The Roman Contribution

I took the above photo of a Roman tombstone at Colchester.  It's the image of a Roman cavalry officer, ruling over a defeated Briton.  It had apparently been damaged during the following Boadiccan Rebellion.  No doubt the Iceni-led rebels against Roman authority would have found this image a tad humiliating.  The point that I want to make here though, is that the cavalry soldier that this tombstone commemorates, may have been Roman, may have died in South-East Britain, but actually hailed from what is now Bulgaria!

The archaeological and historical evidence suggests that as a foreigner in Roman Britain, he was far from alone.  There are a number of similar stories, that suggest that Roman Britain was visited by many other people from across the empire -  not only people from what is now Italy and Bulgaria, but also from what is now the Netherlands, France, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Germany, Spain, Tunisia, Algeria and Iraq.  Visitors appear to have included not just military, but merchants, specialists, politicians - they all occasionally stare out at us from the archaeology and histories of Roman Britain.

We know that they were here.

Previous anthropological investigations at Trentholme Drive, in Roman York identified an unusual amount of cranial variation amongst the inhabitants, with some individuals suggested as having originated from the Middle East or North Africa. The current study investigates the validity of this assessment using modern anthropological methods to assess cranial variation in two groups: The Railway and Trentholme Drive. Strontium and oxygen isotope evidence derived from the dentition of 43 of these individuals was combined with the craniometric data to provide information on possible levels of migration and the range of homelands that may be represented. The results of the craniometric analysis indicated that the majority of the York population had European origins, but that 11% of the Trentholme Drive and 12% of The Railway study samples were likely of African decent. Oxygen analysis identified four incomers, three from areas warmer than the UK and one from a cooler or more continental climate. Although based on a relatively small sample of the overall population at York, this multidisciplinary approach made it possible to identify incomers, both men and women, from across the Empire. Evidence for possible second generation migrants was also suggested. The results confirm the presence of a heterogeneous population resident in York and highlight the diversity, rather than the uniformity, of the population in Roman Britain.

Leach, Lewis, Chenery etal 2009

I could have alternatively used more historical evidence of individuals - the General from Tunisia, the Syrian in Northern Britain, with a Southern British born wife, the York woman that appears to have had mixed African ancestry, etc, the recurrent Greek names, the Syrians, Algerians and Iraqis that patrolled Hadrians Wall.  As Charlotte Higgens stated in Under Another Sky, Journeys in Roman Britain 2013:  

"In Roman Britain, you do not have to look far to find traces of people sprung from every corner of the empire.  Because of the Roman's insatiable desire to memoralise their lives and deaths, they left their mark.  Some fell in love, had children, stayed.  Many no doubt to, were brief visitors, posted to Britannia and then off to the next job, in Tunisia, perhaps, or Hungary, or Spain.  In the Yorkshire Museum is an inscription made by a man called Nicomedes, an imperial freedman and probably Greek, to go by the name.  He placed an altar to the tutelary spirit of the provenance - 'Britanniae sanctae', sacred Britannia.  Also in York, a man called Demetrius erected two inscriptions in his native Greek - one to Oceanus and Tethys, the old Titan spirits of the sea; the other to the gods that presided over the governer's headquarters.  The Roman empire was multicultural in the sense that it absorbed people of multiple ethnicities, geographical origins and religions.  But Roman-ness - becoming Roman, living as a Roman - also involved particular and distinctive habits, architecture, food, ways of thinking, language, things that Romans held in common whether they were living in York or in Gaza.".

South east Britain was a part of the Roman empire for no less than 370 years, and was strongly influenced by it both before and after that membership.  That represents quite a few generations, maybe around 12 to 18 generations.  So in AD 410, as locals in Britannia fretted about their Brexit, Germanic immigration, and were petitioning Rome to send the troops back, some of their pretty distant ancestors, had witnessed the arrival of Rome with the Claudian Invasion.  That's a long time for contact and admixture to drip feed.

Did this long membership of the empire leave a genetic signature in Britain?  The current consensus is no!  We have not yet found anything in the British admixture, that can be ascribed to Roman Britain.  Not on an autosomal DNA level.  The given explanation is that the Romano-British admixture experience was so cosmopolitan, and diverse, that no one contributing population managed to leave a lasting signature.  Each case was apt to be washed away by the phenomena of genetic recombination.  It hasn't left a background admix in modern South-East British populations that has yet been detected and recognised.

However, enthusiasts that test their DNA haplogroups do often find results that are not easily explained by conventional British population history.  Odd haplogroups turn up.  My own Y-DNA, L-SK1414, with a Western Asian origin, is just one example.  Perhaps some of these rogue haplogroups in Britain, are a smoking gun of Roman Imperial experience. 

The site of Venta Icenorum here in Norfolk.

The Iceni, their land, their people - Iron Age Britain

Britishmuseumsnettishamgreattorc See page for author [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

As I've recently walked the Boudicca Way, the Late Iron Age people that inhabited Northern East Anglia during the 1st century BC have been on my mind.  Subsequently, I've made a little personal investigation, which included studying from several books on the matter.

