Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Celts and Anglo-Saxons - part n + 1   posted by DavidB @ 7/19/2006 04:38:00 AM

Clearly I will have to get up very early in the morning to beat Razib to the punch! (see his post below).

On reading the UK Times this morning I was pleased to see that a new study claims to show that (and how) a relatively small number of Anglo-Saxon invaders in the early middle ages (5th to 7th centuries) could have made a disproportionate contribution to the genetic make-up of England. I was even more pleased to find that the study in question (published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B) is available as a free open access download here.

My pleasure turned to mild disappointment on reading the paper and finding that it (apparently) contains no new genetic research. As I have pointed out in a previous post, the genetic evidence on the Anglo-Saxon contribution is unclear, if not contradictory.

The new study does nothing to resolve this uncertainty, but it does have the merit of showing that a minority ethnic group (the Anglo-Saxons, on this hypothesis) can still make a major contribution to the male ancestry of a population if it has sufficient social and military dominance. But as I argued in my earlier post, recent politically-correct interpretations of the Anglo-Saxon invasion may have underestimated the ease with which a small but militarily superior invader may 'ethnically cleanse' a larger indigenous population.

I note also that in their interpretation of early Anglo-Saxon society the authors of the new study rely heavily on the Laws of Ine, King of Wessex, which clearly recognise the continuing existence of a Celtic population (as I pointed out in my earlier post). But this is hardly surprising, as we know from other sources (e.g. place-names) that parts of Wessex had a substantial Celtic survival. In other parts of England (e.g. Mercia and East Anglia) the Anglo-Saxon takeover may have been more brutal and complete.