A new genetic survey of England, conducted by Oxford University, has revealed several surprising new facts about the genetic makeup and history of the English people.
The first trend that researchers noticed is that most of the inhabitants of England have not changed since the 7th century. Genetically homogenous groups still inhabit the same areas as they did after the Anglo Saxon invasion. A map showing tribes of Britain in 600AD is nearly identical to the gene map created by the genetic survey.
Professor Mark Robinson, of Oxford University’s department of archaeology added: “The genetic make-up we see is really one of perhaps 1400 years ago.”
While England has been, at different times, occupied by Vikings, the French, and the Dutch, the Anglo-Saxons were the only group to substantially change the genetic makeup of the people. On average the modern British person shares about 30% of their DNA with their German cousins. The second highest was that in southern England about 40% of DNA is shared with the French. Shockingly, this DNA isn’t from the Norman invasion, but rather a previously unknown migration after the last ice age. Almost no DNA was found from the various Viking invasions, with the exception of the island of Orkney which is nearly 25% Norse.
Another shocking revelation from the study revealed there was no single “Celtic” genetic group. The celtic areas of England are Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall. These areas were the most dissimilar DNA groups.
There were also areas of sharp divide. People from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland were shown to be unique genetic clusters. There is also a sharp divide between the people of Cornwall and Devon. The two different counties were separated by a river which kept their genes from mixing. In addition, the boundaries of Anglo Saxon England are clearly defined by DNA, with groups descending from Anglo-Saxons concentrating in southern and central England.
The genetic survey is titled “People of the British Isles” and analyzed the DNA of 2,039 residents from across the UK. They then looked at the quarter of the genome that came from the grandparents, and plotted these genes on a map.
Prof Peter Donnelly, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, who co-led the research, said: “It has long been known that human populations differ genetically, but never before have we been able to observe such exquisite and fascinating detail.”