Maps of Britain and Ireland’s ancient tribes, kingdoms and DNA
May 15, 2016 2:07 PM   Subscribe

"For map fans, some new maps showing Celt, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Viking territories in the British Isles. Also, the remarkable DNA map which shows how modern Britons still live in the same tribal kingdom areas as their ancestors in 600 AD."
posted by stoneweaver (29 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
It would have been nice if they'd included the rest of Ireland and maybe the sources of Anglo-Saxon migration etc in the study to give it context. My understanding from an earlier paper is that Irish and English populations are reasonably distinct, with the Scots in the middle (full paper)
posted by kersplunk at 2:49 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Please note hidden bombshell: There are no such things (genetically speaking) as Celts.
posted by Modest House at 2:50 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


The DNA map reminds me more of the spread and residual zones found in linguistics. A large, single group area fringed with multiple smaller distinct groups. This maps very neatly onto the lowland/highland split in Great Britain, and a little less neatly onto the first wave of the English language.
posted by Emma May Smith at 3:09 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


There are no such things (genetically speaking) as Celts.

Of course - it's a linguistic and cultural grouping. Genetically speaking there's no such thing as Italians either, or many other ethnic groups, nevermind very new ones ones such as Americans, Australians etc.

I was a bit annoyed with the tone of some (English) commentators who run with that and relegate Celtic culture to miscellaneous 'barbarian'/'not English', ignoring language - Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx are basically the same language, as are Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. It's true that the majority of Ireland and Britain go back genetically to pre-Celtic populations (who migrated up from northern Spain and other places after the ice age), in which case there's no such thing as English people either.
posted by kersplunk at 3:16 PM on May 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


I guess my broader point is that to reduce all identity to direct DNA descendants is weird essentialism, for example if someone said "there's no such thing as an Arab" or "there's no such thing as a New Yorker" you'd wonder what their angle was.
posted by kersplunk at 3:26 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


The idea that genetics determines ethnicity is scientific racism in a nutshell. It's remarkable to see how deeply these ideas are still entrenched in our culture.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:31 PM on May 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


as a DNA doxxed Gwynnt/Dobunni descendant, I would like to interject that any bunny-on-ancestor contact was predatory and/or consensual!

Explains the teeth, though.
posted by mwhybark at 4:19 PM on May 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


DNA map with key

It would have been nice if they'd included the rest of Ireland


This and this might help.

I guess my broader point is that to reduce all identity to direct DNA descendants is weird essentialism,.

I think you're reading too much into this. I'm happy to leave the thing as an interesting snap shot of historical migration.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:27 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


The article would be a lot more useful if the graphics had keys to indicate what the various colors meant.
posted by tavella at 4:27 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess my broader point is that to reduce all identity to direct DNA descendants is weird essentialism,.

Why? Other people do it, but when the British do it there is somehow something wrong with this. Why?

Also, amazing to see that we have been essentially the same peoples for 1500 years! Here's hoping for another 1500! (The world will be long dead before then though.)
posted by marienbad at 4:33 PM on May 15, 2016


I also wonder how the map would work overlaid with support for Brexit/remain supporting groups.
posted by marienbad at 4:34 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


When analysing inheritance, there is a choice between using Y chromosome DNA, which is patrilineal, and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is matrilineal. It would be interesting to know which was used here, and if there are differences in the two.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:43 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


remarkable DNA map which shows how modern Britons still live in the same tribal kingdom areas as their ancestors in 600 AD.

As an American whose family has been mobile for generations (on both sides, after immigration, each generation just kept moving and moving), the idea of living in the same place for 1400 years is fascinating but hard to relate to. That time frame covers some huge events (Black Death, Norman conquest, and so on) that caused dislocations, but obviously many people hunkered down and persevered.

These DNA studies (and the one about Viking genetics linked at the bottom of one of the articles) are really interesting. The relative lack of Viking DNA compared to the linguistic impact surprises me -- given all the place names and family names that come from Scandinavian origins, I would have guessed that so would the genetics, but not according to this study as I am understanding it.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:46 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think you're reading too much into this. I'm happy to leave the thing as an interesting snap shot of historical migration.

Why? Other people do it, but when the British do it there is somehow something wrong with this. Why?

I'm supportive of the science (I worked in bioinformatics for 8 years and contributed to A Certain Well Known Program) - I've just heard many completely misuse it to validate their opinions, i.e. Celtic identity is an invention > stop speaking your stupid Celtic languages > your destiny is to be ruled from London. There was a story on the Guardian recently about a meagre grant for the Cornish language being cut completely and there was such glee in many of the comments about people having to give up and be assimilated - that's what I'm against.
posted by kersplunk at 5:16 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


. . . the idea of living in the same place for 1400 years is fascinating but hard to relate to.

You don't have to live in squalor here

I am still delighted and stunned by the story of Cheddar Man, a schoolteacher who was only one of several individuals found to share his lineage with a literal caveman found 15 miles away.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:31 PM on May 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


This bit:
Archaeology has found many examples of continuous territorial borders where, for instance, Roman villa estate boundaries were identical to those of medieval estates a thousand years later.
...makes me think of Marx's (anti)valorization of the bourgeoisie in the Communist Manifesto:
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”... uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away...
Here we have manor boundaries which stood still for 1500 years but are now probably crossed by a couple of suburban subdivisions and a supermarket parking lot.
posted by clawsoon at 6:37 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Here we have manor boundaries which stood still for 1500 years but are now probably crossed by a couple of suburban subdivisions

Crossed over, maybe. Changed hands, maybe not. 1/3 of Britain still belongs to the hereditary aristocracy, 1/3 to the church and government. I'm sure the bourgeoisie have done a real number on the remaining third, though.
posted by Diablevert at 7:15 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


When analysing inheritance, there is a choice between using Y chromosome DNA, which is patrilineal, and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is matrilineal.

