Living DNA - June 2017 updates

Living DNA produced their first update.  An update by a "DNA for Ancestry" business can sound like an admission of failure.  To some, it could sound like a recall due to product failure.  "Your previous ancestry was a mistake".  This only applies if you have bought into some marketing campaigns, that autosomal DNA tests for ancestry actually work even close to 100%.  Surprise, they don't!  They are cutting edge, in development, and far from accurate below a Continental level. They are still somewhere in the twilight between being nothing more than a genetic lottery, and actually becoming a tool that is useful.  Therefore "updates" are to be welcomed.  They are a sign that the business wants to improve the test accuracy.  That is to the credit of Living DNA.

My latest results?  First of all, a quick recap on my actual ancestry, as supported by family history, local history, ethnicity, and by a traditionally researched record based family tree that includes over 270 direct ancestors over the past 380 years.  I'm English.  Indeed, all of my direct ancestors, appear to have been South East English.  More precise, I'm East Anglian.  On family history and recorded genealogy, I'd suggest that between 75% and 85% of my direct ancestors over the past three centuries were East Anglian, almost all from the County of Norfolk.  Others on my father's side, if not in East Anglia, still in Southern England.

That I feel, makes me an interesting subject for ancestral auDNA testing.  You see, my ancestry is very localised here in South East England.  DNA tests such as 23andMe that claim to accurately plot ancestry over the past 300 - 500 years should get me.  But they don't.  This is because their algorythms, and reference data set designs fail over different ages.  They also (although they sometimes deny it), fail to discriminate against older population background.  We East Anglians and South East English have been heavily admixed with non-British populations on the European Continent.  Not so much over the past 500 years, so much as over the past few thousand years.

The new Results.

Below are my Living DNA regional ancestry, based on Standard Mode.

Below are my Standard Mode results broken down into sub regions.

Below is a table, comparing my recorded ancestry, with my early Living DNA results in Standard, now my revised results.

Living DNA has now introduced two new modes of confidence called complete and cautious modes.  First the Complete results:

Below are my Complete Mode results in regional:

Below are my Complete Mode results for sub-regional:

Now the Cautious results:

Below are my Cautious Mode results in regional:

Finally, below are my Cautious Mode results for sub-regional:

Conclusions

No auDNA test, by any DNA-for-ancestry company has yet come close to assigning me 100% English or even British.  They don't get me.  23andMe gives me 32-37% "British & Irish".  FT-DNA gives me "36% British".  Therefore, to be fair, Living DNA, giving me 70% "Great Britain or Ireland", give me the best result.  However, Living DNA has started out with the largest, best quality British data-set of any DNA-for-ancestry company, and is often accused of a bias towards Britain in it's results.  If so, then my 70% still looks weak.  They are planning on producing similar quality data sets soon for Ireland, Germany, then France. Therefore any results, will as I started out saying at the beginning of this post, be perpetually progressive.  Businesses that do not improve data sets or algorithms, will not get any better.  They are not progressive.

I get Southern European in other tests besides this one.  Living DNA points to Tuscany.  FT-DNA before a recent update gave me 32% Southern European, although they have revised this down to a little noise from South-East Europe!  23andMe gives me 2% Southern European - but this appears nothing unusual for an English tester.  None-the-less, I am interested in trying to better understand, why some of these tests give me this "Southern European" admixture, for which my family history, local history, and recorded genealogy has absolutely no account.  It equally reflects in ancient calculators that give me a little bit more Neolithic Farmer than for other English, which on average, already have a little more Neolithic Farmer than other British or Irish populations do.

The New Complete and Cautious Modes

How do I feel about these?  At Sub-Regional level, the Complete mode starts to get silly.  For the first time, Living DNA at this level, starts to even suggest some ancestry from Wales, SW Scotland, and Northern Ireland.  Only small percentages - but I just don't buy them.

However, the Cautious Mode, I start to like.  My British ancestry doesn't increase, but it looks more realistic, although with strange enigmatic suggestions still of Italian ancestry in the mix.  At Sub-Regional level, Cautious Mode also looks a little more likely.  My East Anglian remains at 37%, I however, lose Lincolnshire (which does exist in my record), but retain Cornwall.  I think Cornwall unlikely - however, there is just a small hint that something could be there, in surname evidence of a brick-walled great great great grandparent.  So maybe, just maybe.

East Anglia

I seriously doubt that my East Anglian ancestry over the past 300 years genuinely falls much below 75%.  Living DNA only appears to recognise a half of it at 37% - but they claim to be easily able to identify East Anglian DNA.  They call it "Distinct" because of it's high levels of Continental admixture.  They have admitted that based on their early data sets, that it was hard to separate from Germanic.  I don't know why it isn't stronger in my results.  I honestly do believe that the test underplays it on my results, even though it is the strongest of any population in my test results.  My East Anglian ancestors lived mainly in Eastern, Central, and Southern Norfolk.

