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Contributions to Slingshot, Journal on ancient and medieval warfare

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[Slingshot 308, September-October 2016]

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Some time now I’m contributing to Slingshot, the research Journal of the Society of Ancients (published since 1964), specialized in ancient and medieval warfare, tactics and wargaming.

Many thanks for this to Paul Innes and Nick Harbud.

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Periklis Deligiannis

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The Medieval Somme: forgotten battle that was the bloodiest fought on British soil

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[Note by P. Deligiannis:  I apologize for the somewhat “mass” republishing of articles but lately I somewhat neglected my blog. I’ll try  to make amends for it]

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Republication from the Conversation

Richard Caton Woodville’s The Battle of Towton.
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Professor of Medieval History, University of Exeter

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A Battle of the Somme on British soil? It happened on Palm Sunday, 1461: a day of fierce fighting in the mud that felled a generation, leaving a longer litany of the dead than any other engagement in the islands’ history – reputed in some contemporary reports to be between 19,000 – the same number killed or missing in France on July 1 1916 – and a staggering 38,000.

The battle of Towton, fought near a tiny village standing on the old road between Leeds and York, on the brink of the North York Moors, is far less known than many other medieval clashes such as Hastings or Bosworth. Many will never have heard of it.

 

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British Have Changed Little Since Ice Age, Gene Study Says

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Republication from National Geographic News

 

By James Owen
for National Geographic News
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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.

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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

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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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A million Vikings still live among the British people

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 One in 33 men can claim to be direct descendants from the Norse warriors

  • Around 930,000 people can claim to be of direct Viking descent
  • A study compared Y chromosome markers to estimated Viking DNA patterns
  • The Viking DNA patterns are rarely found outside Scandinavia

Almost one million Britons alive today are of Viking descent, which means one in 33 men can claim to be direct descendants of the Vikings.

Around 930,000 descendents of warrior race exist today – despite the Norse warriors’ British rule ending more than 900 years ago.

A genetic study carried out by BritainsDNA compared the Y chromosome markers – DNA inherited from father to son – of more than 3,500 men to six DNA patterns that are rarely found outside of Scandinavia and are associated with the Norse Vikings.

Amateur Vikings process around their longboat during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Amateur Vikings process around their longboat during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER or BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO (Part II)

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Confederate infantry reenactment (copyright: John Moore-Getty Images).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER or BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO (Part I)

On the night before the big showdown, there was a “singing battle” between the rival soldiers who were established in positions within a few hundred meters apart. Some Federals began to sing their ‘national’ folk songs “Hail Columbia” and especially the “Yankee Doodle”, and the Confederates answered immediately singing their own traditional songs “Dixie” and “The Bonnie Blue Flag”. Soon the two rival lines began to sing each one its own traditional song more and more loudly, in an almost unbearable squealing. Eventually a group of soldiers started to sing the nostalgic song “Home Sweet Home” for the home and the family that every soldier had left behind, which brought a “musical compromise” of the opponents. Soon, thousands of ‘Yankees’ and “Rebels” were singing simultaneously its nostalgic lyrics, as an informal peace, without knowing that in the next day they would clash in the second bloodiest battle of the Civil war, after the battle of Gettysburg.

At dawn of December 31, Major General Hardee led the Confederate left wing and a strong cavalry force against the Federal right. The impetuous Southerners quickly outflanked their opponents who fell back towards the bank of Stones River. Thus Bragg surprised Rosecrans, forcing him to cancel his own envelopment maneuver. Around 7.00 am and under the pressure of the Confederate attack, Rosecrans recalled the division of his left wing which he intended to use for the maneuver. Its commander, Major General Thomas Crittenden, had crossed with his men the Stones in order to outflank the Confederate right wing under Major General John Breckinridge. Meanwhile, in the center of the two lines, the Union division of Major General Philip Sheridan and the Confederate Army corps of Major General Polk were clashing with unusual ferocity. The two rival army corpses were “familiar” to each other since the battle of Perryville, where they had clashed with the same determination.

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THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER or BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO (Part I)

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Re-enactors Union troops

Union infantry reenactment (copyright: EPA).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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(OK, I know that you are a little disappointed when I’m not posting on ancient and medieval topics, but as you have probably guessed the Colonial Americas and the American Civil War are among my favorite topics. This article is a summary of the chapter “The Battle of Stones River or Battle of Murfreesboro” of my book “The Civil War”)
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In July 1862, the skilful Confederate Commander in Chief in the West, General Beauregard, was assigned back to the Eastern Front, but President Davis did not define a replacement for his office. The Confederate president confined in assigning the thrice distinguished in the Mexican War, Major General Braxton Bragg, as general commander of the armies at the Tennessee-Mississippi front, who was from now on the unofficial Commander in Chief in the West. Braxton Bragg and his subordinates Major Generals Kirby Smith and Earl Van Dorn started to prepare the Confederate counterattack in order to recover the lost territories in the Western Front. Their distressed forces were reinforced and revived by the recent conscription.

map(copyright: US Military Academy)
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The general Confederate plans involved three synchronized campaigns in all the fronts from the Mississippi River to Virginia. In the East, General Robert Lee (the new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia) would invade Maryland. On the Western Front, the armies of Bragg and Smith would launch major offensives to Kentucky rushing from Chattanooga and Knoxville respectively (southeastern Tennessee). Simultaneously, Van Dorn would campaign from the Mississippi State against Grant’s army in western Tennessee. If he could manage to force back Grant’s army, he would then join Bragg and Smith somewhere in Kentucky. The ultimate aim of the Southerners was to encourage the (Southern after all) states of Maryland and Kentucky in leaving the Union and joining the Confederacy. Much depended on the speed of their march, the communications and the logistics.
The success of the Confederate plan would also yield benefits on the diplomatic field because Britain and France would probably acknowledge the C.S.A. as a sovereign state – a much desired aim of the Richmond government. The French Emperor Napoleon III wanted to promote his plans on turning Mexico to a French dominion or semi-colony, but he would not officially acknowledge the Confederacy if the British did not do the same. However, the British were waiting patiently watching the progress of the war.

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