The rest of the chromosomal DNA also conveys inheritance information, and my understanding is it's got better spatial resolution than the haplotypic (Y chromosome or mitochondrial) DNA alone. The Y chromosome and mtDNA are particularly valuable because they don't engage in "crossing over," the scrambling of DNA between maternal and paternal chromosomes during meiosis, so the entire haploid genome is a more or less unambiguous marker for ancestry. But the rest of the genome contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, generally pronounced "snips") which are mutations which have their origins at specific times and places. No one of them is diagnostic, but en masse they can give a pretty good statistical idea of ancestry. My guess is they probably used everything they had available.
posted by biogeo at 7:18 PM on May 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


relative lack of Viking DNA

I might be misremembering, but I had the impression that there are no genetic markers that distinguish between Danes and Angles. So only the minority of Vikings who were Norwegian or something else is detectable.
posted by Segundus at 7:46 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


The study analysed the DNA of over 2,000 people from rural areas of the UK, whose four grandparents were all born within 50 miles of each other

oh come on. some modern britons. when pre-selected for the most inbred villagers they can find.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:39 AM on May 16, 2016


You would expect that the Celts would display more genetic diversity between each other than, say, Anglo Saxons, because Celtic speakers (and their ancestors) resided on the British Isles for longer. It's not to say that there is "no such thing as (genetic) Celts" but rather that they had much more time to genetically diverge from each other than more recent migrants to the British Isles.

Hypothetically you'd probably find that Copts from northern and southern Egypt have greater genetic distance than Egyptian Muslims and that eastern and western Berber groups have greater genetic distance than many Arab speaking North Africans.
posted by deanc at 7:52 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Related: Romanes Eunt Domus (a decade old, so some of the links are dead, but still one of my favorites among my posts).
posted by languagehat at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whenever this sort of thing comes up I'm always reminded of Alan Garner & his collection of essays, The Voice that Thunders. He talks about a lot of things, but one of the topics that comes up again and again is this sense of place and home that he and his family have. They lived in the same area for generations, and there is evidence for his family's work as stone-masons scattered about the area.

It's a great book, and he also looks at language and how it has changed since he was a child, the dialect and words he used at home compared to the "official English" he learned in school.
posted by Fence at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Here we have manor boundaries which stood still for 1500 years ...

Kipling wrote an idyllic poem about this. It's, well, it's Kipling, but it's very catchy.

WHEN Julius Fabricius, Sub-Prefect of the Weald,
In the days of Diocletian owned our Lower River-field,
He called to him Hobdenius—a Briton of the Clay,
Saying: “What about that River-piece for layin’ in to hay?”

And the aged Hobden answered: “I remember as a lad
My father told your father that she wanted dreenin’ bad.
An’ the more that you neeglect her the less you’ll get her clean.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to, but, if I was you, I’d dreen.”

So they drained it long and crossways in the lavish Roman style—
Still we find among the river-drift their flakes of ancient tile,
And in drouthy middle August, when the bones of meadows show,
We can trace the lines they followed sixteen hundred years ago. . .

posted by Countess Elena at 8:25 PM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is particularly fascinating because it seems to contradict the findings of social historians:
The population of England was surprisingly mobile: a startling finding of recent social history which is supported by several kinds of evidence. The surnames recorded in parish registers, for example, indicate a considerable degree of turnover of population. At Honiger in Suffolk, of the sixty-three family names recorded in the period 1600-34 only two can still be found in the register for 1700-24. Such evidence alerts us to the long-term movement of population, but the evidence of rare consecutive census-type listings of village populations provides an even more unexpected indication of the degree of short-term mobility. Just over half the population of Cogenhoe in Northamptonshire disappeared and was replaced between 1618 and 1628, while at Clayworth in Nottinghamshire the turnover of population between 1676 and 1688 approached two-thirds, only a third of those disappearing being accountable for by death. (Keith Wrightson, English Society 1580-1680)
It's possible that a lot of this mobility took the form of short-distance 'subsistence' migration (e.g. moving two miles down the road to the neighbouring village). Or maybe there was a solid core of landholding villagers who stayed put when their less wealthy neighbours moved on? Even so, extrapolate over centuries and it seems scarcely conceivable that there could be any geographical connection between the population in Anglo-Saxon times and the population today, let alone anything as tidy as the 'tribal kingdom' map here, which even suggests a DNA division running along the county line between Devon and Cornwall.

This reinforces a feeling I've had for some time, that the DNA data just isn't stacking up with the population-history data. It's deeply intriguing and I'd love to know the reason for the discrepancy.
posted by verstegan at 12:58 PM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Doing genealogy, I found there was a fair amount of marrying between villages. A lot of villages might share one market town, which I have suspicions was a common way of meeting people. There was also some amount of emigration from the country, which makes sense. Most profitable lands in the UK were already owned and occupied, so moving to a different county would just mean another landlord, while emigrating to the US could mean owning your own land. It wasn't until the 19th century that I find a lot of movement, and even then they are mostly moving within a region. The northern branch of my family mostly moved around from Hexham to Middleborough to Barnard Castle to Middleborough. It isn't until the latter part of the 19th century that I see people turning up in London and so on.

Of course, to some degree there could be a lightpost effect -- there are people who disappear from the parish records and before the formal census it's hard to identify where they go or if they just died.
posted by tavella at 2:48 PM on May 17, 2016


One of those Middleboroughs should actually be Newcastle.
posted by tavella at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2016




Wow, that's fascinating. If I thought other MeFites would be as interested as I am, I'd say to make it its own post, but at any rate, thanks for posting it here!
posted by languagehat at 9:18 AM on May 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


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