just Remember Andy Capp
He was never politically correct, but he sure was realistic.
The 'serf' survival strategy is still with us today in the form of bureaucracies. The key to success is to never stand out amongst the rest ie the even hedge theory. Only the top level players win or lose.
" In a study two years ago Dr. Goldstein and colleagues established that Y chromosomes of Celtic populations were almost identical with those of the Basques.
Is anyone suprised?
My favorite theory is that most Europeans are descendents of the refugees from the flood of the Black Sea (Noah's Flood?) in 5,600BC.
Linguists have traced the origins of all the Indo-European languages to that region. (Traced mainly through words used by farmers)
However, Cheddar Man does not fit into that scheme.
That might not be a bad business to start: "Get to know your origins, men! Give us a bit of your inside cheek (the scraping won't hurt a bit) and we'll tell you what's in your background! Perhaps a bit of a Dutchman or a Swede, an Italian or a Mede! A Slav, or a Jew, a Moor or Bantu!
I'm just being silly, but maybe we can start an internet Freeper business doing this--whatcha think, Jim?
Well, it makes a good story. If the Romans had not had internal trouble they would have conquered the Picts and the Irish wouldn't have been far behind..
The Tuatha de Danann may have been related to Noah and some believe they may even be members of the Tribe Of Dan
Come on. Hadrian built his little wall to keep out the Picts, who were as gnats compared to the Celts, in terms of the numbers and sheer ferocity of the latter. That is to say, the Picts seem to have disappeared and the Celts, as you well know, ye shall always have with you. BTW, 95% of the Brit histories on this issue [whether or not the Romans concluded that engaging the guys with the blue war paint was a bad career move] are total rubbish. What? You accuse me of bias? My seconds will be contacting you.
I'm afraid that Tribe of Dan scenario is quite impossible for the English's case. They are only of Syrian-Anatolian descent from the neolithic farmers who came to Europe from the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. They are not descended from any Jewish tribes that formed between only 3500 and 4500 years ago.
Farmboy, I don't get you. Most of the Vikings that came to Britain were men. The Viking-Celtic mixture in the British Isles would usually be Viking-Man and Celtic-Basque-Anatolian-(maybe)Germanic-Roman women.
Ever notice how some of the scruffiest of men can have peachy daughters? It's an amazing trick of nature.
Let's really screw with things, er? (Read this)
Which ones were responsible for the poor dental hygiene?
Thanks, Blam. That was interesting. ~S
Thanks...that is very interesting.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest -- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)
Long live the Britons!
If I recall correctly, the Vikings brought entire families and slaves with them and established farms.
I believe it's just the opposite. The Mitochondrial DNA line is preserved in the females. So if an invader came in and killed all the males and took their women as wives exclusively, then the DNA record would show their descendents as having 100% DNA of the conquered people and no DNA from the invaders.
Coincidentally, I am half Scot and half Dane.
well, not really -- the immigrants are only about 5% of the UK's population and the Indian immigrants still outnumber the Pakis
well, the picts seem to have become the Highlander folks while the lowlander Scots are descendents of the Scotti tribe that came over from Ireland around the 1st century.
You're very welcome. But, for fairness sake, I dabble--Blam is the pro on this stuff. Perhaps he can add you to his ping list.
Ha! I'm a retired chip-maker...This is just a hobby, I dabble too.
FReeper Coyoteman is our practicing archaeologist...PhD I believe. (He's the pro...)
Fathers can be influential tooBiologists have warned for some years that paternal mitochondria do penetrate the human egg and survive for several hours... Erika Hagelberg from the University of Cambridge, UK, and colleagues... were carrying out a study of mitochondrial DNAs from hundreds of people from Papua-New Guinea and the Melanesian islands in order to study the history of human migration into this region of the western Pacific... People from all three mitochondrial groups live on Nguna. And, in all three groups, Hagelberg's group found the same mutation, a mutation previously seen only in an individual from northern Europe, and nowhere else in Melanesia, or for that matter anywhere else in the world... Adam Eyre-Walker, Noel Smith and John Maynard Smith from the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK confirm this view with a mathematical analysis of the occurrence of the so-called 'homoplasies' that appear in human mitochondrial DNA... reanalysis of a selection of European and African mitochondrial DNA sequences by the Sussex researchers suggests that recombination is a far more likely cause of the homoplasies, as they find no evidence that these sites are particularly variable over all lineages.
by Eleanor LawrenceIs Eve older than we thought?"Two studies prove that the estimation of both when and where humanity first arose could be seriously flawed... The ruler scientists have been using is based on genetic changes in mitochondria, simple bacteria that live inside us and control the energy requirements of our cells. Mitochondria are passed from mother to daughter and their genes mutate at a set rate which can be estimated - so many mutations per 1,000 years... However, these calculations are based upon a major assumption which, according to Prof John Maynard Smith, from Sussex University, is 'simply wrong'. The idea that underpins this dating technique is that mitochondria, like some kinds of bacteria, do not have sex... Two groups of researchers, Prof Maynard Smith and colleagues Adam Eyre-Walker and Noel Smith, also from Sussex, and Dr Erika Hagelberg and colleagues from the University of Otago, New Zealand, have found that mitochondria do indeed have sex - which means that genes from both males and females is mixed and the DNA in their offspring is very different... Prof Maynard Smith and his colleagues stumbled over mitochondria having sex in the process of tracking the spread of bacterial resistance to meningitis... For the 'out-of-Africa' theory to hold water, the first population would have to have been very small. Sexually rampant mitochondria may put paid to this idea. Maynard Smith thinks that the origin of humanity is much older - may be twice as old - which, according to Eyre-Walker, means we are likely to have evolved in many different areas of the world and did not descend from Eve in Africa."
by Sanjida O'Connell 15th April 1999