Living DNA also provide a chart of the Continental "contributing regions" to East Anglian ancestry:

Finally, a chart breaking down their proposal of my British ancestry at Cautious mode:

I'm not disappointed with Living DNA.  That it does identify me as 37% East Anglian is I believe, incredibly good, and far advanced over any other DNA-for-ancestry test.  I'm looking forward to more updates in the future.  Well done Living DNA.

The Beaker phenomenon and genetic transformation of Northwest Europe 2017. A layman's take.

They say that you cannot write prehistory, but here in Britain, prehistory is currently being rewritten, and it's thanks to DNA.  A new study , "The Beaker Phenomenon, And The Genomic Transformation Of Northwest Europe" has been published on BioRxyv.  A new study that recently analysed the DNA of 170 ancient human remains in Europe.

A little background...

1. British Archaeology and the Bell Beaker

British archaeologists have long been aware of a late prehistoric artifact culture found across the British Isles, and across large areas of Western Europe.  It bridged the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods around 4,400 to 3,800 years ago.  It was characterised by the use of fine bell-shaped beaker pots, usually red ceramic fabric, heavily decorated with simple motifs.  These motifs were characteristically impressed with a fine toothed comb or dentated spatula.  Many Bell beaker burial rituals have been excavated and studied.  The inhumed body would usually be crouched on the side, roughly on a north to south alignment.  A bell beaker would often be stood near to the body, at the feet, or near the head.  Other grave goods often included barbed and tanged flint arrowheads, flint flakes and blades, antler picks, sometimes one or two more beakers, amber beads, copper awls, and gold earrings / hair rings.  64% of British Beaker burials were flat graves, but sometimes a barrow or cist would be erected above it (Beaker Pottery of Great Britain & Ireland. DL Clarke.  CUP 1970).

Above, a flint barbed & tanged arrowhead of the Beaker Culture, that I found and recorded during a surface collection survey some years ago.

Archaeologists studying the artifact culture in Britain, compared the British finds to those on the Continent in order to try to find an origin for these people.  They suggested either Brittany in North West France, or the Lower Rhine Valley, in the Netherlands and Northern Germany.  Some alternatively promoted Iberia as the origin.

Then British Archaeology entered an intellectual phase where it became fashionable to dismiss migration or invasions of people, in favour of cultural exchange.  Pots not People.  Rather like today, we British wear denim, t-shirts, listen to R&B, and drink coke.  However, we have not been displaced by North Americans - we just absorbed the artifacts of another culture.  From the 1970s on, many late prehistoric migrations were dismissed by British archaeologists as cultural exchanges rather than representing population displacement.

2. The New Population Genetics and the Steppe Pastoralists.

A new field of study has been gathering pace with the arrival of the 21st Century, that uses genetic evidence, to explore past migrations, movements, admixtures, and origins of peoples.  The earliest pioneers used blood types, then mitochondrial DNA mutations, followed by STR of Y-DNA.  Some of the early conclusions supported the new orthodoxy of British Archaeology.  Stephen Oppenheimer's infamous publication "The Origins of the British" championed that there had been little change in British populations since the Ice Age.  They were to be proven wrong.  Early conclusions, based on little evidence, misunderstandings that were later corrected with more data, seriously damaged the reputation of population genetics in British prehistoric studies.

The most common Y-DNA haplogroup of Western Europe, particularly of Ireland and Britain was R1b.  Early mistakes gave this male haplogroup an Ice Age origin of the Basque Region in Southwest Europe.  As more data gathered, and debate developed, it became apparent that the origin was not the Basque region, but the Pontic and Caspian Steppes of Eurasia!  It became associated with an archaeological culture in Southern Russia called the Yamna.  The R1b and R1a haplogroups appeared to have spilled off the Steppes into Europe during the Copper Age during a significant migration event around 4,900 - 4,600 years ago.  In Eastern and Central Europe, this migration of pastoralists appears to be responsible for the fused artifact culture known as the Corded Ware (again, after a prehistoric pottery style).

A few lectures on Youtube to watch:

Havard lecture by David Reich 2015.

CARTA lecture by Johannes Krause 2016

That brings us up to date.  In summary, population geneticists have discovered a movement of people, not just pots, from the Steppes into Europe.  Modern Europeans descend from an admixture of three major founder populations: 1) the Western Eurasian hunter-gatherers, then a layer of 2) Early Neolithic farmers (that originated in Anatolia and the Middle East), and finally, 3) the Steppe Pastoralists.  The actual mix varies not only from person to person, but also regionally across Europe.

So how does the Bell Beaker Culture of Britain and Western Europe fit into all of this?  The strong assumption over the past couple of years was that the diffusion of R1b Y-DNA haplogroups occurred then, so therefore, it was a simple extension of this westward drift across Europe that originated on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes.  It first spawned the Corded Ware Culture in Central Europe, but then when it met Western Europe, spawned the Bell Beaker Culture.  However, until now, this hypothesis hadn't been tested.

The Beaker phenomenon and genetic transformation of Northwest Europe 2017

Has now examined some of these questions, through the examination of an unprecedented scale of ancient DNA sampling. The link to their published document (which is still awaiting peer review) is at the top of this post, and I'd invite others to read it for themselves.  An article covering the document can also be read on the Scientific American.  However, I personally with my layman head take five suggestions from the study.

  1. They found that the DNA of human remains on Continental Europe did not suggest one cohesive or homogeneous population.  There was in this case, evidence of cultural diffusion.  Different peoples were taking on the Bell Beaker artifact assemblage in Western Europe.  Pots rather more than people.  This was a great surprise, as we still know from the earlier study, that much of our DNA and Y-DNA in particular, originated around 400 years earlier from the Eurasian Steppes.  However, although the Central European Corded Ware Culture does still appear to have been a response to that great influx of new people from the Steppes, the picture with the Western European Bell Beaker is more complex.
  2. An exception was Britain.  Here, the remains associated with Bell Beaker Culture were all one population, and they were very different to the earlier Neolithic population of Britain.  It appears to have been a case of population displacement.  They suggest at least 90% displacement!  It means that very few or none of our Neolithic ancestors built the amazing monuments of Neolithic Britain.  They were built by earlier peoples, that our ancestors displaced.
  3. They confirm a Lower Rhine origin as most likely for the British Beaker People.  The ancient DNA that most closely matched British Beaker DNA, came from Beaker human remains in the Netherlands and Northern Germany.  This correlates nicely with the 1970 archaeological study mentioned above.
  4. It's confirmed.  Previous to their entry into the British Isles, there is no evidence of any Steppe ancestry, no Steppe autosomal DNA, no Steppe Y haplogroups such as R1b-L21 here.  (Nor any mtDNA haplogroup H6a1).  The Beaker people from the Lower Rhine, brought the initial layers of this DNA to Britain.  The founder population were admixed, but with significant percentages of Steppe ancestry, particularly on Y lines.
  5. The previous Neolithic Farmer population were mainly Y haplogroup I2, and appear to have descended mainly from populations in the South, from Iberia, rather than from the Danube, although before that from Anatolia.  The modern population that is closest to them today are Sardinians.

Also as a layman, I guess that this suggests that most, or even any "Neolithic Farmer" DNA suggested by our ancient ancestry calculators, was most likely picked up elsewhere than Britain, and brought here by later migrants (descended through that mixture of cultural diffusion and admixture), rather than directly from the British Neolithic population.

I also notice a correlation with an Irish study last year ("Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome" Cassidy etal.  Queens University Belfast 2016), that again, suggested major displacement of earlier peoples in Ireland, at the end of the Neolithic, by a population with largely Steppes origins.

What have the Romans done for us?

I can feel Spring in the air.  So, day off from work, I decided to take a field trip.  Wasn't sure where to when I hit the road, but I ended up at Burgh Castle, the ruin of a Roman Fort of the Saxon Shore.

Information board at Burgh Castle.

Traditionally, the Roman Shore Forts of South-East Britain were seen as Late Roman defensive structures, to protect Roman Britain from attack from barbarians from the other side of the North Sea, outside of the Empire.  This remains a valid view, although I remember attending a lecture by a local archaeologist many years ago, that argued that these shore forts, were a little odd.  With civilian activity inside the forts, and not particularly very defensive.  He was arguing that rather than protect Roman Britain from invasion by Anglo Saxon pirates, they were intended to control and tax heavy commerce across the North Sea.  No I'm not going to take sides, perhaps there was an element of both intentions.

I personally also like to see this fort as a sort of 4th Century AD immigration control.  My mother's 18th and 19th Century ancestors are so strongly clustered nearby at the Reedham area, that I can't help but imagine that at least some of her ancestors lived in East Norfolk way back into the medieval, and perhaps some of them rowed passed this recently decommissioned shore fort during the early 5th century AD.  I imagine them jeering at the now abandoned post of the Empire, as they rowed past.  Arriving into Britain, with fealty free land just for the grabbing, a land of opportunity for rural self sustaining farmers from the Continent.

The view down on the Yare and Breydon Water from Burgh Castle.  Much of this would have been flooded during the 4th Century by higher sea levels and the absence of drainage.

From a population genetics point of view, we are usually told that the 360 year long period of Roman Britain contributed little to our present day DNA.  More important was the contribution of the Early Bronze Age, that carried DNA from the Eurasian Steppes, followed perhaps by the Anglo-Saxon / Danish / Norman Medieval immigration events that followed the collapse of shore forts such as this one.  It is usually suggested that because actual migration from Rome was sparse, and troops were scattered from all over the Empire, that there was little impact on the late prehistoric British genome.

However, whenever an odd haplotype turns up in an old British family, including for example, my own Y-DNA that appears to have originated from the area of present day Iran or Iraq, someone will suggest that it could have arrived during the Roman Empire.  Indeed, in some cases they may well have made their way into North west Europe, even to the British Isles during that time.  Trade and exchange across Western Eurasia was thriving.

I give you Burgh Castle, Norfolk.  They may have built it in order to keep some of my ancestors out.

Celebrating my Steppe and Beaker Ancestors

Ecoregion PA0814

The Pontic Steppes, by Terpsichores [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I've previously dealt with my Ice Age hunter-gatherer ancestry, as indicated by DNA test result calculators, and with my Neolithic Farmer ancestry.  That leaves the third major late prehistoric contributor to the Western European Genome.  The most recent, and perhaps the most character defining - the Chalcolithic Steppe pastoralists or Yamnaya element.

My Yamnaya ancestors

Y-DNA haplogroup enthusiasts of European descent absolutely LOVE this one.  This is because the majority of men of Europe have a Y haplogroup that arrived here from the Eurasian Steppes with this immigration wave.  All of those R1a's and R1b's.  My personal Y haplogroup didn't!  But I'm a nonconformist with a nonconforming Y-DNA haplogroup. Populations such as the modern Irish men, on the western edge of Europe, can trace most of their R1b haplogroups to the Steppes!  That some of of the earlier hunter-gatherer and Neolithic DNA here earlier still survives in most of us, suggests that this long migration consisted mainly of men.  My mtDNA haplogroup though, as usual, is atypical - because H6a1 is one of the few maternal lineages in Europe that DOES also trace back in ancient DNA samples to the Yamnaya pastoralists.  So, I DO have a Steppe haplogroup, only through my motherline.

The Eurasian Steppes have been a super highway of people, goods, culture, and genes, for thousands of years - linking Asia to Europe.  A long, sometimes narrow corridor of natural grasslands.  The wild ancestors of the domestic horse lived there.  They had adapted to life in harsh environments such as this.

The Yamnaya themselves appear to have been admixed between different earlier Ice Age populations, including Caucasus Hunter-Foragers, East European Hunter-Gatherers, and the enigmatic Ancient North Eurasian Siberian ghost population, that were also among the ancestors of Native Americans.

One of the successes of the Steppe pastoralists, was that they embraced the horse.  They rode their horses, enabling them to control larger herds of sheep, goats, horses, and cattle.  That was one element of success.  They also utilised the wheel, and built the first wagons and carts to be pulled by those horses and ox.  This gave them a greater mobility, to move their livestock seasonally to further pastures.  Biologically they were also adapting to a dairy based diet with lactose tolerance.  Finally, they embraced the new metallurgy of copper, and then bronze working.  The raw materials of this new technology shifted along the Steppes, and through their contact with many peoples, including with the new towns and kingdoms south of the Caucasus.

Another factor that needs to be considered, is that according to some scholars, they brought the Indo-European group of languages to Europe, which are ancestral to most European languages today.

Recent evidence has been produced that suggests that some of the pastoralists carried a plague virus, transmitted from a Central Asian origin.  A new hypothesis is that they may have unintentionally passed this plague onto the Neolithic Europeans, weakening their populations and societies.

Whether this hypothesis ever substantiates or not, the archaeological and genetic evidence is that the Second Millennium BC saw many of these Steppe men (and my mtDNA ancestor) spill westwards into Copper Age Europe.  After 2,900 BC, their arrival, and fusion with local populations and traditions may have inspired the Corded Ware Culture of Central and Eastern Europe.  My mtDNA haplogroup H6a1a suddenly appears in Central Europe, associated with this culture.

These horsemen of bronze, or their descendants didn't stop the Westward advance.  Within a few hundred years, they also dominated Western Europe.  There, their arrival may have spawned another fusion culture - the Bell Beaker.

Above image, bell beaker burial exhibited in the British Museum.

