Home

British Have Changed Little Since Ice Age, Gene Study Says

Leave a comment

Republication from National Geographic News

 

By James Owen
for National Geographic News
.

Despite invasions by Saxons, Romans, Vikings, Normans, and others, the genetic makeup of today’s white Britons is much the same as it was 12,000 ago, a new book claims.

In The Tribes of Britain, archaeologist David Miles says around 80 percent of the genetic characteristics of most white Britons have been passed down from a few thousand Ice Age hunters.

Miles, research fellow at the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford, England, says recent genetic and archaeological evidence puts a new perspective on the history of the British people.

More

Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon genomes from East England reveal British migration history

1 Comment

001.

002

A very interesting ethno-political map of Britain in AD 530 (above) based on the archaeological map below, the literary sources and other data (maps credit: Home Page for Howard Wiseman in Griffith Univ., maps added by periklisdeligiannis.wordpress.com)

.

Republication from Nature.com

 

 

Stephan Schiffels, Wolfgang Haak, Pirita Paajanen,  Bastien Llamas, Elizabeth Popescu, Louise Loe, Rachel Clarke, Alice Lyons, Richard Mortimer, Duncan Sayer, Chris Tyler-Smith,   Alan Cooper & Richard Durbin

Nature Communications7,  Article number:10408  doi:10.1038/ncomms10408

 

British population history has been shaped by a series of immigrations, including the early Anglo-Saxon migrations after 400 CE. It remains an open question how these events affected the genetic composition of the current British population. Here, we present whole-genome sequences from 10 individuals excavated close to Cambridge in the East of England, ranging from the late Iron Age to the middle Anglo-Saxon period. By analysing shared rare variants with hundreds of modern samples from Britain and Europe, we estimate that on average the contemporary East English population derives 38% of its ancestry from Anglo-Saxon migrations. We gain further insight with a new method, rarecoal, which infers population history and identifies fine-scale genetic ancestry from rare variants. Using rarecoal we find that the Anglo-Saxon samples are closely related to modern Dutch and Danish populations, while the Iron Age samples share ancestors with multiple Northern European populations including Britain.

More

Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration

2 Comments

 

britain 6th cent.

Britain in the 6th century (suggested  or approximate boundariess). The Anglo-Saxon principalities or tribes are noted in red, the Briton principalities in black, the Irish in blue and the Pictish in brown. The Attecotti of the northern edge being ethnologically indecipherable, are noted in their own colour. In the 7th cent., the Angles of Bernicia, Deira and Lindsey were united in the large kingdom of Northumbria.  Bernicia, Deira and then  Nortumbria destroyed and conquered the Briton kdms of Bryneich, Ebrauc, Elmet and South Rheged. Mercia conquered South Elmet and a part of Luitcoyt. The territory of Lundein (London) was annexed mainly by Essex (East Saxons) and East Anglia, and Regia by Sussex (South Saxons). Finally Wessex joined by the Gewissae (possibly descendants of Germanic soldiers of Rome), managed to destroy and annex the Briton kdms of Glouvia, Cerin and Atrebatia, pressing hard towards Dumnonia (possibly Arthur’s homeland). A part of the Dumnonii had already fled to Armorica founding the colony of Domnonee. It seems that the principality of Kerrnev in Armorica was also a Briton colony originated from Cerniw of Cornwall. The name of Leon in Armorica probably originates from a Celtic verbal corruption of the Latin ‘Legion’ but it cannot be defined if this principality had Briton origins. The Scots (Irish) of Dal Riada had already colonized modern Argyll pressing the Pictish principalities (map and caption added by P. Deligiannis ).

.

Republication from mbe.oxfordjournals.org

.

Michael E. Weale*,1, Deborah A. Weiss,1, Rolf F. Jager*‡, Neil Bradman* and  Mark G. Thomas*

Abstract

British history contains several periods of major cultural change. It remains controversial as to how much these periods coincided with substantial immigration from continental Europe, even for those that occurred most recently. In this study, we examine genetic data for evidence of male immigration at particular times into Central England and North Wales. To do this, we used 12 biallelic polymorphisms and six microsatellite markers to define high-resolution Y chromosome haplotypes in a sample of 313 males from seven towns located along an east-west transect from East Anglia to North Wales. The Central English towns were genetically very similar, whereas the two North Welsh towns differed significantly both from each other and from the Central English towns. When we compared our data with an additional 177 samples collected in Friesland and Norway, we found that the Central English and Frisian samples were statistically indistinguishable. Using novel population genetic models that incorporate both mass migration and continuous gene flow, we conclude that these striking patterns are best explained by a substantial migration of Anglo-Saxon Y chromosomes into Central England (contributing 50%–100% to the gene pool at that time) but not into North Wales.

