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Anglo-Saxons no more

I can't supply a URL for this one, as the site won't let me but it was published in The Herald on 25th June this year:

DNA suggests the Celts held their ground - Scientists shatter Anglo-Saxon myth, writes STEPHEN STEWART

THE first analysis of DNA passed from father to son across the UK has shattered the Anglocentric view of early British history, it emerged yesterday. For decades, historians have believed that successive waves of invaders, such as the Anglo-Saxons, drove out the indigenous population of the British Isles, labelled Celts, pushing them to the fringes of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. However, work by a team of scientists on the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son, has shown the native tribes left their genetic stamp throughout the UK and not only in the "Celtic fringe". The evidence suggests that Anglo-Saxons tend to dominate British history merely because they kept better written records than their indigenous counterparts.

A large number of native people remained in England and central Ireland and were never entirely replaced by the invaders, often surviving in high proportions throughout the British Isles, according to the research by Professor David Goldstein, Dr Jim Wilson, and a team of experts at University College London. The study was based on comparing Y chromosomes from Britain with the invaders' Y chromosomes, represented by descendants of Danes, Vikings (in Norway) and Anglo-Saxons (in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany).

Dr Jim Wilson, a population geneticist from Orkney who is now based at University College London, said: "The recent paper was based on a study that I carried out on Orkney to tell if the inhabitants were descended from Vikings. It found the genetic profile was halfway between Norway and Ireland, suggesting that the Vikings did have a significant effect on the population. In the new study, samples were collected from the whole of Britain in a grid pattern. The study contradicts the notion of the complete replacement of the indigenous people by incoming Anglo-Saxons. The data set doesn't show that but illustrates that the English are largely indigenous in origin. We wanted to look at whether culture and genetics go together. In Orkney and Shetland they spoke Norwegian until the 1700s and there we have a strong case for genes and culture going hand-in-hand."

Dr Wilson and his colleagues established that Y chromosomes of Britain's indigenous populations were almost identical to those of the Basques, who live on the French-Spanish border and speak a language unrelated to the Indo-European tongues that swept into Europe 8000 years ago. "We tended to avoid the term 'Celts' as there is some debate about it. For example, the Irish and Welsh are indistinguishable from the Basques, who are the earliest indigenous inhabitants of Europe," he said. "The Basques were in Europe before farming and before the development of Indo-European languages such as those spoken by the people labelled Celts."

The indigenous population, genetically very close to the Basques, must also be drawn from the original Paleolithic inhabitants of Europe. They are possibly the first modern inhabitants of Britain, who settled the islands about 10,000 years ago. As well as the Vikings' genetic trail in Orkney, a centre of Viking activity from 800-1200, many men in York and east England carry Danish Y chromosomes but there was little sign of Anglo-Saxon heritage in south England, once believed to have been heavily colonised.

Cultural evolution
The notion there is a specific history of the Celts, as opposed to the individual histories of the Irish, Welsh and Scots, is a recent phenomenon. Between the fall of the Roman Empire and circa 1700, "Celtic" was used only to describe the ancient Gauls of France and related continental peoples. The conventional view has been that Celts shared certain cultural traits such as related languages; they were also all non-literate and non-urban. The alternative view is that great differences occurred between so-called Celtic cultures. For example, Druidic cults may have been confined to the British Isles and much of Gaul, and were possibly unknown among most of the continental tribes called Celts in the Iron Age.
nickbrand Posted by nickbrand
7th July 2003ce

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