Wednesday, 18 March 2015

DNA study shows Celts are not a unique genetic group

I think this probably gets filed under 'No s**t, Sherlock', but it's an interesting piece nonetheless, via the BBC website.
According to the data, those of Celtic ancestry in Scotland and Cornwall are more similar to the English than they are to other Celtic groups.
The study also describes distinct genetic differences across the UK, which reflect regional identities.
And it shows that the invading Anglo Saxons did not wipe out the Britons of 1,500 years ago, but mixed with them.
Interesting piece for all you Dux Brit players.

Which reminds me. Andy? Time we got that campaign started again.

5 comments:

  1. Hence my bemusement at finding I'm part of an ethnic minority, the Cornish, last year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Remember not all differences between populations are genetic, we humans do a pretty good separation based on culture.

    In all cases we seem to love using difference as a cause of conflict!

    So many sociological studies where random groups are created based on an arbitrary criterion, and soon are competing then fighting!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Remember not all differences between populations are genetic, we humans do a pretty good separation based on culture.

    In all cases we seem to love using difference as a cause of conflict!

    So many sociological studies where random groups are created based on an arbitrary criterion, and soon are competing then fighting!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I notice that this study says that Viking DNA was not significant enough to register but when the BBC made the Blood of the Viking series a few years ago they said that basically most English people had the same DNA as Danes...

    My DNA is mostly Hungarian!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can't say that I am surprised by the findings of that genetic survey, fascinating though they are.

    The points that really stick out for me are how the DNA illuminates a few things that have long been massive points of argument. Firstly, and this is something that interests me hugely, the evidence demonstrates that the Romano-British inhabitants of what came to be England were not wiped out or ethnically-cleansed by the incoming Germanic speakers we call the Anglo-Saxons. It shows that what happened was a mixing of populations and the absorption of the incomers into existing populations. It also demonstrates that the culture of the incomers, together with their language became dominant, with the Romano-British in those areas where Germanic settlement was strongest adapting their language, dress and other things. This suggests to me several things; that the incomers effected a larger element of societal change than just elite transfer, that after the end of Roman rule, the locals may well have improvised a new way of living that they wore lightly and which never became ingrained and which they gave up when something more robust came along and also that what emerged from the 5th and 6th centuries was basically a synthetic new culture, which eventually became English. This is far from the traditional narrative of the emergence of an "Anglo-Saxon" English race, so beloved of 19th century English historians.

    Secondly, it is also interesting that there seems to be a problem with the traditional narrative of a "Celtic" people on the fringes of the new English world. This again doesn't really surprise me. The idea of a "Celtic nation" is very much an invention of the late 18th and 19th centuries. There is undoubtedly a linguistic and cultural Celtic identity, it would be nonsensical to deny this, but the evidence suggests that Celtic language, technology and artefacts arrived here via diffusion rather than in waves of migration and ethnic replacement. This is something I have long considered to be the most likely explanation anyway.

    The third thing that really struck me was the close similarity between the southern population of Scotland and northern English. Surely this reflects the spread of the Northumbrian kingdom, itself a merger of the earlier Bernicia and Deira? Bernicia itself is interesting because the name is Cymric not Germanic, although the kingdom was a Saxon one (which covered the modern North-east of England and South-eastern Scotland). Again, I expect that we are seeing a mixed Romano-British and Germanic population in this region.

    Anyway, I find this all fascinating, because it shows how national mythologies arise from origins which are far more complex than the narratives that they spawn and which often bear little resemblance to any objective reality.

    Finally, it is interesting that we see little evidence for the Normans in the genetic survey. I suspect that this is because the survey was aimed at mapping the general population, rather than the aristocracy. The actual number of Normans who settled in England, Ireland and Scotland was tiny, it was a real example of elite transfer and I would say that this is the reason why we see little DNA overlap with the general population of Normandy.

    ReplyDelete

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