More

The genetic structure of the British population

Leave a comment

Republication from Nature

02

Each row represents one of the 51 European groups (labels at right) that were inferred by clustering the 6,029 European samples using fineSTRUCTURE. Only European groups that make at least 2.5% contribution to the ancestry profile of at least one UK cluster are shown. Each column represents a UK cluster. Coloured bars have heights representing the proportion of the UK cluster’s ancestry best represented by that of the European group labelled with that colour. The map shows the location (when known at regional level) of the samples assigned to each European group (some sample locations are jittered and/or moved for clarity, see Methods). Lines join group labels to the centroid of the group, or collection of groups (Norway, Sweden, with individual group centroids marked by group number). © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries.

.

01a, The routes taken by the first settlers after the last ice age. b, Britain during the period of Roman rule. c, The regions of ancient British, Irish and Saxon control. d, The migrations of Norse and Danish Vikings. The main regions of Norse Viking (light brown) and Danish Viking (light blue) settlement are shown. © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries (coastlines).

More

Genetic research uncovering the origins of the British people from prehistoric and historical populations

1 Comment

[This is a republication from the “People of the British Isles” project of the University of Oxford. You can read this paper in conjunction with my paper AFTER ARTHUR: a synoptic study on the fate of the native Briton population after the Anglo-Saxon invasion and prevalence ]

 

Britain genetic

Figure  1
A genetic map of the People of the British Isles (Figure 1 from the Nature paper)
For each individual, the coloured symbol representing the genetic cluster to which an individual is assigned is
plotted at the mean position of their grandparents’ birthplaces. Cluster names are in the side-bar.

.

More

KING ARTHUR (PART IIΙ): Some literary, archaeological and historical evidence

8 Comments

sutton_hoo_helmet
A replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet which was discovered in an Anglo-Saxon burial. At first, the Anglo-Saxons met large difficulties after their landing on the British shores and some of them had to return to their ancestral home in modern Germany. But after the alleged death of Arthur or the possibly historical military commander of the Britons that he represents (or the fall of the dynasty that he represents), they finally gained military superiority over the latter, conquering the lands that later became England.
.

Late Roman helmet2
A Late Roman helmet rather of Persian distant origin, used also by the Briton inheritors of the Roman military tradition.
.

By Periklis Deligiannis
.
CONTINUED from  PART II
.
If Arthur was an historical personality, he probably had his headquarters in contemporary Southwestern England, the land of the Dumnonii and their sub-tribes, where Tintagel and Cadbury are located. It is likely that he was a Dumnonian. However, many researchers believe that he came from other British regions, with the stronger versions being the ones of Wales and modern Northern England or Lowland Scotland (theory of a ‘Northern Arthur’). Concerning the opinions on the origin and the seat of Arthur (which are not as strongly supported by the existing data as that of Dumnonia), I will mention only the following: the legends on Arthur often connect him with Brittany (West Armorica) and the rest of Northern Gaul, while it should also be observed that the main directions of the Anglo-Saxon advance followed the British south coast and the Thames Valley. If Arthur resided in Wales or Northern Britain, it would be difficult for him to have frequent contacts with Gaul or restrain the “spearhead” of the Saxon invasion.
According to Geoffrey, when Arthur campaigned in Gaul, he left Mordred, his nephew, as protector of his throne. Mordred usurped his power together with his queen, Guinevere. Arthur faced the usurper and his forces on the banks of the River Camel. In the bloody battle, all the knights were killed except three. Arthur and Mordred were among the survivors, then clashing themselves in a duel. Arthur surprised Mordred and wounded him mortally. Before he drop dead, he managed to strike Arthur with a crushing blow on his face. After the battle, nine hooded women carried Arthur on a boat to the island of Avalon (Insula Avallonis), where he died. According to the Welsh legend, the king survived and still lives sleeping in a cave near Avalon, waiting for the right moment to return to his people and to evict the barbarians from Britain. Geoffrey seems to adopt the Welsh legend, because he does not mention that Arthur died. However it is recognized that if Arthur was buried somewhere, his grave was in the mythical island of Avalon, of unknown location.