My Bell Beaker Ancestors

The Maritime Bell Beaker Culture may have originated when these horsemen arrived in Iberia.  When I was a keen amateur archaeologist and field walker, I'd feel a lot of contact with them.  Many, if not the majority of the struck flints that I recorded in Thetford Forest were considered "bronze age".  I would also survey the surviving round barrows in the forest, and look for unrecorded examples.  I also spent a week with Suffolk archaeology, studying new aerial reconnaissance photographs, and helping to chart the soil and crop marks of long ploughed out barrows.  I had no idea then, that this barrow burial tradition had actually been brought from the Steppes of Eurasia.  Archaeology at the time didn't see the Bell Beaker as the arrival of people.  They saw it as a cultural transference from Iberia.  Genetics is now telling us differently.

A barbed and tanged flint arrowhead from one of my surveys.  A classic Bell Beaker artifact.

The Maritime Bell Beaker Culture of the Early Bronze Age appears to have gradually evolved by the beginning of the Iron Age, into what we traditionally call the Atlantic Seaboard Celtic Culture, so strong in places such as Ireland and Scotland.  Yet, most Irishmen carry the Y haplogroup R1b SNPs such as L21. A recent Irish DNA Study revealed that they found the modern Irish not only a fairly homogeneous population, but that it had its roots, particularly on male haplogroups, firmly in the Pontic and Caspian Steppes of what is now Ukraine and Southern Russia.  They also studied the DNA from remains of Bronze Age, and the earlier Neolithic people that lived in Ireland, and pronounced them to have had different origins.  The earlier, Neolithic Irish largely descended from population that originated in SW Asia.

http://www.pnas.org/content/113/2/368.full

Here in Britain also, the majority of men carry R1b Y-DNA.  I have a Steppe mtDNA haplogroup from my mother.  Additionally autosomal DNA calculators suggest that maybe circa 30% of my Copper Age ancestors were Steppe.  However, where did my Steppe ancestry come in?  The obvious would be from British Celts - but that is an unsafe assumption.  My recorded ancestry is totally SE English, and strongly East Anglian.  My autosomal DNA "flavour" though is atypical for a Brit, and is unusually Continental, with a tertiary pull from Southern Europe, that I can't explain.  If many of my ancestors two thousand years ago actually lived outside of the British Isles, most likely on the Continent, then they could have inherited much of this Steppe there.

Image above. A local round barrow burial mound hidden in Thetford Forest.

Ultimately of course, I know where maybe a third of my ancestors lived 4,000 years ago.  They were pastoralists on the windy Pontic Steppes, looking to the west, and wandering, what opportunities lay there?

My Ancient DNA Calculators

David Wesolowski's K7 Basal-rich test

Ancient North Eurasian

Another Ice Age hunter-gatherer "Ghost" population, but this one has been associated with human remains and an Upper Palaeolithic culture (Mal'ta-Buret') at Lake Baikal, Siberia.  We know that it significantly contributes to modern West Eurasians, through earlier admixture on the Eurasian Steppes.  Copper Age pastoralists then carried it westwards into Europe with their later expansion.

David gives the English average as 16.6%.  My result is 14.0%

Global 10 Test

The recent Global 10 test, run by my friend Helgenes50 of the Anthrogenica board, resulted in:

  • 38% Yamna_Samara (Eurasian Steppe Pastoralist)

FT-DNA My Ancient Origins

  • 9% Metal Age Invader

My MDLP K16 Modern Admixture

  • 22% Steppe (sourced from ancient genome of European Bronze Age pastoralists)
  • 22% Caucasian (derived from genomes of mesolithic Caucasian Hunter-gatherers)

My MDLP Modern K11 Oracle:

Closest Genetic Distances:

Using 1 population approximation:
1 British_Celtic @ 6.948432
2 Bell_Beaker_Germany @ 8.143357
3 Alberstedt_LN @ 8.426399
4 British_IronAge @ 9.027687
5 Halberstadt_LBA @ 10.273615
6 Bell_Beaker_Czech @ 12.190828
7 Hungary_BA @ 12.297826
8 Nordic_MN_B @ 12.959966
9 British_AngloSaxon @ 12.993559
10 Nordic_BA @ 13.170285

Anglo-Saxon? Everyone wants to be a Celt!

By Edgar "Bill" Wilson Nye (1850–1896) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

It's true, I'll swear it.  You go on any online genetics, ancestry, or history forum, every other American, Canadian, or Australian of mainly European heritage, wants to have Irish ancestors.  Failing Irish, Scottish or maybe "Welch" will do.  People just don't want to be of English ancestry.  If a DNA test suggests British & Irish ancestry, then they pray that it's Irish or Scottish.  If it turns out to be English, well....  Let's keep that one locked in the wardrobe shall we?

