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New research on Alfred the Great

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Republished from The Conversation

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Aerial view of the Burghal Hidage site of Wallingford with the Thames in partial flood. Outline of the Saxon ramparts and ‘Alfredian’ streetplan is clear. Image courtesy of the Environmental Agency, Author provided

By Stuart Brookes

Senior Research Associate in Archaeology, UCL

The Last Kingdom – BBC’s historical drama set in the time of Alfred the Great’s war with the Vikings – has returned to our screens for a second series. While most attention will continue to focus on the fictional hero Uhtred, his story is played out against a political background where the main protagonist is the brooding and bookish mastermind Alfred the Great, vividly portrayed in the series by David Dawson.

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Myths of British ancestry

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Republication from Prospect Journal

satellite(Image credit: Mapbox)

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Everything you know about British and Irish ancestry is wrong. Our ancestors were Basques, not Celts. The Celts were not wiped out by the Anglo-Saxons, in fact neither had much impact on the genetic stock of these islands

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The fact that the British and the Irish both live on islands gives them a misleading sense of security about their unique historical identities. But do we really know who we are, where we come from and what defines the nature of our genetic and cultural heritage? Who are and were the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish and the English? And did the English really crush a glorious Celtic heritage? Everyone has heard of Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. And most of us are familiar with the idea that the English are descended from Anglo-Saxons, who invaded eastern England after the Romans left, while most of the people in the rest of the British Isles derive from indigenous Celtic ancestors with a sprinkling of Viking blood around the fringes.Yet there is no agreement among historians or archaeologists on the meaning of the words “Celtic” or “Anglo-Saxon.” What is more, new evidence from genetic analysis (see note below) indicates that the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, to the extent that they can be defined genetically, were both small immigrant minorities. Neither group had much more impact on the British Isles gene pool than the Vikings, the Normans or, indeed, immigrants of the past 50 years.The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language.

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

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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)

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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.

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Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration

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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 ).

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Republication from mbe.oxfordjournals.org

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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.

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The genetic structure of the British population

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Republication from Nature

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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.

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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).

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

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[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.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part III)

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Side view detail of the helmet found at Vendel , grave I, 7th century.

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A reproduction of the Vendel helmet of the burial XIV (see below) and a Vendel sword and shield by the historical association Wulfheodenas (I suppose).
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By Periklis Deligiannis

MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part II)

The numerous tribes of the Vendel age gradually began to join in larger tribal unions or confederations, usually by force, while most Jutes, Angles and Northern Saxons of modern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein had already migrated to Britain at the beginning of this period (starting at the early 5th century AD, of the pre-Vendel era). The Svear and the peoples of Scandinavia possibly related to the continental Goths – that is to say the Heruli (Heruls) and the Gotar (Gott Gutar and/or Geats) and their branches of modern Gotaland and the Oland & Gotland Islands (in modern southern Sweden) – went on living side by side during the Vendel period (550-793 AD) and the Viking age (793– early 11th century AD). Finally after several confrontations, around the 12th century they joined in a single kingdom, after all not being significantly different in language, origins and culture. Thereby they were both assimilated in the Swedish nation.

In the Viking age, the Danes seem to have absorbed the Fervir, the Bergio, the Jutes and the part of the Heruli tribe that used to live in part of the Sjaelland Isle. It also seems that the total tribe of the Angles had already migrated to Britain, leaving their almost vacant homeland to the Dane newcomers.
Concerning again the Vendel-type helmets, sometimes they are referred as ‘Viking helmets’. In fact, they were mostly helmets of the early Leidang armies, i.e. Nordic armies that were operating inside the Scandinavian homeland. But several post-Vendel types and some Vendel proper helmets survived up to the Viking age (some of them perhaps as family heritage or heirloom) being used by Viking combatants, i.e. warriors of raiding groups or armies that were operating overseas, mostly away from Scandinavia. On the other hand, the Vendel types did spread out of Scandinavia, mainly in Britain and the South Frisian lands (the coasts of modern NW Germany and the Netherlands) by the Anglo-Saxon invaders and through military and commercial interaction with the southern Frisians who were sharing many common cultural elements with the Nordic peoples (some historians – including the author of this article – consider them as almost Nordics).
In the 20th century some researchers used to believe that there is a connection of the place name ‘Vendel’ with the Vandals, the East Germanic tribe who finally conquered Roman Africa and sacked Rome itself, but nowadays this theory doesn’t seem to have many followers.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part II)