More

KING ARTHUR (PART IΙ): Some literary, archaeological and historical evidence

26 Comments

Spangenhelm Hofbourg Museum
The spangenhelm, of Sarmatian origin, became popular in both Romans and barbarians because of its cheap cost of construction and the effective protection that offered. Its construction was simple, made of metal fragments which were bound tightly together. Especially towards the end of the Western Empire and after that, the spangenhelm variety of helmets became rather the most popular group. This group was also used by some Romano-Britons and their Anglo-Saxon enemies.
.

britannia_draco_

A Romano-Briton of the 5th cent. AD with his hound, possibly watching the Anglo-Saxon enemy. He is holding the standard of the Dragon, of Sarmatian origin, and wears a Late Roman helmet of Persian design. The strong Iranian influences on the Late Roman army survived for a long time among the Briton fighting men (reenactment by Britannia)
.
By Periklis Deligiannis
.
CONTINUED from PART I
.
According to legend, when King Arthur needed a new sword, the Lady of the Lake emerged from the water and handed him the sword Excalibur. The sword’s name probably derives from the Roman ‘Caliburnus’ meaning ‘steel’ and indicates the material of the blade. Excalibur’s episode is likely rooted in the known Celtic ritual of dropping the swords of mighty warriors who died, in lakes or rivers to symbolize their passage to the netherworld. Archaeologists have found countless ancient swords at the bottom of lakes and rivers of Britain and other Celtic lands. However, the Sarmatians had also similar traditions. The Sarmatians and the Iranian nomads generally attributed (as the Celts did) “magical properties” in their swords surrounding them with respect, a custom which survived in the tradition of Medieval European Chivalry. Here, the Celtic tradition correlates with the Sarmatian tradition.
Chretien de Troyes quotes that Arthur lived in the strong fortress of Camelot, from where he controlled his territory living a rather luxurious life. Some scholars believe that Camelot was the Roman Camulodunum (modern Colchester) because this toponym is analyzed as ‘Camelot-dun’. The Celtic word dun means the fortress, e.g. Lund-dun i.e. modern London, Lug-dun modern Lyon (Roman Lugdunum) etc. However, perhaps there were some other Briton towns also named Camelot/Camulon (Camulum). The hypothetical Camelot of the 5th-6th centuries would have been a wooden fort on a hilltop, according to the British Celtic stereotype. In 1542, John Lelant, a researcher and collector of archaeological finds, observed in modern Somerset, the existence of the River Cam and two villages known as West Camel and Queen Camel. The three toponyms are originated from the same verbal root ‘Cam’ as “Camelot.” In a distance of 7 km from the Camel villages, Lelant observed the Cadbury hill. In the 16th century, the hill was found surrounded by four rows of defensive ramparts and moats. These were the fortifications of a fortress of impressive size. Lelant thought that he spotted the legendary Camelot at Cadbury hill, but he had no archaeological evidence to prove it. In the 1950s, British archaeologists began excavations at Cadbury hill and confirmed the existence of a large fortress of the Dark Ages. At its southwestern part, they discovered the foundations of the main gate and confirmed the existence of a wooden wall with a very long perimeter. The inner rampart was made of wood and stones, a style unique to Britain, found only in Cadbury. The fortress was dated to the 4th-5th centuries, from the utensils and other items found inside. This is probably the biggest British fort of this age, with a probable area of 7-8,000 square meters. Although only a part of its area is excavated, it is obvious that it was the seat of a powerful commander of the 4th-5th centuries.

More

KING ARTHUR (Part I): Some literary, archaeological and historical evidence

4 Comments

By Periklis Deligiannis

Romano-Briton
A Late Roman helmet rather of Persian distant origin (design), decorated with semi-gemstones. The Romano-Britons inherited this type together with the rest of the Roman weaponry and military organization.
.