The Iceni is the name that Roman writers gave a tribe, or maybe tribal federation, that inhabited Norfolk, and at times, north west Suffolk, and north east Cambridgeshire.  I say the Romans gave it to them, Caesar, writing in 54 BC, may have described them, when he referred to a tribe north of the Thames as the Cenimagni.  Then their own coins started to use the name ECE or ECEN.  During following centuries, Roman historians were addressing them, and the Roman civitas where they lived, as the Iceni.

Who were they?  These Late Iron Age people of Norfolk?  Where did they come from?  Economically they were agrarian farmers, cultivating small fields of wheat and barley.  Sheep may have been important to their economy as well.  The Later Iron Age peoples of Eastern England, and certainly those that became known as the Iceni, appear from the archaeology to have lived in small unenclosed farmsteads, with no ring ditches, or archaeologically visible defenses.  This marks the Later Iron Age peoples of this regions as being different from other British regions, that featured more rigorously defended farmsteads, villages, or classic hill fort settlements.

Where the South Eastern farmsteads do correlate with a wider British picture, is that the farmsteads consisted of a small number of large round-houses.  These round-houses were well built for British weather.  A strong, high thatched roof that smoke could vent through.  Posts around the circumference supporting dried mud and dung plastered wicker walls.  Then quite often, a small porch over the door, which usually faced south-east.  So often, that it is thought that it must have been a strong religious taboo for a round-house door to face anything but the rising Sun.

Flag Ben Iron Age Roundhouse

Small numbers of round-houses in a farmstead could suggest that they lived in small, but extended family groups.  It is possible that the Eastern style Later Iron Age farmsteads did have defenses, that do not leave an archaeological trace, however, otherwise, they looked like small 'open' settlements.  An additional feature that turns up on Norfolk sites are strange four-post features.  It has been suggested that they could represent raised granary houses.

Horse symbols appear almost universally on the reverse of Iceni coins, and a large number of terrets, bits, and horse harness fittings associated with the Late iron Age, have been found by metal detectorists across Norfolk.  Horses, horsemanship, and charioteering, appear to have been important to the Iceni.  The harness fittings, as with a minority of local brooches, were sometimes artistically styled in the La Tène tradition.


Where did they live?  An early focus, and a continued power base may have been Western Norfolk, close to the Fen Edge, from the Brecks of north west Suffolk, and south west Norfolk, up along the Fen edge to north west Norfolk.  There are five rounded earthworks in Norfolk, dated to the Iron Age.  Four are in north west Norfolk, near to the Wash and north Norfolk coast.  the other one is located at Thetford in the Brecks.  Another, Stonea Camp, is located further to the west, on an area of dryland in the Fens itself.  These six large, prominent rounded bank and ditch defensive systems are often referred to as "Iron Age hill forts", although they differ to the classic hillforts of Southern England in style, artefact deposit, and certainly in terrain - they are not on hills.  There may have been further enclosures of this class in Norfolk, that have been lost.


The ramparts of Thetford Castle Hill - refortified during the Medieval.


Warham Camp, in north Norfolk.

The soils of West Norfolk and the Brecks are light - the Brecks excessively drained, but these light soils may have suited  the needs of Earlier Iron Age farmers, more so than the heavy soils to the east, on the East Anglian boulder-clay plateau.  However, both coin evidence, and other metal detector finds, suggest a possible major expansion during the Late Iron Age, onto all soils and facets of Norfolk, even onto those heavy clay soils of the interior.  None-the-less, we continue to see some sort of importance held in West Norfolk, and north-west Suffolk.  Late Iron Age hoards concentrate there, particularly the spetacular Snettisham hoards in north-west Norfolk.


I described the local "lowland" hill forts as rounded enclosures, making the assumption that they were defensive structures.  During the Mid Iron Age onwards, a new style of enclosure emerged in the region.  Shallower dug, and square or rectanglar series of ditches.  The classic was discovered by aerial reconnaisance, then excavated at Fison Way, Thetford, where the 1970s media named it "Boadicea's Palace".  A square multiple ditch enclusure, with buildings at it's centre, one with posts so grand that it has been suggested that it could have been multi-level.  Radio carbon dating suggests that the buildings were burnt down, and ditches filled in, shortly after the historical Boadiccan Rebellion.  However, aerial reconnaisance has suggested a number of these square or rectangular enclosures scattered across the region.  Including one at Barnham, Suffolk, on the opposing side of the Little Ouse valley to Fison Way.  Test digs suggest a Mid Iron Age date.  Perhaps it was replaced by Fison Way?  The Iceni square enclosures have been compared to a number in France and Germany, often called Viereckshanzen, where it is assumed that they had a cult, or ritual purpose.


I mentioned 'tribal federation'.  A number of local archaeologists during the 1980s to 1990s, that particularly saw the Iceni as a sedentary people, with a culture that adapted locally - argued that there was evidence that Cenimagni (Greater Iceni), and another Roman reference, infered that the Iceni may have pulled together from smaller groups in the area, in response to Roman, and Romo-Gallic contact.