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13 Helmet from Valsgärde Cemetery
Helmet from the Valsgärde Cemetery

14 Helmet reconstruct. Valsgärde
Reconstruction of a helmet from the Valsgärde burials (RoyalOakArmoury.com).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part I)

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According to the literary sources and the chronicles (Jordanes, Beowulf epic and others) in that period the largest tribes of eastern and southern Scandinavia (i.e. modern Sweden and Denmark) were the Svears (Suiri, Suehans, the Swedes), the Gotar (Geats, Gott) and their probable branches – the Gauthigoth, Ostrogothae, Vagoth, Gutar, Theustes – the Jutes (maybe a tribal offshoot of the Gotar/Geats), the Heruli (the major part of the tribe played an important role in the Age of Migrations in the continent), the Screrefennae (the Finns, the sole non-Germanic people in the region), the Bergio, the Fervir, the Wulfingas, the Hallin, the Danes, the North Frisians, and in modern western Schleswig-Holstein the metropolitan Saxons (the core tribe of the Saxon confederacy). Western Scandinavia (modern Norway) was inhabited by even smaller tribes and clans, such as the Ragnaricii, Raumaricii, Otingis, Rugii (possibly the core tribe of the continental Rugii who settled in Pannonia and Italy), Adogit, Arothi and others.
The Vendel graves are rich, and very similar to the ones excavated in Britain, namely at Sutton Hoo in the principality of East Anglia. After all, taking into account literary, linguistic and other evidence, it is possible that the dynasty of East Anglia was of Geat/Gotar origins (possibly a branch of the Wulfings). In my point of view, there is also a strong connection of the names of the Angles (forebears of the national name of the English) and the Ynglings (Ynglingas, Scylfings). After all, they seem to have been both bearers of the Vendel cultural elements. Taking into account that the Angles were a small tribe (less numerous than the Saxons and the Jutes: possibly a few clans) I would hypothesize that they were a tribal offshoot or close relatives of the Ynglings. It is possible that the Angles originating from modern Sweden were at first established in southern Jutland and modern Schleswig-Holstein and then invaded Britain becoming royal dynasties in East Anglia, Bernicia, Deira, Mercia and possibly elsewhere.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part I)

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01 Helmet from Vendel Cemetery,burial XIV

Helmet from Vendel Cemetery, burial XIV. Observe the nose-protector in the shape of the beak of a raven (a very important bird in the Scandinavian cosmology).

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Vendel helmet reconstruction by Ivor Lawton (copyright).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The Vendel period of the history of Sweden and essentially of the whole area of eastern and southern Scandinavia (of course including modern Denmark) is the era before the Viking Age (793 – early 11th century AD). It lasted from the mid-6th century AD to the end of the 8th century and is characterized by princely burials of warlords and powerful warriors with impressive weapons. This historical period and the homonym cultural conglomerate (Vendel culture) took their name from the site Vendel at the historical district Uppland in eastern Sweden, north of Old Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Svear kings. The most characteristic cemeteries were found there. It seems that Uppland (where later the important cities of the Viking age Uppsala and Sigtuna were developed) was very important politically during the Vendel period. The area was rather the political center of the tribe of the Svears (Latin Suiri and Suirones and according to Jordanes: Suehans, Nordic: Svear, Anglo-Saxon: Sweonas, modern Swedes) who had extended to it earlier coming from Svealand, their core territory in the south. Uppland means the upper land, the land in the north.
Another very important archaeological site of the Vendel period is Valsgärde, a place about three kilometres north of Old Uppsala. The tombs excavated at Valsgärde gave findings of the same type as those of the Vendel archaeological site. Ulltuna is another important site of this period. The influence of the Vendel culture does not seem to have been strong in western Scandinavia, i.e. modern Norway (Iceland and the Faeroe Isles were not yet inhabited by Scandinavians).

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Alfred the Great, Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex

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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).

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