Tuesday, 24 July 2012

"Racial" map of Europe might have confounded Dev and the nation builders

I came across this map from Source Records of the Great War [National Alumni, 1923] recently.  Described as such:

"This map is a relic of the mania for national self-determination that followed World War I. Simply stated, the idea was that, wherever two or more people of one ethnic group are gathered together, they should have their own nation state. Or something close to that. It was a stupid idea then, and it has not improved with age.

When the creators of this map used the term "race" they meant "speech or culture group". "Ethnic Group" would be the modern term. In modern usage, "race" tends to connote a biological classification, though the term is seldom defined precisely, if at all, by those who use it. Recent research has shown that genetic differences between European ethnic groups are trivial. See L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al., The History and Geography of Human Genes [Princeton: The Princeton University Press, 1994]."

Given that recent DNA research has rubbished the notion that we are a Celtic/Gaelic people - one of the cornerstones of Irish cultural nationalism - you might wonder what Dev and the rest of the nation-builders, who gave political expression to the ambitions of the rising Irish ruling class, might have thought of such cartography?  Not to mention the Boundary Commission, who seem to have put the border in the wrong place entirely...

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Anonymous said...

"Given that recent DNA research has rubbished the notion that we are a Celtic/Gaelic people"


What research would this be?

sassenach-boy said...

ah i must send this to my vehemently anti English uncle down ballinasloe way. He'll choke when he finds out he's been a Brit all this time ha ha. PB

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Anon. Do you think I'm an information service for every rude anon that comments a query? Have a look on the web. You've feck all else to do in Southampton Uni, evidently.

@ Sassenach-boy. Yeah... I thought it was quite quirky. Just chanced upon it. Your esteemed uncle would not be the only one, PB!

Anonymous said...

GM. Trust me. No one would ever accuse you of being in the information service.

I’d be very surprised if you allow this post in but here goes.

If you check out the research you will find that among geneticists Ireland is seen as having a particularly homogeneous gene pool compared to many western nations. The theory is that over the centuries, waves of immigration mixes up gene pools as these new immigrants settle and inter marry. Ireland did not have successive waves of immigration, just English settlers and the native Irish did not inter-marry with English settlers for religious and cultural reasons.

As to our genetic origins, the DNA evidence points to Spain and the Celtic Basque region as the home of our Stone Age ancestors. This new evidence overturns previous theories as to Ireland’s Celtic origins, which theorised (in the days before DNA analysis) that central European Celts were the likely origin, based on similarities between traditional Celtic Irish artefacts and Celtic European ones.

It is interesting to note that Britain’s Celtic origins are now thought to be the same as Irelands, but as any English schoolboy will tell you Britain was invaded by the Romans, and then by the Anglo Saxon’s and British people now consider themselves as Anglo Saxon from a genetic ancestry point of view.

DB said...

Default Distinct Celtic ethnicity, part of the basis of Irish Nationalism..is a MYTH
Celtic Myth

Two leading archaeologists have recently produced evidence of the origins of the Irish which badly dents the theory of distinct Celtic ethnicity which forms an important part of the basis of Irish Nationalism.
Richard Warner, of the Ulster Museum in Belfast, said in an address to the Irish Association for Cultural, Economic and Social Relations that:-

"In round terms, the image of the Irish as a genetically Celtic people - in fact the whole idea of a Celtic ethnicity and of Celtic peoples, Irish, Welsh and all the rest of it - is a load of complete cock and bull. The average Irish person probably has more English genes than Celtic."

It was only in the 18th and 19th centuries, Warner said, that the idea of a common Celtic origin caught on, acting as a wellspring of Irish Nationalism. Since independence in the 1920s, Irish children have been taught that the Celts or Gaels settled the country and became the predominant racial group in the 5th or 6th century BC.

The evidence of archaeology, Warner argued, is that most Irish people are descended not from Celts but from Mesolithic hunters and fishermen who arrived around 8000 BC, possibly from Scotland. English invaders, he said, exerted the next greatest influence.

The Celts blossomed as a distinct civilisation around the 5th century BC, but although they were a distinct ethnic group within Central Europe they had no significant effect on the Irish gene pool, Warner continued. "If you find Celtic blood lines now, it will probably be among the Germans."

After prehistoric settlers, Irish leaders such as Brian Boru (born in AD 941) established proper kingdoms. But from about 1170 AD the English began arriving in waves of invasion after Dermot McMurragh, the King of Leinster, invited Richard de Clare, an Anglo-Norman warlord, to help him settle a dynastic dispute. The campaigns of Elizabeth I and Cromwell settled English tenants and former soldiers in Ireland.

In terms of the ability to recognise present DNA values, said Warner, the intrusion of English blood and Southern Scottish would be larger than any other group apart from the original Mesolithic inhabitants.

Professor Jim Mallory, an archaeologist and linguist from Queens University, Belfast, agreed, saying:-

"If you believe the Celtic languages spread late in pre-history, they were accompanied by a minimal population movement. There is no evidence in the archaeological record for a large influx of a foreign population."

Even Celtic music may be no more than a marketing ploy. According to Tommy Munnelly, chairman of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, "We have no idea what kind of music the Celts played."

Warner believes his case will be proved next year when the Royal Irish Academy completes its genetic map of Ireland. Thousands of DNA samples will be analysed and compared with genes from skeletons found by archaeologists.

According to Warner, whose findings were quoted in a report in The Sunday Times 14th November

"There is a final irony in Ireland's 'Celtic' origin. The Aran islands off Galway, whose population is partly descended from a settlement of Cromwell's soldiers, is one of the last refuges of the Irish language. Aran is going to be the last bastion of spoken Irish, so the Irish language will die in the mouths of the English."


Anonymous said...

I'll just leave this here.

The emphasis on genetic differences is misleading, as we often forget that even siblings exhibit genetic differences.

The trivial differences we find are used to make educated guesses about early migration. On that level, they are useful. On the level of ethnic or racial identity, or unique, shared group characteristics, they amount to a gnat's fart in a hurricane's worth of genetic similarity.


Anonymous said...

GM said "recent DNA research has rubbished the notion that we are a Celtic/Gaelic people" when in fact the opposite is the case - recent DNA research has rubbished the archaeological explanations of Celtic/Gaelic people.

Richard Warner is an archaeologist who is proposing an alternative view of the origins of Celtic people, but he is very much on the defensive in the face of the wholesale debunking of archaeological theories by geneticists.

His language is telling in its defensiveness “…the average Irish person probably has more English genes than Celtic."


This is not a word we often hear from scientists and much to Richard Warner’s chagrin, the scientists have looked and he is wrong.

Archaeology is a noble profession but at the end of the day it is limited in what it can conclude based on saying “…this piece of ironwork looks like that piece of iron work”, or “…this pot appears to have been made using the same process as that pot”. Linguists like Jim Mallory have the same problem. Saying “…this word sounds like that word” is interesting but it is far from definitive.

DNA is about as definitive as it gets.

The Gombeen Man said...

@ DB Thanks for that... very imformative.

@ thomas. Too true. But never let that get in the way of a good myth.

@Anon. "It is interesting to note that Britain’s Celtic origins are now thought to be the same as Irelands, but as any English schoolboy will tell you Britain was invaded by the Romans, and then by the Anglo Saxon’s and British people now consider themselves as Anglo Saxon from a genetic ancestry point of view. Anon 09:37 and 10:34.

Keep up, for goodness sake. A recent RTE programme called Blood of the Irish went into this in some depth. Similarly Stephen Oppenheimer: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/mythsofbritishancestry/

Your notions of Celtic and Anglo Saxon "races" are tosh, and these Islands' original inhabitants are thought to have preceded the Celts...

Hence the "Celtic Irish" myth - so important to the cultural nationalists and Gaelic revivalists who founded this State - is codswallop.

Anonymous said...

"Keep up, for goodness sake..." Moi..
au contraire. I'm very up to date. Only today the Telegraph is reporting an advisor to Mitt Romney
saying “We [Britain & the US] are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship [with Britain] is special,”
Romney knows that most British people see themselves as Anglo-Saxon and he can play on that. Notice though, I didn't say they are right.

