07 December 2007

Egil the Scally and Irish Basques

Photo Hunt is the next post

There was an interesting item in Monday’s Guardian. A genetic survey of men living in the Liverpool area indicates that they have Viking ancestors.

The research focused on people whose surnames were recorded in the area before its population underwent a huge expansion during the industrial revolution. Among men with these "original" surnames, 50% have Norse ancestry. The find backs up historical evidence from place names and archaeological finds of Viking treasure which suggests significant numbers of Norwegian Vikings settled in the north-west in the 10th century.

The researchers used historical documents, including a tax register from the time of Henry VIII, to identify surnames common in the region. They then recruited 77 male volunteers with "original" surnames, and looked for a genetic signature of Viking ancestry on the Y chromosome. They report in Molecular Biology and Evolution that a Y chromosome type, R1a, common in Norway, is also very common among men with original surnames.

This is a very interesting discovery. Archaeological evidence eg the longboat recently found, rather rediscovered, at the Railway Inn in Meols on the Wirral and the place names in the area (Kirby, Thingwall etc) are an indication that the area was settled by Vikings.

In 2001 there was a fascinating series called Blood of the Vikings which looked to see if the Vikings had left a genetic trace in the British population Over 2,000 DNA samples were taken from people across the British Isles. The results found that a significant percentage of men in the Orkneys and the Shetlands have Viking ancestry (no surprise there; the islands were under Danish control until 1469 and the indigenous language, Norn, didn’t die out until the end of the 18th century. The picture in England wass very difficult, however: Only Penrith in Cumbria was any significant race of Viking DNA found. The tests done in and around the Wirral found virtually no trace at all. It would seem that this new survey has discovered evidence missed by the earlier search focussing on a narrower sample.

The DNA survey conducted for the programme were the subject of a paper by Cristian Capelli et al of University College London called A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles . Showed that the indigenous Britons were not totally supplanted by the Saxons except at the Cornish and Welsh fringes. Many people in England have indigenous ancestors, although the number dues rise as you head west. Also the DNA samples of indigenous Britons are very similar to those in Ireland. This would have indicated that a lot of Britons have Celtic ancestors. However, there is a marked similarity between “Celtic” DNA and Basque DNA. This would indicate that the people described as Celts were not Iron Age immigrants but have been in the islands for many millennia. If this is the case then Celtic influences were more likely to have come via through cultural transmission. But that is a whole different post


Anonymous said...

I can never understand why Swansea is left out of Viking surveys. There is a possibility that out name started out a as Nial, a name picked up in Ireland before the Vikings were expelled. Swansea was one of their settling places... Sweynes Eye.

Hope you are feeling better.

jams o donnell said...

It would be a good place to try. if they did a test with similar criteria as the one done in the Liverpool area then it may turn up some people with Viking ancestry in Swansea. It would be well worth doing.

I'm feeling a lot better now. Thanks for your concern

Sean Jeating said...

Whoa. This is definitively a matter one ought not to judge about unless one has consulted De Selby ... :)

(Even more) Seriously, and focusing on just one dot: As far as I "know" up til know a Basque's black hair and blue eyes and the same (triple) spirals being found f.e. at Newgrange and in the Basque region (and on Gomera) have been taken as evidence for "Celtic relationship".
Thus, the DNA-similarity looks like another tessera.
(For me) A very interesting post. Thanks.

P.S. By reading the above you will easily detect that I am maltreating your language, Jams. Sorry for all grammatical mistakes that I do "feel", but can / could not avoid.

I shall try to improve. :)

TN said...

As a Birkonian of the Potatoe gathering class of immigrants I've been fascinated with these surveys.

As for Meols (pron. Mells) there was famously a guard on the local train who would exclaim "MeOlesMells" upon arrival at said station, so my folks reliably inform me.

Loveable (not)Scouse humour eh?

James Higham said...

. Apparently a genetic survey of men living in the Liverpool area indicates that it was once a major Viking settlement.

What do you mean, Jams? Of course it was a Viking settlement. They settled in Dublin and came over - that's just history.

Roland Dodds said...

Off topic, but I got a post on my blog recently that is from a “group” that apparently supports violence against teachers on my blog. It seems too stupid to be true, but there it is, and I think it should be something people see for themselves.

jams o donnell said...

Sean previous genetic surveys found links between the Irish and the Basques that could only be explained through common ancestry dating back around 8000 years. Instead of being celts we may bge Basques instead. Which is fine but I will never wear one!

Haha That's a good one Poons!

Ugh James, I should have read what I wrote properly before posting. I've made a few amendments

jams o donnell said...

Bloody hell Rolan. It must be asick joke or some walter Mitty type. I hope it's one of those two

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Very interesting indeed. Can't wait for your post on the Celts!

jams o donnell said...

It may be a while welshcakes!

Anonymous said...

Recent studies suggest the neolithic Basques,whose dna is strikingly different to modern Basques,went through an intense period of intermixing with atlantic fringe Celts. This fits nicely with the groundbreaking Paleolithic Continuity Theory which scotches the old indoeuropean invasion theories(or,at the very least,their chronologies)and basically says the Celts have been in western Europe for a very long time indeed. Ancient Basque history itself is replete with Celtic or Celticised tribes and a plethora of Celtic toponomy,and more importantly,hydronomy.The ancient toponomy and hydronomy of the scattered Celtic communities are almost exclusively Celtic and lack anything identifiably Basque.Theomann´s attempts in this regard have been deemed highly questionable by linguists.The simplest explanation would be that the Basques were Celticised rather than that geographically disparate ¨Basque¨communities were uniformly Celticised.Nothing certain as yet but Basques can just as easily pose the same question "instead of being Basques we may be Celts instead!"