We are just so out of favour, so misunderstood.  No wonder the English have a long running identity crisis.  I blame Hollywood for it, particularly that nameless Australian (now American) film maker with a chip on his shoulder about us.  Always portraying the English either as cruel, arrogant, evil upper class tyrants, or as bumbling, stupid peasants.  It's not completely true you know.  well, not about the latter.

The English are watered down Celts

Recent genetic studies suggest we are actually pretty admixed, and may actually have more "Celtic" British ancestry than we have Anglo-Saxon.  Sort of watered down Celts.  The POBI (Peopling of the British Isles) Study 2015, using quantitative sampling, suggested that the present day ethnic English have only 10% to 40% Anglo-Saxon ancestry, with the majority of our ancient heritage being in the British Isles much longer.  The Haak etal Study 2016 using qualitative evidence from ancient cemeteries in the Cambridge area, suggested that there indeed was admixture, and that the present day English are only around 38% Anglo Saxon in their ancestry.  A correlation.

A reconstructed Anglo Saxon

Don't take this one serious, but my DNA tests for ancestry are always atypical for a Brit, even an extreme for an Englishman.  I usually get only around 34% British on autosome tests.  Yet my genealogy is all South East English, and heavily rural local in East Anglia.  My DNA flavour is heavily Continental in it's flavour, with pulls towards Northern France, Germany, Scandinavia, and for some reason, Southern Europe.  I swear, I really am English!  My DNA confounds these tests.  The most logical answer is that it is population background, heavily localised in East Anglia.  Here is my mother's recorded ancestry:

Disgustingly local.  The last admixture was probably when the Danes beached at nearby Flegg.  On top of that, a fluke of genetic recombination.  Phasing suggests that I inherited from my mother, almost all of her DNA that 23andMe identifies as like French & German.  On top of that, a heap from my late father.  I might be sort of an accidental biologically reconstructed Anglo Saxon, with an embarrassingly low percentage of British Celtic ancestry!  I don't think that I'd make a good Anglo Saxon.  Crap at woodwork and farming.  Maybe I should grow back my beard?

Nah!  I look more like I'm homeless than a sword swinging warrior.

Anyway, it has put me into an Anglo-Saxon sort of mood of recent, and I feel like defending my humble immigrant ancestors.  As I've said before, I'm quite a fan of the perspective, that the Anglo Saxons were a real and significant migration event to Southern and Eastern Britain, but rather than the traditionalist view that they were a murderous army of invasion and genocide, that they were as often as not, simply farmers from around the North Sea, that were looking for opportunity.  They wanted land to farm.  They wanted to be free of their fealties on the Continent.  The collapse of Roman administration in Britain, gave them the opportunity.  The British elites were in disarray, and running in all sorts of directions.  British society was in crisis, a free fall.

I'm not saying that there was no violent conflict!  At times it would have been like this:

By Anon. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But alternatively, there could have been much more to their success.  They appear to have been incredibly successful farmers, with a culture that had adapted outside of the Roman Empire, in a very rural, illiterate, and non-monetary economy.  With the collapse of the state, they could have been incredibly successful in South East Britain.  Not because they had bigger swords to wave (something that I didn't inherit), but because they could sustain themselves well and prosper.

These guys could grow food, and pay their rent.  They knew how to work.  They provided the basis to Early English Culture and identity.

Now some photos that I took several years ago at the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village in nearby Suffolk:

Living DNA - my early results are in!

After a four month wait, my initial results have arrived today from Living DNA.  The wait has, I feel been understandable for a launch company.  The results are still limited to standard mode only.

Living DNA Standard mode

100% European
Regional:
74% Great Britain & Ireland
10% Europe (South)
7% Europe (North and West)
10% Europe (unassigned).

Sub-regional:

39% East Anglia
8% South Central England
5% South East England
5% Lincolnshire

2.5% Cornwall
2.4% North Yorkshire
2% South England
1.9% Devon
1.6% Central England
1.5% North West England
1.3% South Yorkshire
1.2% Northumbria

3.5% unassigned Great Britain & Ireland

10% Tuscany (Europe South)
5% Scandinavia (Europe North and West)
2% Germanic (Europe North and West)
9.7% Europe unassigned.

My initial response?  Enthralled and highly impressed.  A little disappointed that the East Anglia percentage was not higher.  I suggest 77% based on my documentary record.  Living DNA gave it 39%.  I still find that a very good result.

However... let's get this into perspective to 23andMe and FT-DNA tests.  Documentary evidence suggests that I am 100% British over the past 300 years.  23andMe said 32%.  FT-DNA said 36%.  Living DNA gets it so much closer at 74%!  That is a whole lot more accurate.

What about the remaining 26% on regional level, where do Living DNA say that comes from? All European.  It suggests 9.7% unassigned European, 9.6% Tuscan (Southern European), 4.6% Scandinavian, and 2% "Germanic".  The Tuscan is interesting, but I'm not convinced yet that it is not ancient and population based.  The Scandinavian is also most likely ancient - in my opinion.

Two things please and impress me about my results on the sub regional level:

1) Based on documentary research, I estimate that 250 years ago, 77% of my ancestors were in East Anglia.  Living DNA indeed, sees it as by far my largest sub regional percentage.  At 39%, a little low, but very impressive.  They correctly identified me as East Anglian.

My next main region, in my Family Tree, I have circa 12% ancestors from "South Central England".  Living DNA saw this, and it is indeed, my second  largest percentage at sub regional level.  I get South Central England with 7.5% - incredible.  The small "South England" would also tied to this line.

Then I get 5.4% South-East England.  It could be over spill from the East Anglia ancestry, but I do have one 3xgreat grandfather Shawers In London, that I do not know the origins of.  I wonder now?

Then it's "Lincolnshire" with 4.8%.  Brilliant!  I had a 3xgreat grandfather from the southern parts of Living DNA's Lincolnshire sub region.  That fills my documentary record almost perfect.  The small "Central England" percentage would also tie to this line.

Then follows a number of low percentages from all over Southern and Eastern England.  They might tell a story, or might not.  Surprisingly Cornwall and Devon show up in low percentages, as does Yorkshire.  Did my Shawers line actually come from one of those regions?  I have seen Shawers in Devon, Cornwall, Shores in Yorkshire, and Shawers in Lancashire.

2) What is excluded can also demonstrate the accuracy of such a test.  No Welsh, Northumbrian, French, Normand, Irish, Scottish, or Iberian ancestry suggested.  Not that I'd have any objection against descent from any of these, or anywhere - but that this test successfully sees that I am NOT descended from these close regions, is to my mind, a great success, and a vast improvement on any past autosomal DNA tests for ancestry by other businesses.  The truth is, that the English are so like these other populations!

On mtDNA they get my haplogroup down to H6a1a.

They have not yet completed my Y-DNA analysis.  I guess L in an English tester might have thrown them a bit.

No other DNA test has ever existed quite like this.  My initial response is - an amazing test.  The future of autosomal testing for Ancestry.

Origins of the British, Irish, and English

Above photo taken by myself of the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

I've modified this from a post that I made on a DNA forum, in response to people discussing out-dated origin stories, in response to a thread looking at ancestral composition for the English.  There is so much misinformation out there, and few people actually try to look at the latest evidences.

It starts by looking at the key points of a recent Irish study.

Cassidy, Martiniano, Murphy etal Study of Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland

http://www.pnas.org/content/113/2/368.full.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/dec/28/origins-of-the-irish-down-to-mass-migration-ancient-dna-confirms

Key points.

  • Ancient DNA from earlier Neolithic farmers suggests an origin from the Near East.

  • Later DNA from Bronze Age suggests a new population had arrived and dominated, with origins from the Eurasian Steppes, including the present day predominance of Y haplogroup R1b, lactose tolerance, and blue eyes. This displacement event appears to have occurred throughout much of Western Europe. The founder population on the Steppes has been linked to the archaeological population known as the Yamna or Yamnaya.

A background to the Yamna hypothesis to help people understand what the above study supported:

The Yamnaya were a population that existed across the Pontic and Caspian Steppes from what is now Ukraine, to Kazakhistan. They themselves were an admixed population, with ancestry from various different groups of Eurasian hunter-gatherers, and from the ANE (Ancient North Eurasian). They carried a number of successful adaptations, including the use of the wheel, improved selective breeding of horses for both riding and haulage, lactose tolerance, use of horse drawn wheeled carts, and a very successful pastoral based economy revolving around the herding of a number of species of livestock.

They are strongly figured to have carried an Indo-European language into Europe and elsewhere (South and Western Asia). That Indo-European language being the ancestor of the vast majority of modern European languages today. They may have also carried many of the most common haplogroups of modern Europeans, including Y hg R1a, R1b, and some mt hg H types among others.

There is a hypothesis that the earlier peoples of Europe, the Early Neolithic farmers, who had largely descended from early farmers in the Levant / Anatolia, had been suppressed by a number of possible environmental and climatic events. This might have paved the way for such a successful displacement of European populations.