As for who were the Iceni, my personal feeling, is that they were largely the local population, that had descended from earlier Iron Age, and Later Bronze Age peoples of Northern East Anglia, and south east Britain.  Recent population genetic studies such as The Beaker Phenomenon And The Genomic Transformation Of Northwest Europe by Olde, Haak, Reich etal, propose an almost complete replacement of the British Neolithic population during the Later Neolithic, by a people that we identify archaeologically with the Bell Beaker Culture.  There is support both genetically, and archaeologically, that the practioners of the British form of Bell Beaker Culture, migrated there from the Lower Rhineland area of the Continent.  No genetic survey yet, has found significant later migration into late prehistoric Britain, nor in the Romano-British period, following this population replacement event.  The majority of Irish and British Y-DNA haplogroups, particularly in areas of Britain, further away from later Anglo-Saxon, and Danish immigration, appear to have originated in Britain with Bell Beaker.

However, do I think that there was any Iron Age "Celtic" migration to south east Britain?  Yes, my suspicions is that there would have continued to have been some migrations and exchanges with the nearby European Continent  during the Later Bronze Age and the Iron Age.  There may well have been some migration of groups for example, from what we now call north-east France, to some areas of Britain, that admixed with locals.  If you wish, call it La Tène.  Howabout the "Belgic migration as described by Caesar.  No, the Iceni was outside of the direct influence of Rome, Gaul and the Belgae.  Their artefacts were native, their pottery not Belgic.  There is nothing Belgic about the Iceni.

This brings me to the Schiffels, Haak, etal study 2016:

https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10408

The Hinxton Rings Iron Age cemetery is unusual. It doesn't really follow funerary conventions in Eastern England, so it is possible, that it's DNA isn't completely representative of all Iron Age populations in SE England. It's an unusual site. Delineated inhumations from the 1st century BC, surrounded by an large ring ditch. The Iron Age samples from Hinxton (including one from nearby Linton) consisted of four females, and two males. Male 1. Y-DNA was was R1b1a2a1a2c1 with CTS241/DF13/S521+ according to Jean Manco's excellent Ancient DNA reference web pages, while Male 2 was R1b1a2a1a2c with L21/M529/S145+, S461/Z290+. That's all that we have for Iron Age Y-DNA in England.

The POBI (Peopling of the British Isles) Study 2015, mentioned something else on Page 5. "A subsequent migration, best captured by FRA17 (France), contributed a substantial amount of ancestry to the UK outside Wales. Although we cannot formally exclude this being part of the Saxon migration, this seems unlikely (see Methods) and instead it might represent movement of people taking place between the early migrations and those known from historical records.". Garrett Hellenthal, on the Youtube presentation said that there was a pattern found both in England, and Scotland, that relates to France, but appears to predate the Anglo-Saxon:


36 minutes 20 seconds.

What else can I conclude from my venture into Iceni lands?

References and quotes

East Anglia: R. Rainbird Clarke. 1960. S.R Publishers Ltd.  "Rainbird" was a local Norfolk "old school" archaeologist, and his theories followed the older invasion hypotheses that are now coming back into fashion in population genetics circles. Chapter VI "The Iron Age" starts like this: "In the last chapter we have noted that raiders, based in Belgium, harassed the East Coast during the sixth century B.C. About 500 B.C., peasant farmers, driven by the mounting pressure of migrating tribes, came to East Anglia from southern Holland, and central and eastern Belgium. These displaced persons brought with them a knowledge of iron, the use of which had been general in central Europe for three centuries. The arrival in England of these new Iron Age A people opened the first phase of the Iron Age, which lasted till c. 300 B.C.".

"the presence of Iron Age A immigrants is chiefly indicated by their domestic pottery, mainly jars and bowls of both coarse and fine fabric, which are found on the earliest sites.".

"Variations in pottery form and decoration establish that this invasion was a gradual infiltration of family groups or small clans. Sometimes they settled down peaceably alongside Bronze Age farmers, as at Snettisham, Norfolk; other settlers selected sites some distances from any known Late Bronze Age farms, as at West Harling, where the plan of the round-houses indicates the peaceful absorption of native architectural ideas.

"The invaders from the Low Countries who settled in Breckland are clearly related to communities round the Fenland basin in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, though the Fenland itself was uninhabitable owing to a minor rise in sea level. The settlers in the Ipswich region, related to those in the Colchester Loam area and in the Lower Thames area, came from other parts of the Low Countries.

I think that it's fair to compare Rainbird's idea of an "Iron Age A" people, with Continental Hallstatt Celtic Culture.

"The peaceful development of this pleasant society of the Iron Age A culture, engaged in tilling small plots, pasturing sheep, oxen, and horses, was rudely shattered in the middle of the third century B.C. by the arrival of aristocratic warriors and their retainers, hailing from the Marne region of France, who introduced to eastern Britain the first of our Iron Age B cultures. These people, known to archaeologists as Marnians, raided East Anglia probably along rivers leading inland from the Wash, or overland from the Thames estuary.".

Substitute Rainbird's "Iron Age B" for La Tène Celtic Culture. He goes on to suggest, or rather, to state: "The success of the Marnians was due to their military prowess and to the superiority of their equipment, for they introduced chariot warfare to Britain, as devastating an innovation as that of the tank in modern times.".

Rainbird then sees a third "invasion". "The Belgae were a powerful confederation of tribes of Germanic origin, though their language was Celtic; they came from eastern France and Belgium, chiefly south of the Ardennes. Alone among the tribes of Gaul they were able to repel the assaults of the Cimbri and Teutones in 110 B.C., but the insecurity of this invasion may have influenced many of them to cross the Channel about ten years later and settle in south-east England, thus introducing our Iron Age C culture..".

"We have noted, during Phase II, the arrival of the Marnian warriors who established themselves as a ruling class over the Iron Age A peasantry and minor chiefs of the Cambridge region, Breckland, and west Norfolk, while the inhabitants of south-east Suffolk remained immune from their influence. The cultural distinctions between these two areas, separated by the afforested belt of High Suffolk, are reflected by Caesar. In 54 B.C. he mentions the Trinovantes whose tribal area probably included the Ipswich and Colchester regions, while the 'Cenimagni' who sent envoys to Caesar with their submission, are probably identified with the Iceni, whose sway extended over Norfolk and north -west Suffolk. The beginning of this tribal system is uncertain and may go back to the initial Iron Age A occupation, reflecting the diverse origins of the settlers in the two regions. The independant cultural development of the Breckland and Ipswich regions has been shown in earlier chapters to be a distinctive feature of East Anglian pre-history - it survives today as two county councils for Suffolk. Though the Trinovantes were one of the most powerful tribes in the south-east of England during the mid-first century B.C., they were obviously being harassed by their Belgic neighbours of Hertfordshire, since Caesar records the arrival of a Trinovantian king as a refugee from the attacks of Cassivellaunus, king of the Catuvallauni.".

So there you have it. Plain as A, B, C. Such a different interpretation of the archaeology to the views of archaeologists from the 1970s on. Later archaeologists avoid all mention of invasion or occupation. They only see continuity. They avoid comparing finds in East Anglia, with those found on the Continent, under the "pots are not people" warning. Rainbird saw it very different. Warrior elites from Marne. A lot of romantic assumptions and even certainty, although read between the lines, he does see admixture, and some continuity for the "peasants".

Iron Age Communities in Britain. Barry Cunliffe. 1975. Book Club Associates.  I'll go straight to Chapter 11: "The Settlement Pattern and Economy of the South and East".

"To the Roman military mind the south-east was clearly the part to become a province, for grain was an immensely valuable commodity, and arable farmers, because of their dependence upon the seasons, were sedentary and thus easier to control.". Cunliffe goes on to describe the types of Iron Age settlement found in South-East Britain. There is a general agreement that the archaeology of Iron age Britain is very regionalised in style. The South-East for example, being very different in it's nature to that of the North or West. Generally speaking, Iron Age settlements in what is now East Anglia, typically consisted of a farmstead or small village - a cluster of round houses, that is not surrounded by any earthwork or defensive system. They were open. No souterrain or other features. This is in contrast to settlements elsewhere in Iron Age Britain. However Cunliffe does illustrate the plan of one site at West Harling in Norfolk, that contradicts this pattern, a single domestic round house, surrounded by a circular ditch with two wide causeways and an internal bank. 

The Norfolk Landscape. David Dymond. 1985. Alastair Press. A local landscape history. Doesn't really focus much on the Iron Age in Norfolk, except to discuss Iron Age agricultural evidence. Pollen analysis suggests significant deforestation in Norfolk during the Early Iron Age. He discusses the evidence of surviving coaxial field boundaries in parts of Norfolk, that appear to underlay known Roman road systems that cut across the pattern. "By the early first century AD., all the various ethnic and cultural groups which existed in northern East Anglia had fused to form a tribe and kingdom known as the Iceni. Derek Allen attempted to reconstruct their fluctuating boundaries and internal organisation: for example, he suggested that the political centre of the kingdom was originally the Breckland of Norfolk and Suffolk. However, shortly before the Roman conquest of A.D. 43, Belgic immigrants from the south may have pushed the boundary back to the line of the Little Ouse-Waveney valley. The Iron Age fort, which Rainbird Clarke confirmed under the Norman castle at Thetford, deliberately commanded the Icknield Way as it crossed the Little Ouse, and it's secondary refurbishing may be connected with this phase of political contraction. The southern boundary of what later became Norfolk (or a part of it) may therefore go back to the political and military frontier of the late Iron Age.".

The Origins of Norfolk. Tom Williamson. 1993. Manchester University Press. Professor Tom Williamson is a leading landscape historian, based from the local University of East Anglia. His approach focuses on landscape history methods.

I'll start with the Iron age chapters. Evidence of unprecedented deforestation during the Iron Age. A number of coaxial "Celtic field", boundaries dated to late prehistory, have been proposed across parts of Norfolk, cut through by known Roman roads. Williamson goes on to describe the Iron Age "hill forts" of Norfolk - Narborough, South Creake, Holkham, Warham, Thetford, and possibly Tasburgh. Four of which are clustered up in North West Norfolk, by the North Sea coast, the Wash, and the Fens. He suggests place-name evidence of other lost hillforts in Norfolk.

Then he discusses Iceni coinage: "Coinage came rather late to the Iceni, first appearing in their area around 10 BC. The first coins were of gold, copies of Trinovantian and Catuvallaunian types; but silver soon became universal.All the coins carry a horse on the reverse, but the obverse takes three distinct forms: a wild beast (a boar?); a badly drawn head; and a design based on two conjoined, mirror-image crescents.".

After coinage, he goes on to describe the federal hypothesis, popular among local archaeologists: "But, we must be careful not to exaggerate the territorial cohesion, the political centralisation, of the 'Iceni'. They may, in fact, have been a loose group of tribes, rather than a centralised polity. When the Cenomagni surrendered to Caesar in 54 BC, they did so with a number of other tribes, the Segontiaci, the Ancalites, the Bibracti, and the Cassi. These groups are never mentioned by name again in classical sources; but subsequent references to the Iceni show them, once again, acting in association with unnamed allies or neighbours. Thus according to Tacitus, when the Iceni revolted in AD 47 they carried a number of neighbouring tribes with them, while their revolt in AD 60 was supported by the Trinovantes and other unnamed neighbouring tribes. Moreover, the suffix magni, 'greater', appended by Caesar to his rendering of the word 'Iceni' suggests the existence of more than one group bearing this tribal name.".

This is interesting. "This kind of loose political structure seems to have been a feature of other areas of late Iron Age Britain. Caesar himself made a distinction between those regions nearest the Channel - comparatively civilised and settled (he believed) by recent immigrants from the Continent; and the more socially and economically primitive areas of the interior. In archaeological terms, a similar distinction is apparent, between the south-east of the country - which was actively involved in contact and exchange with Gaul and the Roman Empire - and the areas further to the north and west, which were marginal to or excluded from such contacts (Darvill 1987: 166-80; Haselgrove 1982). It was in the former region, in the Home Counties, northern Northamptonshire, and Essex that coinage was first used, and that the so-called oppida were developing in the late first century BC: large, sprawling, semi-urban agglomerations of settlement, usually defended by long stretches of linear earthwork. It is in this area too, that foreign imports, especially amphorae which once contained wine, are most frequently discovered in graves or in settlements of late Iron Age date. Here the tribal groups who are named by Roman writers, or who gave their names to the administrative subdivisions of the Roman province of Britannia, were comparatively small and centralised polities. Their elites had grown wealthy and powerful through contacts with, and control of the exchange of luxury items with, the Roman world. Outside this core zone were less civilised, less centralised tribal federations. The line between these two broad zones runs through the middle of East Anglia. The Trinovantes belonged firmly to the 'core zone' of the south-east; they were a comparatively centralised polity with a great oppidaCamulodunum, at Colchester (Dunnett 1975: 18-27). The Iceni, in contrast, lay outside the main sphere of economic exchange; they had no true oppida, and no imported amphorae or other foreign luxuries.".

Williamson goes on to explain, that the Iceni were not however poor, with an abundance of precious metals, including an abundant use of torcs. He then goes on, as in repeated above in "The Land of Boudica. Prehistoric and Roman Norfolk. John Davies 2009", to mention a paper in 1970, that suggested that the three common obverses of Iceni coins, reflected three sub-tribes. The boar-obverse being most common in the Norwich area, the face obverse in North West Norfolk, and the pattern obverse most common in South West Norfolk / North West Suffolk.

The Boudican Revolt against Rome. Paul R Sealey. 1997 Shire Publications.  This small book focuses on the Iceni revolt against Rome of AD 60. Once again, the author emphasises how different that the Iceni were in comparison to their more Belgic and Romanised neighbours, the Trinovantes, to the south. "One major area of difference in the archaeology of the two nations was their pottery. The Trinovantes used wheel-thrown pottery called Belgic; among the Iceni more traditional hand-made wares remained in use right up to the time of the Boudican revolt. In both regions the forms of the vessels are also distinct, although on some Icenian settlements there is a gradual adoption of Belgic pottery in the fifty years or so before AD 60. These developments are illustrated by the pottery from the Icenian farmstead at West Stow, Suffolk. The Trinovantes and Catuvellauni had important trade links with the Roman world in the century before AD 43. Icenian participation in this exchange was negligible. The tribe apparently denied access to Roman merchants in the late iron age, a policy also followed by some tribes in Gaul and Germany who believed that wine and other imports with the Roman world undermined traditional values.

The author discusses the hypothesis that the three obverses on Iceni coins represented three sub-tribes, but dismisses it "but no geographical clusters that would support this are now apparent. Sealey then discusses the first Iceni revolt, of AD 47, believed to be at Stonea Camp, the furthest west "hill fort" (I've been there, it's in the Fens and other than the earthworks, the area is flat as a pancake) credited to the Iceni. I remember on my visit there, information boards explained that there was archaeological evidence of the Roman attack on the hill fort, in the form of human remains and Roman artillery missiles.

Land of the Iceni. The Iron Age in Northern East Anglia. Edited by John Davies and Tom Williamson (eds), etal. Centre of East Anglian Studies. 1999.  

John Davies was curator for Norfolk Museum Services. I'd say that he has spent many years as a local professional archaeologist. Tom Williamson is a UEA (University of East Anglia) lecturer in Landscape Archaeology. Different background and perspective, but still local based.