Regarding the programme you saw on the telly, presented by that eminent historian, archaeologist geneticist and professional gardener Diarmuid Gavin, he does give time to Balaresque et al., 2010 and their alternative theory to counter the Basque link, but Balaresque et al., 2010 do not represent the consensus view among geneticists. The consensus among geneticists as to how this data should be interpreted is embodied in the ‘Basque link’ view.

The Gombeen Man said...

Well well well. I had to rescue that comment from the spam box. This software is becoming more discerning all the time, by the looks of it.

I fear you're talking out of your posterior once again, my mixed-up friend.

Never mind Mitt Romney, and never mind the "professional gardener" gibes. The RTE programme was based on comprehensive genetic mapping studies.

Also, I suggest you read the Oppenheimer link I provided earlier.

The only Celtic Link in Ireland is the one that plies the seas between Rosslare and Cherbourg.

Anonymous said...

"...my mixed-up friend" ??? why does a pot and kettle come to mind?

We could discuss the map itself. Do you feel it is useful? Your comment
"...the Boundary Commission, who seem to have put the border in the wrong place entirely" suggests you do. Yet, your source dismisses it as a load of twaddle favoured only by right wing extremists.

Where do you stand exactly?

Regarding the science, you keep watching the telly, I'll keep reading the journals.

The Gombeen Man said...

The map was used humorously. If you don't get that, I can't explain it.

On the rest, only this morning your first comment was:

"Given that recent DNA research has rubbished the notion that we are a Celtic/Gaelic people"


What research would this be?

That is, you knew nothing about the subject. Now, it appears, you are an expert. Need I say more?

You have also chosen to ignore that much of the research was carried out by TCD and that one of the other separate sources quoted, namely Oppenheimer, is an authoritive one on the subject.

Reading Wiki does not equate to "studying journals".

I suggest at this point it might be prudent for you to stop making a fool of yourself and save what face you can...

DB said...

Given there is no DNA evidence indicating we are a celtic people and the original Irish likewise were not so, can we assume that any vestigages of celtic culture in terms of language and artifacts were the result of an early form of colonialsim by the celts on the indigenous Irish. That sure makes it interesting.

The Gombeen Man said...

That is interesting, DB. Here's a piece from the Indo a couple of years back by research into the Irish genome, by Brendan Loftus of UCD, Professor of Comparative Genomics .


An extract:

"The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of the ancestors of the Irish and British people were the pioneering settlers who arrived at the end of the last ice age between 17,000 and 8,000 years ago. The inescapable upshot of this is that the Irish are not Celts, any more than the English are Anglo-Saxons.

In fact, both the Irish and the British are Basques, with the Irish significantly more Basque than our neighbours across the pond, who've absorbed more migrations from Europe over the centuries.

Scientists estimate that Ireland's gene pool has changed remarkably little since the first hunter-gatherers from Iberia followed the retreating ice cap, beachcombing northwards and settling this newly exposed and empty land. The dilution rate for Ireland is estimated at a tiny 12%, against 20% for Wales and Cornwall, 30% for Scotland and 33% for England.

The genetics suggest that, with sea levels low, the Basques simply walked to Ireland, becoming cut off generations later when rising seas created the island we know. Ancient Irish legends say that there were six invasions or migrations from the south many generations before the Celts arrived around 300BC.

The evidence suggests that the Celtic language, fashions and technologies which are supposed to define our Irish heritage, were acquired as cultural accessories in the way that today's Irish schoolkids flounce about under the impression that they're gangsta rappers straight out of Compton or Beverly Hills brat-packers.

The Irish and Basques share by far the highest incidence of the R1b gene in Europe, which has a frequency of over 90% in Basque country and almost 100% along parts of Ireland's western seaboard."

Time to reject the Celtic coddery of Dev, Paddy Pee and all the rest. It's based on myth, rather than fact.

Dakota said...

The ethnicity of the Irish is unique based as it is on the Deity of the Spud. Potaaaatoooes and Big New Expensive Cars. QED.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that Dev, Paddy Pee or any other nationalist claims racial purity, "celtic" or any other kind. This debate seems to confuse race and ethnicity.

Gaelic nationalism is based on ethnicity not race. Whether it can be said to be "celtic" in origin or not, the fact is that until the 18th c. Ireland was predominantly Gaelic in language and culture and had been for a thousand years.

In fact a person could travel from west Cork to the northern coast of Sutherland without moving out of that culture. The map, as far as the British Isles goes, seems to represent the linguistic division at the end of the 18th c. with its reference to "Erse" in Scotland.

Of course the certainty evoked in the statement "Aran is going to be the last bastion of spoken Irish" suggests an altogether different motivation in this discussion, possibily even "racist"?


The Gombeen Man said...

@ El. I quote Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League:

"...We have at last broken the continuity Irish life, and just at the moment when the Celtic race is presumably about to largely recover possession of its own country..."

I've seen other references to a Gaelic or Celtic race, and an Irish one, particularly in relation to cultural nationalism.

The ironic thing is, though Hyde became the first president of this new Ireland, he and his fellow ex-ascendancy protestants, who had seen cultural nationalism as a tool for autonomy, were later frozen out in a state that defined itself by neo-Gaelism and Catholicsm.

Irish cultural nationalism was certainly based on a binary divide between "Gael" and non-"Gael". A construct. Does who didn't fit the bill were - and are - west Brits.

They tried to turn the clock back linguistically, long after language shift had occured. That, in essence makes it a reactionary doctrine. We might speak Cantonese on this Island in another few hundred years time. They might Speak Spanish in the US. Language shifts happen.

The map - if it is based at the end of the 18th Century shows a clear east/west divide. Language shift was well under way even then.

But the biggest wheeze of the cultural nationalists was to tie it all in with a mythical Gaelic/Celtic identity that was somehow intrinsic and ever-present in this island. The point of the quotes above (the most recent being from Professor Loftus of UCD in Sept 2010) above is to infer that it wasn't.

Therefore the argument of cultural nationalists - the Shinners and their fellow travellers in today's context - is invalid, based as it is on the notion of primary possession.

If Gaelic (or various Gaelic dialects) was not the language of the earliest Irish - and for that matter they earliest Irish were not even Celtic - that notion is null and void.

Anonymous said...

The most important finding of the Irish genome project was the Y-chromosome SNP DF21. This is a subclade of L21. It's quite old in general and is spread across both Ireland and Britain. It's easy at least 3,000 years old. However the continual talk about Basques is a red herring. L21 arose in France on the order of 3,700-4,000 years ago. In other words it's a Haplogroup of the Bronze Age, not of supposed Cro-Magnon refugee in Iberia. it retains it's highest genetic diversity in France to this day. The language of France before it's conquest in 50BC by Caesar was Gaulish. What is the closest known written language to Gaulish? You guessed it "Archaic Irish" as written on Ogham Stones. In total 70% of all Irishmen are L21+. (see Myers study)

R1b is also found in Armenians. Heck it's prevalent across all Indo-European populations from Armenia in the East to Ireland in the west.

The continued lack of samples containg any of the subclades of R1b from before the Copper age puts the supposed "basque origin" even further into question. Of course the fact that Basque has native words for metals doesn't help with concept that Basque is a Paelothic language. If it was then surely the words for metals would be loanwords.

If you look at the entire genome the closest surviving population to Basques is probably the Sardinians, there is clear signs of connection with Otsi (the iceman)

The People of the British Isles have tested close on 4,500 people across the UK. This testing (of 500,000 markers per testee) clearly shows genetic inflow from Germanic Europe during the migration period. The empirical evidence completely trumps the poorly written article in the Independent.

Either way the R1b that is found in Basque samples belongs to a completely different parallel branch to what is found in samples form Ireland and Britain. If we were to use the same logic then the Irish are really Armenians given the high level of R1b (M269) also present in Armenian population.

Of course like the rest of Europe the earliest inhabitants of this island probably belonged to Haplogroup I, which makes up about 7-10% of current Irish male population.


The Gombeen Man said...

So Paul.

The RTE programme (and RTE are hardly habitual controversists) commissioned with Trinity College and EthoAncestry is wrong.

Richard Warner of the Ulster Museum is wrong.

Professor Stephen Oppenheimer, Oxford University is wrong.

Professor Brendan Loftus, Comparative Genomics, University College Dublin is wrong.

And you are right.

I hope this doesn't sound rude or anything, but can I ask you what your authority might be?

Bernd said...

To be quite honest - let those who believe in a "Celtic Race" (never mind that "Celtic" actually describes a language group) go on and on, more power to them. As the Celts seemingly originated in Central Europe (Austria anyone) and then went on to far-flung places like today's Spain and Turkey ... just another bunch of invaders.

We do not know who "the Irish" (for want of a better word) were before the Celt invasion, they built Newgrange but left no stories, myths, other cultural traces. And even those guys may not have been the original "Irish", as we are still working from the notion that Ireland was uninhabited before the ice age (Proof? Default - no traces left after the glaciers scrubbed the island clean ...).

It is all a bit academic ... and ultimately futile.

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of 2
I co-admin a project that contains Y-Chromosome samples for 4,500+ men of Irish ancestry. Over half of which contain at least 67 STR's (Short Tandem Repeats). I've also recently submitted two SNP's (binary markers) for inclusion in the ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) Haplogroup R tree. This can be viewed here:

The Trinity study on the Uí Néill dynasty (Northwestern Irish Haplotype) in comparison only used 11 STR per man sampled. See: "A Y-Chromosome Signature of Hegemony in Gaelic Ireland"

One of major benefits of the last 5-6 years is the reduction in cost of genetic analysis. Full human genome costs reducing from circa $3billion to several thousands. Result of this is an increasing high resolution regarding the phylogeney (tree structure) of the Y-Chromosome.

When Oppenheimer wrote his book in 2006 his thesis on the "basque" origin was based on one marker called M269 (R1b-M269: R1b1a2). This is by far the most common haplogroup in Europe amounting for over 100 million men in Western Europe. However this "binary marker" (SNP -- you are either + or - for it) is quite far up the tree. It is found from Armenia and Iran in the east all the way over to Ireland in the west.

If M269 had arisen in the basques you would imagine they would have basal lineages (eg. M269+, negative for more recent markers). In comparison the basal lineages of R1b are found in the East in Anatolia and the Balkans. For example we see samples form both Armenia and Iran that are positive for M269+ and negative for all known subclades.

See for example:
"Neolithic patrilineal signals indicate that the Armenian plateau was repopulated by agriculturalists" (European Journal of Human Genetics 20, 313-320 (March 2012))

"Ancient Migratory Events in the Middle East: New Clues from the Y-Chromosome Variation of Modern Iranians" (PLoS ONE 7(7): e41252. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041252)

Using the above two studies we can take Oppenheimers logic to it's it next step, eg: "The Irish aren't Basque we really a bunch of Armenians/Iranians" -- that's how simplistic his argument was. (based on the available data at the time)

The tree that Oppenheimer was using looked like this: (2003)

By 2009 new discoveries in the tree it had grown to this:

By 2011 we were seeing the following strucuture under L11 (R1b1a2a1a1 -- two steps down from M269)

This tree is already out of date due to the continual discovery of new SNP's which increase the resolution.

The brother clade of M269 is M73. It is not found in European populations, Myres report from 2009 had the following to say:

"Of the total of 193 R1b-M73 chromosomes detected, all except two Russians occurred outside Europe, either in the Caucasus, Turkey, the Circum-Uralic and North Pakistan regions (Figure 1c)"

taken from:

"A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene era founder effect in Central and Western Europe"
(European Journal of Human Genetics (2011) 19, 95–101; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2010.146; published online 25 August 2010)

If you look at the spatial mapping from the same study you can see the fact that Western European R1b lacks diversity. In genetics higher diversity implies and older age in a region.


Anonymous said...

Part 2 of 2
Basque R1b is young, on order of around 4,000 years, they tend to belong to Z196 which occurs at minimumal percentages in Ireland. Within Z196 there is a specific subclade marked by SNP called M153 which is reckoned to be under 2,000 years old (eg. all M153+ men are descended from first man who was M153+). This marker is fairly rare outside of Basque population, so much so that it's generally regarded as a "basque marker". It's very much not a basal marker for R1b. (M153 = R1b1a2a1a1b1a1a1a)

It's evident that the Basques underwent a population bottleneck, there is also evidence from the Basque country in Spain that large quantities of placenames are pre-Basque in origin and instead are Indo-European in origin. The implication is the Basques spread out of a Pyrnees refugee into Iberia around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. The group most identified with the Basques in pre-history and Roman times are the population of Aquitaine. As a result linguists have theorized about a "vascoisation" of Northern Spain as the ancestors of modern Basque spread into the area from north of the Pyrenees during the dark ages.

Basque is most certainly a language of the "age of metal" see "Primario e secundario en los nombres vascos de los metales" from "Fontes linguae vasconum: Studia et documenta, vol. 30, no.79 "

Going on Warner thesis about Mesolithic ancestry well there was probably no men carrying haplogroup R1b in the whole of Europe in 8,000BC, which kinda puts a huge hole in his argument. Instead such men were probably found in the Armenain Plateau or the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. There is also the fact that ancient DNA has been successfully recovered from Hunter Gathers (Mesolithic/early Neolithic) from Scandinavia and compared to the DNA of early farmers from Scandinavia. There is an obvious major divergence between the two populations. The neolithic farmers from Sweden are closer genetically to modern southern Europeans (for example Basque and Sardinians) then they are to their contemporary hunter-gathers from Sweden:

"Origins and Genetic Legacy of Neolithic Farmers and Hunter-Gatherers in Europe"
(Science 27 April 2012:
Vol. 336 no. 6080 pp. 466-469
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216304)

"The farming way of life originated in the Near East some 11,000 years ago and had reached most of the European continent 5000 years later. However, the impact of the agricultural revolution on demography and patterns of genomic variation in Europe remains unknown. We obtained 249 million base pairs of genomic DNA from ~5000-year-old remains of three hunter-gatherers and one farmer excavated in Scandinavia and find that the farmer is genetically most similar to extant southern Europeans, contrasting sharply to the hunter-gatherers, whose distinct genetic signature is most similar to that of extant northern Europeans. Our results suggest that migration from southern Europe catalyzed the spread of agriculture and that admixture in the wake of this expansion eventually shaped the genomic landscape of modern-day Europe."


Either way all Y-Chromosome data so far recovered from before the Copper age in Europe belongs to other Y-Chromosome Haplogroups. These are generally G and I. Haplogroup I is probably the oldest Y-Haplogroup in Europe, it's presence in Europe is often calculated as at least 25k years. The earliest known sample of R1b in Europe is from 2,500BC and was found in what is now Germany. It dates from the "Beaker Culture" of the Bronze age. The Beaker culture stretch from the Carpathains in the East to Ireland in the west at it's largest extent.


The Gombeen Man said...

@ Bernd. Very true, my man. 'Nuff said!

@ Paul. Thanks for that, and thanks for taking the trouble to explain it to us. If you could find your way to a layperson's synopsis it would be a bonus! And what about Loftus - only two years ago?

Anonymous said...

I should add nowhere in Prof Lofus project report on the "Irish Genome" was a connection to the Basques mentioned. If you ask me it's typical sloppy reporting by newspapers looking for an easy headline. Here is a link to it:

"Sequencing and analysis of an Irish human genome" (Genome Biology 2010, 11:R91 doi:10.1186/gb-2010-11-9-r91)

Here is a extract from the report:
"The DNA sample from which the genome sequence was derived has previously been used in an analysis of the genetic structure of 2,099 individuals from various Northern European countries and was shown to be representative of the Irish samples. The sample was also demonstrated to be genetically distinct from the core group of individuals genotyped from neighboring Britain, and the data are likely, therefore, to complement the upcoming 1000 Genomes data derived from British heritage samples (including CEU; Additional file 1)."
"The first Irish human genome sequence provides insight into the population structure of this branch of the European lineage, which has a distinct ancestry from other published genomes. At 11-fold genome coverage, approximately 99.3% of the reference genome was covered and more than 3 million SNPs were detected, of which 13% were novel and may include specific markers of Irish ancestry."


In other words over 390,000 of the SNP's detected in the first fully sequenced Irish genome were new to science and hadn't been detected in any other fully sequenced people.


Anonymous said...

Paul, you're overselling this. The Irish sample is from one donor. All we can really say is that there is a person in Ireland with certain markers we don't find in a small group of English samples.