Wulfheodenas
In the 5th-6th centuries AD, the Anglo-Saxons brought to Britain many elements of the eastern Scandinavian Proto-Vendel and Vendel cultures, several of which are obvious on their arms and armor, i.e. on their helmets (Sutton Hoo burial, etc.), daggers, swords etc (reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon warlord wearing a Sutton Hoo-type helmet, by the Historical Association Wulfheodenas ).
.
In 407 AD the Romans withdrew their last regular troops from the British provinces. The independent Romano-Britons had to fight hard against the Pict, Irish and Anglo-Saxon barbarians who were besieging their territory. Former Roman Britain was gradually divided into autonomous ‘principalities’ led by warlords. However they tried to keep united their “British kingdom” as they considered their common territory, and mainly to repel the invading Anglo-Saxons who had conquered the Southeast, advancing headlong. It seems that the Britons in order to maintain their unity, elected a military commander (Dux) as a senior politico-military leader, who led the operations against the invaders and took care on preventing infighting. A sequence of inspired Dukes (Voteporix, Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus) led the British resistance. Those who accept Arthur’s historicity usually consider him as one of these Dukes (a theory consider him Aurelianus’ son).
The Briton literary tradition and the archaeological evidence, mainly the Saxon burials, denote that the Anglo-Saxon invasion was halted on the verge of the 5th-6th centuries AD. Many scholars believe that the military action of the legendary king Arthur was the main ‘factor’ for the repulse of the newcomers. However, his historicity is strongly and justifiably disputed. In this series of articles I will deal with some additional literary, archaeological and historical evidence concerning his historicity.

.
The literary sources on Arthur

The first literary reference to Arthur appears in the Northern Briton epic “Y Goddodin” (“the Votadini” around AD 600) which recounts an attempt of the Votadini people (Celtic Goddodin) of the modern Scottish Lowlands and their allies, to check the advance of the Angles. Some scholars believe that the mention of Arthur in this epic was added later. The first ‘secure’ reference to the legendary commander comes from Nennius in his “History of the Britons” (“Historia Britonnum”, end of 8th century). Nennius’ work was based mostly on the local Briton tradition. Nennius describes the legendary figure as a warlord who repelled the barbarians around the 5th-6th centuries. This was followed shortly after by another reference of Arthur in the “Annales Cambriae” (9th c.). But the author, who developed most of all Arthur’s renowned image as a just and powerful warrior-king, was the Archdeacon of Oxford Geoffrey of Monmouth in his largely mythical “History of the Kings of Britain” (“Historia Regum Britanniae”, AD 1133). Geoffrey relied heavily on the two aforementioned works, and possibly on the local oral tradition. In France, the late medieval chronicler Chretien de Troyes holds an analogous contribution to the Arthurian legend. The later writers of the Arthurian epic circle are based on the works of the last two authors (mostly on Geoffrey’s work and less on Chretien’s) going on to the enrichment of the epic with elements belonging mainly to the Late Middle Ages, such as the Round Table, the quest for the Holy Grail, etc.

More

Aethelstan, Anglo-Saxon King of England

9 Comments

By  Susan  Abernethy   (Reblogged)

King Aethelstan presenting a book to St. Cuthbert

Aethelstan was the first King of Wessex to bring together all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England. He was well educated, very pious and a collector of saints relics and manuscripts. He was also a formidable warrior. We have considerably more information about Aethelstan’s reign than other Anglo-Saxon kings due to the survival of many charters dating from his time as king and there are references to Aethelstan in foreign sources.

Aethelstan was born sometime between 893 and 895 AD. His father was King Edward the Elder, the oldest son of King Alfred the Great. His mother was named Ecgwynn and very little is known about her. There is no record of Edward and Ecgwynn being married and Aethelstan’s legitimacy was questioned during his lifetime. It is possible they were married in secret but she did live at court. She also had a daughter whose name we do not know but who would play a role in Aethelstan’s conquest of the island. Aethelstan may have been his grandfather’s favorite because Alfred gave him a scarlet cloak, a belt set with precious stones and a Saxon sword with a gilded scabbard sometime before he died. At the very least, Alfred was making a gesture marking Aethelstan as throne worthy.

More

AFTER ARTHUR: a synoptic study on the fate of the native Briton population after the Anglo-Saxon invasion and prevalence

23 Comments

Sutton Hoo

            The renowned  helmet of the Sutton Hoo burial (reconstruction by  the  Royal Armouries).

.

By  Periklis Deligiannis

.

[This  article is actually a synopsis of a sub-chapter of my book  ‘The Celts‘, Periscope publ., Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek]

.

The Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain started around the middle of the 5th cent AD. After the first Saxon victories, the Britons were reorganized and had gone on the offensive against the invaders led by a succession of skilful Supreme rulers (under the military office of the Duke that is Dux Bellorum according to the Roman terminology) of the 5th-6th centuries, such as Voteporix, Ambrosius Aurelianus and the enigmatic Arthur, who managed to effectively repel the invaders.

‘King’ Arthur may have been a historical  personality, possibly a descendant of Artorius Castus – a much earlier Roman commander in Britain – and prince of the Dumnonii tribe/civitas in  South-western Britain. Arthur or more correctly, the possible historical figure that he represents, was not the ‘King of the island’ but rather the Supreme commander/ruler of the Britons. But he probably was the king of his own people/former civitas; probably Dumnonia. It is believed that his royal residence was in South-western Britain, perhaps in the royal fortress excavated at Cadbury. From there he was undertaking military and political action in all the Briton territories as far as the Antonine Wall in the North. The philological and archaeological data indicate that he managed to repel the Anglo-Saxon advance. According to the chroniclers, he defeated the Saxons in twelve major battles, killing many of them. Arthur managed to repel the Pictish and Irish raiders as well. He achieved his greatest victory in the Badonicus hill fort (Mount Badon, around 516 AD) on the Anglo-Saxons. After this victory, Arthur’s ruling influence was extended to some of the Anglo-Saxon rulers, as well as to the Bretons of Armorica in modern north-western France.

Archaeology confirms the Briton victories on the Anglo-Saxons around 500 AD. In the first half of the 6th century the Saxon advance stopped, the burials of the barbarian warriors raised sharply, while large groups of Anglo-Saxons returned to Germany, apparently frustrated by the Celtic victories. The superiority of the Briton army against the invaders probably relied to its armored cavalry, a legacy of the Late Roman army in Britannia. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxons were almost entirely infantrymen.

britain 6th cent.

Britain in the 6th century (suggested  or approximate boundariess). The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms are noted in red, the Briton kdms in black, the Irish in blue and the Pictish in brown. In the 7th cent., the Angles of Bernicia, Deira and Lindsey were united in the large kingdom of Northumbria.  Bernicia, Deira and then  Nortumbria destroyed and conquered the Briton kdms of Bryneich, Ebrauc, Elmet and South Rheged. Mercia conquered South Elmet and a part of Luitcoyt. The territory of Lundein (London) was annexed mainly by Essex (East Saxons) and East Anglia, and Regia by Sussex (South Saxons). Finally Wessex joined by the Gewissae (possibly descendants of Germanic soldiers of Rome), managed to destroy and annex the Briton kdms of Glouvia, Cerin and Atrebatia, pressing hard towards Dumnonia (possibly Arthur’s homeland). A part of the Dumnonii had already fled to Armorica founding the colony of Domnonee.

.

More

Alfred the Great, Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex

2 Comments

by Susan Abernethy (thefreelancehistorywriter.com)

Alfred the Great.  Image in the public domain

“Therefore a man never attains virtue and excellence through his power; rather he attains power and authority through his virtue… Study wisdom, therefore, and when you have learned it, do not neglect it, for I say to you without hesitation that you can attain authority through wisdom”. Alfred the Great

On October 26, 899, Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, died. From the moment Alfred became King, Wessex was in a desperate struggle against the “heathen army”. Alfred managed to turn the Vikings away and set up conditions on the island for the unification of England. His great victory in 878 at Edington allowed for a period of relative calm so Alfred could begin a program of far reaching reform. He transformed the defense of the realm, rebuilt his naval fleet, and overhauled the law codes. Most importantly, he started a curriculum of education which he personally participated in. The Vikings came back in 892, putting Alfred’s new defenses on trial and were repulsed in 896 allowing Alfred to resume his reforms.

The most likely date and birthplace for Alfred was in 849 in Wantage. His father was King Aethelwulf of Wessex and his mother was Osburh. He had three older brothers and a sister. At the time of his birth, the likelihood of him becoming king was remote. Alfred was a favorite of his parents. Alfred spent most of his childhood at court in the care of his parents and his tutors. Although he had tutors, he laments in his biography to Asser that he didn’t learn to read English until he was older and he didn’t learn Latin until he was a grown man. When he was four, his father sent him on a trip to Rome. Pope Leo IV had an investiture ceremony where he made Alfred a consul (official of Rome).

More

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: