Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Origins of the British

My daughter pointed me to a very interesting article in the New York Times. It discusses a theory presented by Stephen Oppenheimer, a medical geneticist at the University of Oxford. In his book "The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story" (Carroll & Graf, 2006), he speculates that all the people of the British Isles have fundamentally identical origins. Very simply put, everyone was driven south by the Ice Age. The ancestors of the British, Scots, Irish and Welsh were one people who sheltered in the area of Spain, etc. during the Ice Age. When the ice receded, they returned north and crossed existing land bridges to the Isles. The genes of these people still dominate in the British Isles today. There is reasonable speculation that the later addition of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and various other mixes had very small effect on the original population.

Do read the article! It's fascinating. I'll certainly be ordering the Oppenheimer book. ...Unless it's priced by the same people who are selling that Pope book I'd like...


At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Maxine said...

You need to look at history as well as science (genetics in this case)! There is a rich subdiscipline of academic viciousness about claims for origins based on gene analysis vs what is known from historical artefacts. From your excerpt, I'm suspicious-- what of the Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Picts, Romans, Scots et al (as well as the Celts)? What we now know as Europe was overwhelmed by hordes of various ethnic origins at the time. Maybe this is covered in the book, but I wonder?


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