Ancient DNA study reveals large-scale migrations into Bronze Age Britain

There are previous finds at the farm. Credit: Wessex Archaeology

The movement of people into southern Britain during the Bronze Age has been traced by a new study. Scientists looked at the DNA of nearly 800 ancient individuals.

The University of York, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Vienna have collaborated on a new study that shows that people moving into southern Britain around 1300800 BC were responsible for half the genetic ancestry of subsequent populations.

The genetic structure of the population changed through contacts between mainland Britain and Europe over several centuries, according to the combined DNA and archaeological evidence.

The study shows that the new migrants mixed well with the Southern British population.

There are networks.

The origin of these migrants is not yet known, but they are most likely to have come from communities in and around France.

The Middle to Late Bronze Age was a time when farming communities expanded across the landscape of southern Britain, and extensive trade routes were developed to allow the movement of metal ores for the production of bronze.

The spread of bronze objects and raw materials led to the creation of these new networks.


The study's lead archaeologist Professor Ian Armit, from the University of York, said: "We have long suspected, based on patterns of trade and shared ideologies, that the Middle to Late Bronze Age was a time of intense contacts between communities in Britain and Europe."

The new evidence shows that long-distance mobility was not restricted to a few individuals, but spread across the entire society.

Some of the earliest genetic outliers have been found in Kent, suggesting that the south-east may have been a focus for movement into Britain. The evidence from the archaeological sites like Cliffs End Farm show that some people spent their childhoods on the Continent.

The Celtic languages are related.

The question of when early Celtic languages arrived in Britain may be answered by the new DNA evidence.

The case for the appearance of Celtic languages in Britain in the Bronze Age has been strengthened by the new DNA evidence. The Iron Age has been thought of as the time when Celtic languages may have spread, but the study shows little evidence for large-scale movements of people into Britain.

Professor David Reich from Harvard Medical School said that the findings do not settle the question of the origin of Celtic languages into Britain. Any reasonable scholar needs to adjust their best guesses based on these findings.

The results militate against an Iron Age spread of Celtic languages into Britain and increase the likelihood of a Late Bronze Age arrival from France.

Lactase persistence.

The study has found a large increase in the allele for lactase persistence in Bronze Age populations in Britain relative to the Continent.

Professor Ron Pinhasi, a physical anthropologist and ancient DNA specialist from the University of Vienna, said that the study increases the amount of ancient DNA data we have from the Late Bronze and Iron Age in Britain.

With the amount of data we have, we can study adaptation in different ways in different parts of Europe.

The results show that dairy products must have been used in a different way in Britain than they were on the European continent in the Iron Age, as lactase persistence was rising rapidly in Britain but not on the Continent.

Archaeologists have long suspected that the Late Bronze Age was a period of intense and sustained contacts between many diverse communities, and the new data shows that is true.

The study was published in Nature.

The Large-scale migration into Britain during the Middle to Late Bronze Age, Nature was written by Nick Patterson. There is a DOI titled " 10.1038/s41586-021-04287-4".

Nature journal information.

The ancient DNA study shows large-scale migrations into Bronze Age Britain.

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