There are many instances where genetic analyses have invited conclusions that the archaeological record contradicts flatly. I'm sure you know this.

Genetic research is making predictions that are not confirmed by empirical or experimental work. This suggests that current theories of how the genome reflects migration are incomplete.


Anonymous said...


There are multiple studies that show Irish populations cluster together and form distinctive cluster in PCA space compare to British populations. One good study from 2010 is this:

Population structure and genome-wide patterns of variation in Ireland and Britain
(European Journal of Human Genetics doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2010.87)
Colm T O'Dushlaine et al.


Located off the northwestern coast of the European mainland, Britain and Ireland were among the last regions of Europe to be colonized by modern humans after the last glacial maximum. Further, the geographical location of Britain, and in particular of Ireland, is such that the impact of historical migration has been minimal. Genetic diversity studies applying the Y chromosome and mitochondrial systems have indicated reduced diversity and an increased population structure across Britain and Ireland relative to the European mainland. Such characteristics would have implications for genetic mapping studies of complex disease. We set out to further our understanding of the genetic architecture of the region from the perspective of (i) population structure, (ii) linkage disequilibrium (LD), (iii) homozygosity and (iv) haplotype diversity (HD). Analysis was conducted on 3654 individuals from Ireland, Britain (with regional sampling in Scotland), Bulgaria, Portugal, Sweden and the Utah HapMap collection. Our results indicate a subtle but clear genetic structure across Britain and Ireland, although levels of structure were reduced in comparison with average cross-European structure. We observed slightly elevated levels of LD and homozygosity in the Irish population compared with neighbouring European populations. We also report on a cline of HD across Europe with greatest levels in southern populations and lowest levels in Ireland and Scotland. These results are consistent with our understanding of the population history of Europe and promote Ireland and Scotland as relatively homogenous resources for genetic mapping of rare variants.

One of the plots in that study takes source populations from Dublin, Aberdeen in Scotland and South East England and graphs them.

Unsurprising you end up with a situation where the Scottish population clusters in the middle between the Irish and SE English population. In other words the scots population had input from two source populations akin to modern Irish and modern SE English.

Another study that shows clear signs of genetic clustering is:
Genes mirror geography within Europe (Nature advance online publication 31 August 2008 | doi:10.1038/nature07331)

"The People of the British Isles" project which despite the name didn't sample in the Republic has so far tested 4,500 people across the UK. They recently released a gentic clustering map at the Royal Society. They have clearly seen signs of genetic inflow from Germanic world in their sampling of population. For example people from parts of North of England and Orkney show strong clustering with people of scandinavian origin.

There is distinct difference between people of Cornish origin and those from across the Tamar in Devon. No doubt this represents the linguistic boundary that was present for close on 1,000 years.
see initial map here:


In Northern Ireland two clusters are evident, one maps into the Highlands of Scotland, the other carries over into Lowland Scotland.

Over the next 5-10 years we are going to see a flood of "Ancient DNA" results, at the moment everything we have seen shows a massive disconnect in male lineages between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

Ötzi the iceman genome data which has recently been released shows that he clusters closest to modern Sardinians, but even then modern Sardinians are closer to other modern Europeans then Ötzi is.

See PCA image here:

He's nowhere near modern Alpine populations when it comes to his genome.


ponyboy said...

beam me up scotty

DB said...

You are not trying to blind us with science Paul?

As Bernd says

We do not know who "the Irish" (for want of a better word) were before the Celt invasion, they built Newgrange but left no stories, myths, other cultural traces.

Whatever the genetic differences between Ireland and Britain there seem to be more similarities even according to your data.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I don't find the low levels of HD surprising, as geology, geography, and common sense all tell us that our delightful Island Paradise is likely to have been populated relatively recently by European standards. It is only sensible to expect SE England to show more diversity, Scotland somewhat less, and Ireland less again, and for these populations to show some overlap.

The HapMap project is a great resource. It describes and locates clusters exceedingly well, but I am not yet convinced that it can tell us much about how, where, and when these groups formed and how they moved about in the distant past. Having this in mind during the past few days, I spotted this NYT article about genetic research that comes into conflict with empirical study: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/science/cousins-of-neanderthals-left-dna-in-africa-scientists-report.html

With respect, I remain sceptical of genetic research into human pre-history for several reasons. Briefly, those reasons include:

1. The focus is narrow. Practically speaking, when we talk about the human genome, we are talking about non-repetitive DNA -- the 1.5% of bases coding for proteins. The repetitive DNA (mostly viruses and repeats) comprising the remaining 98.5% is not well understood because it is not studied with enthusiasm. In the current genomic gold rush, repetitive DNA is seen as mine tailings from which little money can be extracted. I am not sure about that, but this seems to be the prevailing bias. Surely, this vast amount of code is doing something important or it wouldn't be so highly conserved. Might it contain information, or exert influences, relevant to our topic here? We might find some surprises if we look closely. A lot more research needs to be done. (A number of researchers are now confident that repetitive DNA influences gene expression, while others are working on minimal genomes, so stay tuned.)

2. Based on what I've been reading, researchers don't control for environmental factors, or even recognise the need. I find this to be an area of doubt. Similarities within geographical clusters, and differences between clusters, might be influenced by the environment as much as by ancestry, perhaps far more than we imagine. We don't know if we are looking at the effects of climate, diet, exercise, pollution, local plants and animals, occupational conditions, microbial "neighbours", and many other environmental or cultural factors. Genetic studies might say as much about where a subject lives today as it says about where his ancestors lived ten or twenty generations ago. This, too, needs to be investigated more aggressively to clear up the doubts.

3. Genomics today is overwhelmingly profit driven, and the principal clients are multinational behemoths. Studies often yield suggestive results with language ripe for cherry picking by corporate PR flacks in the pharmaceutical industry ("Big Pharma") and the neutraceutical and "alternative medicine" industries ("Big Placebo"), for feeding to naïve "science" journalists. I see a lot of optimistic innuendo and words such as "might/may", "can/could", "appears to", "possibly", "similar to", "in accordance with", and so on, to encourage public enthusiasm without clear understanding. In other words, areas of doubt are being exploited, rather than addressed. But if a scientific idea can't be tested empirically, or probably won't be tested due do practical issues, then it's not really science at all, is it?

You'll forgive me if I sound cynical, but I am still waiting for my flying car.


Ella said...

Genie Mac lads this is all a bit high brow for me!

ponybye said...

@Ella - want me to get Scotty to set up a second tractor beam for you? You coming GM? The transporter bay can take six. Jaysus we could be suppin' pints on the planet Stella and only come back when the DNA team have exhausted themselves here. PB

Ella said...

@Ponybye - yeah that sounds like a stellar idea - count me in!

ponefinity and beyond said...

@ella - great. Scotty's just checking the Dilithium crystals to make sure 'they can take it'. I've txted the barman on Stella and ordered up 6 pints for starters and a copy of Genetics for Dummies. Getyer space suits on GM and Dakota and BH andyou too Bernd. Dublin we have a problem

Dakota said...

Tis the Deeeevills Cocktail, that produced a population that voted ff in that magic Irish number of times. As the Irish are Saints and only do WRONG when it's LEGAL. Must have been the nasty Euro Over Lords fault again, with all their GM crops messing up the Irish Double Helix. Must be some logical explanation for it, as the Brits were ALWAYS wrong. It couldn't have been anything to do with the fact that the Irish have an extra chromosome which has thick Gombeens written on it. Don't you know.

PB sounds goooodddd book me a place...

ponywarp2boy said...

you're already bookekd in Dakota. Don't forget to take your protein pills and put your helmet on...Scotty's just told me he's got enough power to 'transport' two more to the beer planet - takers? C'mon A non E-mouse of Southampton it'll be fun and i promise - well FF type promise - not to leave u behind

The Gombeen Man said...

You know folks, that rocket out of this place sounds very attractive indeed. The Beer Planet? Sounds lovely.

Sorry about delay in responding... quite a lot going on it Planet Gombeen Man at the moment...

Anonymous said...


The Irish (apart from the North and East) are genetically not Germanic, in contrast to the British, as the map contained in the link above clearly shows.

- Paul Reynolds

And Oppenheimer is not a geneticist, he is a paediatrician.