The book starts out by discussing and accrediting the work of field walkers. This might seem a strange methodology to forum members. I was a field-walker with several years experience, before I decided to start living more. I prefer the description "surface collection survey". It involves simply walking ploughed or otherwise disturbed top soils, and recording / plotting any archaeological evidence (artifacts) that you spot looking down at the ground. It's far less evasive and more quantitative than excavation. It complements other landscape history methods such as old map study, place name study, or metal detection survey. Did I find much Iron Age? No. I found some sherds of pottery that appear most likely Iron Age here and there, but most prehistoric ceramic is very frail in top soils. I found lots of very roughly knapped flint, and burnt flints - some of which could be Iron Age, or alternatively, a little earlier. The idea of Bell Beaker folk arriving some 1,600 years earlier, and totally replacing all stone tools with beautiful bronze is absolutely incorrect. Sorry R1 guys.   " (sic) ... by classical writers like Caesar, Tacitus, Cassius Dio and Strabo. Our view of Iron Age society is still considerably coloured by these writers, who presenta picture of a Britain populated by warlike tribal states dominated by warrior nobilities. Popular images of Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, leading her army against the Roman invaders, have done much to fuel this conventional view.".

"Archaeology is currently showing that the communities living in the various regions of Iron Age Britain had, in fact, limited contacts beyond their immediate localities. It is becoming clear that communities living in the various regions of Britain were neither unified nor uniform". "Of the tribes named by Caesar at the time of his British expeditions of 55 and 54 BC, only the Trinovantes and Atrebates are referred to just a century later.".

Davies goes on to explain that a lot of archaeology has been discovered since Rainbird Clarke's time, through a range of methods from excavation, through field walking, to metal detection. He points out that for territorial limits, we've looked too much at those suggested by Roman writers, and by coinage, that largely reflect the early Roman period. He suggests earlier territorial boundaries could have been wider, before Roman influence or campaigns. He then goes on to attack the traditional neat packaging of late Iron Age Britain into centralised tribal kingdoms as presented by Roman writers. 

"Torcs are a form of hoop shaped jewelry associated with Late Iron Age people, apparently used as neck ornaments. The name, which derives from Latin, actually describes one of the more common varieties, which is formed from twisted strands of metal. These rings were visually impressive: the Classical writer Dio describes Queen Boudica wearing 'a large golden torc and a voluminous patterned cloak with a thick plaid fastened over it'. Torcs are frequently found on the Continent but they are seldom recovered from such contexts in Britain.".

Davies goes on to map the distribution of recovered torcs in Norfolk. They are concentrated in the west of the county, in the north west near to the Wash, and alongside the Fen edge. He then goes on to describe a more common metal find - chariot and horse fittings. These are more widespread across Norfolk. There appeared to be an importance on horses, horsemanship, and chariot driving among the late Iron Age Iceni.

"More sites are known from the Middle Iron Age. Settlement still appears to appears to have been dense across west Norfolk, but sites now appear further to the east, away from the Fen-edge, although still avoiding the heavier soils. Indeed, the only certain example of a clayland site of this period is that recently excavated at Park Farm, Wymondham, and this seems to date to rather late in the middle Iron Age (Ashwin 1996)."

"The Late Iron Age saw increased population growth and this is reflected in the greater number of known settlements. Some of the earlier sites remained in use, while many new ones appeared. Sites now spread onto the heavier boulder-clay soils of central and southern Norfolk, and onto the high interfluves, resulting in a more even spread of settlement across the county."

"The model proposed is one of settlement expansion over time, with people moving across the landscape, from west to east, and eventually into the more remote and less hospitable interior regions. It appears that the Early Iron Age landscape was a fairly empty one: people preferred to live on the lighter and better drained soils. The Middle Iron Age saw an expansion of settlement. People were moving onto, and exploiting the resources, of the claylands, but there is of yet no evidence for occupation here. During the Late Iron Age, however, settlements began to appear right across the claylands, and eventually covered the whole county (Davies 1996). The overall picture is one of a predominantly agrarian society whose members lived in open settlements, engaging in a successful farming regime able to produce a significant surplus.".

Next, the book looks at artifact evidence, starting with metal objects. The local government archaeology unit, has had a long history of working alongside metal detector enthusiasts, in order to encourage the voluntary submission of finds to be examined and added to the public record. Finds of torcs are considered. "In Norfolk they have been found at twelve locations, their distribution displaying a western, and essentially north-western, bias. Snettisham appears to have had a focal role in their distribution: a number of hoards were discovered in this parish between 1948 and 1990 (stead 1991).".

"Some of the most common Late Iron Age artefacts are various forms of chariot and horse harness fittings. In particular, D-shaped bronze rein-rings, called terrets, have been discovered at a number of locations in Norfolk. Each chariot was fitted with a set of five terrets. Four, of similar size, were strapped to the yoke and a fifth, the largest of the set, was fixed to the central pole."

"They have been recovered from locations scattered right across Norfolk, with a major concentration - comprising around a third of the total number known - coming from Saham Toney and its immediate vicinity in central Norfolk.

Davies then goes on to look at the evidence of Iceni coins. The evidence of coin obverses representing different sub tribes is reassessed in light of so many more Iceni coins on the record, from submissions made by metal detectorists. 65 Icenni types are now recognised. Some 500 "stray" (not in a hoard) coins so far recorded at time of publication. The earliest date to circa 65 BC.

There are patterns to where the different coin obverses are scattered, but it's complex. Gold coins were slightly concentrated in the north west but almost not at all in the South west (Breckland). Silver coins, 'Bury' types found in the south, 'Boar-horses' in the south, Face-horses all over except the north west. That gold coins tend to be a little earlier, made up to 40 BC, and silver later, could indicate that the power base was moving out of NW Norfolk, across the region. What does Davies have to say about it?

"The evidence outlined above appears to indicate diverse behaviour by some groups occupying different regions of Norfolk for the whole of the Iron Age. Yet more order and coherence emerges when a tighter chronological framework is applied. In the Early Iron Age, occupation seems to have been concentrated in the Breckland and Fen-edge of south-west Norfolk. By the 1st century BC, Snettisham in the north west, had become a focus of artefact deposition: the Snettisham torcs have been dated to the first half of the 1st century BC (Stead 1991). The gold coin hoards from north-west Norfolk, in contrast, date from the middle of the 1st century BC. The absence of gold coins, and the presence of later silver coin hoards and artefacts, at the Breckland sites of Thetford and Saham Toney/Ashill suggest that this area became prominent some what later, perhaps replacing Snettisham as a major tribal centre during the later 1st century BC. The prominence of 'Pattern-Horse' coins at Caister St Edmund, and the lower percentages of 'Face-Horse' and 'Boar-Horse' varieties recovered from here, suggests that this site came to prominence later still, during the 1st century AD.".

The book also explores the Iron Age enclosures of Norfolk. Tasburgh has been dismissed as Iron Age, dating much later to Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Danish. That leaves the four "hill forts" of North west and Western Norfolk, close to the Wash, and Thetford, down in south-west Norfolk (Breckland). However, there is another type of enclosure in Norfolk, dated to the Iron Age. These usually only survive as crop or soil marks. The "hill forts" are rounded or oval. These field marks are square or rectangular! The suggestion is that these shallower rectangular enclosures had very different purposes to the hill fort type enclosures, and may have had ritual uses. They are found in North, West, and South west Norfolk, and north west Suffolk (Breckland). Davies makes a rare association with a Continental class of Iron Age earthwork, known as Viereckshanzen. Possibly belonging to this group is the Fison Way site at Gallows Hill, Thetford. This was a very late, magnificant, multiple ditched square enclosure with central buildings, one of which could have had more than one level. There is evidence that it was purposely destroyed after the Boudican Revolt during the second half of the 1st century AD. Square enclosures on the Continent in the Cologne Basin, Moselle, and in the Champagne regions, were used as burial enclosures. Fison Way could also relate to a rectangular enclosure, found on the opposite ridge of the Little Ouse valley, at Barnham in Suffolk. This has been dated to Middle Iron Age.

Now Oppida Those sprawling Late Iron Age settlement and activity sites most famously represented by the oppida in Essex, close to Colchester. My other, earlier text books have stated that no oppida have been found associated with the Iceni lands. However, largely through coin and artifact survey - several have now been proposed, including at Saham Toney, Thetford, and finally, Caister St Edmund, where the Roman authorities laid down the foundations of the town of Venta Icenorum.

In later chapters by other authors. More settlement has been detected from the Iron Age in Norfolk. Rescue archaeological digs of two Early Bronze Age round barrows that were going to be destroyed by the Norwich Bypass road development, revealed SE facing Iron Age round houses in between them, apparently respecting the earlier mounds in their boundaries. A number of four poster features have been discovered at numerous sites, of unknown use. A favoured suggestion is raised granary buildings. At a rescue dig at the Wymondham bypass road development, a site already recorded through field-walking (Iron Age pottery and burnt flint scatter), revealed a multiple industry site, with pits accredited to softening bones, antler, and horn for processing as raw material, and a lot of flint knapping. The site serves to remind us that flint tools and use did not end with the discovery of metal-working. Something that I was always aware of when I use to survey worked flint scatters in Thetford Forest. In another essay, two parishes were fieldwalked for Iron Age potsherds. The parish in west Norfolk, between the North-West Norfolk and Breckland Iron Age hot spots produced far more clusters indicating settlement, than did the parish, further to the east on the clay soils.

A Gallo-Roman dated shipwreck off the coast of Armorica, France, produced 271 lead ingots. Most were stamped with BRIGANTES, but five were stamped with ICENES or similar. They appeared to be on their way from those Roman civitas in Eastern Britain. That suggests that they were being marketed in Northern East Anglia perhaps for roof tile manufacture, but as the region doesn't have local lead, it suggests middle man trading. "Whatever the case, this may have been a well-established trade route with antecedents in the Iron Age - perhaps some of the silver in Icenian coins came from similar ingots from the Continent or Britain.". Chapter 7. Tasking the Iron Age: the Iceni and Minting. Amanda Chadburn.

The Land of Boudica. Prehistoric and Roman Norfolk. John Davies 2009. Oxbow Books in association with Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service.   "A complex social structure had become established during the Bronze Age. Power had grown through the control of long-distance trade networks which had ensured the provision of the raw materials used to make bronze. Then, as ironworking was adopted, this system fragmented. As the supply and production of metalwork became easier, the basis for the organisation of society changed.