As the descendants of the Yamna swept westwards into Europe during the Copper Age, so they spawned a series of new archaeological cultures including the Corded Ware of Eastern and Central Europe, and the Bell Beaker culture of Western Europe.

The Bell Beaker culture spread from Central Europe to the Western Atlantic Seaboard, and from Portugal up to Scotland. Classic artifacts include archer burials in round barrows, the bell beaker ware pottery, round scrapers, and barbed and tanged arrowheads. It was the dominant culture of Early Bronze Age Europe.

One suggestion is that it spawned the later Iron Age Celtic cultures, including the classic Western Atlantic Seaboard Celtic Culture. This culture may have simply evolved locally and through trade links along that seaboard.

The Irish study above supports the Yamnaya hypothesis. It supports displacement during the Early Bronze Age, and that the present day, fairly homogeneous population of Ireland, largely descends from Copper Age Eurasian Steppe pastoralists.

Okay, so what if we apply that also to the late prehistoric British populations? Scottish and West British today appear to have a close genetic distance to the Irish. How about the lowland SE British? It might be the case, that they had fresh admixture, exchanged with the Continent, and particularly with the expanding Germanic cultures. These events could have occurred even during late prehistory.

Now People of the British Isles (POBI) Study 2015:

http://www.peopleofthebritishisles.org/nl6.pdf

This genetic study looked at the British Isles including Northern Ireland, but excluding the Republic of Ireland. It tested a large sample group of present day British with known local ancestry.

Key points.

  • Orkney had the most distinctive population, with a known high percentage of Norse ancestry.

  • The Welsh were distinct from the English. However, they were the most diverse group, with a clear division between the North Welsh and South Welsh. Cornwall was also distinctive from English.

  • Northern Ireland clusters with Scottish.

  • There was no homogeneous shared British “Celtic” population. The Scottish, North Welsh, South Welsh, and Cornish being quite distinct from each other.

  • The South-East British (most of the English) were surprisingly homogeneous, although the boundaries of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms could still be distinguished.

  • The Continental Anglo-Saxon contributiion to present day English people appeared to be circa 10% to 40%. This contradicts Bede's claims of a genocide. The English descend more from earlier British populations than they do from Anglo-Saxon immigrants.

  • Although the Norwegian Viking contribution to Orkney was distinctive, the Danish contribution to Eastern England could not be detected. This may be because of the close genetic distance between Danish Viking and some earlier Anglo Saxon settlers makes it impossible to see.

  • Although there was no “Celtic Fringe”, the Welsh appear to be closest to the late prehistoric British population.

  • Any Iberian contribution appears to be tiny and insignificant.

  • There appeared to be a contribution in Southern Britain, particularly in Cornwall, from a population shared today by the North French. This contribution appears to have occurred during late prehistory and is historically unknown.

Okay, so that is suggesting a diversity across the British Isles that extends into Prehistory. A key finding to this thread is that it found the English to be an admixed population, with earlier British ancestry dominating Anglo Saxon ancestry from the Continent.

Finally, I think it is worthwhile bringing up another recent study:

Iron Age and Anglo Saxon Genomes from Eastern England. Schiffels, Haak, etal. 2015.

This qualitative study focused on ancient DNA from a number of Iron Age and Anglo Saxon cemeteries in the Cambridge area of SE England, referenced against modern populations.

Key points.

  • The East English derive 38% of their ancestry from Anglo-Saxon immigrants

  • The closest genetic distances on the Continent between the Anglo Saxon settlers and present day Europeans was to the Dutch and Danish.

  • They found evidence of admixture and intermarrying. Individuals with both Iron Age British, and Anglo Saxon ancestry.

  • People of Iron Age British ancestry were adopting and embracing Anglo-Saxon culture and grave goods.

  • The richest graves were of local Iron Age British ancestry (with Anglo Saxon cultural artifacts). The poorest graves were recent Anglo-Saxon arrivals.

My conclusion:

  • We have to be careful about who we regard as the Celts. A Celtic culture did exist, but it wasn’t necessarily brought to the British Isles and Ireland by an Iron Age people. It may have developed on the Western Atlantic Seaboard from earlier Bronze Age peoples.

  • Those Bronze Age peoples, predominantly descended, from Eurasian Steppe Pastoralists, that had swept across Europe, bringing innovations. They are the oldest peoples of Ireland and the British Isles, but they did not form a homogeneous Celtic Fringe. There must be more to it.

  • The Anglo-Saxon event in SE Britain was a major and significant migration. However, it was not the genocide of Bede's claims. Hengist and Horsa were clearly mythological origin characters akin to Romulus and Remus.

  • The modern day English are an admixed population. They have a foot both in earlier British ancestry, and in Anglo-Saxon / North Sea migration.