Anglo-Saxons, Anthropology, Britain, Britannia, British, Celtic, Celts, England, English, Genetics, Ireland, Irish, Scotland, Scots, United kingdom
Republication from Prospect Journal
(Image credit: Mapbox)
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
by Stephen Oppenheimer
(Stephen Oppenheimer’s books “The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story” and “Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World” are published by Constable & Robinson)
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.
Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Saxons, Anthropology, Britain, Britannia, British, Celtic, Celts, England, English, Genetics, Scotland, Scots, United kingdom
Republication from Nature
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.
a, 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).
Ambrosius Aurelianus, Anglo-Saxon, Arthur, Arthurian, Battle of Badon, battle of Camlann, Britannia, Early Middle Ages, Gildas, King Arthur, medieval warfare, Military history
The title really should be ‘Arthur: King, Commander, both, or neither’, but it’s not quite as catchy.
Those not au fait with the Arthurian subject and the search for an historical 5th or 6th century figure will just assume Arthur was a king. The first you might have been aware of an alternative view would be the last King Arthur film, if you saw it.
The flip side of the coin is those who do study the subject and believe he wasn’t a king because the 9th century document, the Historia Brittonum (in all its various versions), doesn’t make it sound as if he was a monarch but only a “leader of battles”. Some will also say that the early Welsh stories of Arthur never call him a king, but as we will see, they do far more than that.
For the sake of this discussion we will assume there was a late 5th century figure called Arthur who fought at the Siege of Badon.
The main problem, as I discussed in the Arthurian poetry blog, is knowing where the battle list in Historia Brittonum originated from. If it was from a poem, whether oral or written, it may not have been made explicit within it that Arthur was a king, whether he was or not. There are examples in later mediaeval Welsh poetry where the bard extolled the virtues of his king in verse but does not say he was a king, because he knows his audience is already aware of this fact. If we didn’t have the relevant genealogies we wouldn’t know they were kings either, and could come to the conclusion that they may just have been military leaders of some kind. The same could have happened to Arthur.