"As the Iron Age progressed, society became organised into chiefdoms and tribes. These groupings fluctuated in size and composition over time and were associated with territories. At the same time we can also detect an increase in warfare, which was to play a significant role in social relations. Fighting seemed to have been common practice within and between tribal societies.".

"Then around 400 BC, the previously close relations with the Continent appear to have lapsed and European artifacts were no longer being brought to Britain. It was at this stage that developed hillforts dominated the landscape in parts of the country. There was also an appreciable growth in the number of settlements and population pressure began to develop on the better agricultural land.

"By the 2nd century BC, increased economic specialisation can clearly be seen in the archaeological record once again. Special items such as glass and beads were made at some places and not others. Salt was produced at coastal sites. Some chalkland sites specialised in different types of cereals. A system of weights was developed and artifacts were produced for exchange. It is at this stage that we have evidence for increasing conflict within society."

Later in the chapter:
"A number of brooches of Middle Iron Age date have been found in Norfolk. Although not common, the La Tène -style forms have been found at Caistor St Edmund, Wicklewood, Gayton, Beachamwell, Hockering, and at Narborough."

The book reports that only 14 Iron Age human remains have been recovered in Norfolk, and suggests that funerary rights such as excarnation must have been employed. Of the 14 remains, 5 are only skulls. This could suggest that these remains that have been found are not typical. The book goes on to describe Norfolk's linear earthworks (usually on a North-South alignment, dividing East and West, with suggestions of a series in alignment dividing West Norfolk from the Fens.) that have been proposed as Iron Age in date, then moves onto Norfolk's six peculiar "lowland" Iron Age hillforts, concentrated on the North West coast of Norfolk near to the Wash, facing what is now the Fens and Lincolnshire.

This is a theme that constantly rises in Norfolk - that the archaeology of Norfolk, East Cambridgeshire, and North Suffolk (the area that roughly correlates to the spread of Iceni coins), is different. There is a saying that "Norfolk do different", and it appears to have been the case during the Iron Age. Different coinage, the highest density of torc finds (even my late father once found one), small roundhouse farmsteads that were unenclosed, open, and this array of river valley "hillforts". The reluctance to use wheel thrown Belgic pottery - clinging onto hand moulded ceramics. I've more than once pointed this out to posters - that it wasn't a blanket Celtic Culture across the British Isles.

"More torcs have been found in East Anglia than in the rest of Britain".

The book then turns to another popular trend in norfolk Archaeology over the past thirty years. That the Late Iron Age area of northern East Anglia, that was to become associated with Iceni coinage, was fragmented, into at least three smaller groupings, each with their own tribal centre of influence marked in archaeology. The suggestion is that the Iceni were a federation of smaller local societies with a common interest. Caesar had referred to a group north of the Thames that he called the Cenimagni. "The name used by Caesar may have been a version of the name, meaning Eceni Magni or the Great Iceni.". "It may be that Caesar's Cenimagni were one of the smaller social groups. These groupings would have come together under a single senior leader at times of stress, coalescing into larger regional entities whose organisation was based on kingship and associated client networks.

"With the external threat from Rome, the loose decentralised communities within northern East Anglia came together as a single larger unit, under a senior chieftain or king. It was at that stage the grouping recognised as the Iceni became identified by Roman writers.".

Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century

I spent too much money today on reading materials.  I was delighted to find a used copy of The Norfolk Broads A landscape history by Tom Williamson 1997 (Manchester University Press).  I had a copy of this excellent landscape history when it was published, but unfortunately lent it out, and never saw it again.  A brilliant book for tying my mother's East Norfolk ancestors to their ancestral landscape.

The April 2017 edition of Current Archaeology magazine has an interesting article on an excavation of an Iron Age site in Fenland, and is celebrating their 50th anniversary of publication.

The real treasure of today's book shop excavation however, was an old booklet published in 1969 by Leicester University Press in their Department of English Local History Occasional Papers.  It is entitled Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century by R.A McKinley.  Flicking through it's pages on the way home, sitting on the bus, I was well, almost mind blown - as some of the conclusions knocked down some of my preconceptions of my Norfolk ancestry and heritage.  An old, yellowing booklet that I've never heard of, found on a shelf in a second hand book shop in Norwich.

The book draws on surnames recorded in the County of Norfolk, during the 16th Century AD.  It uses as it's sources several returns, and rolls particularly a military survey, and subsidy roll from between 1522 and 1525.  I want to share at least some of the key points from two chapters of "Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century": 1) Surnames derived from localities in Norfolk, and 2) Locative surnames originating outside Norfolk.

1) Surnames derived from localities in Norfolk

  • The chapter begins by discussing the problems of using locative surnames in a study.
  • "The two main sources used for this study list 739 persons bearing locative surnames derived from places within Norfolk.  Of these, only 23 were living at the places from which their names were derived.".
  • A table then shows the distances of the persons (still within the County of Norfolk) with these locative surnames from origin.  23 were still at the place of origin, 81 were still within 5 miles of it, 123 were within 6 - 10 miles away, 239 were 11 - 20 miles away, 151 were 21 - 30 miles away, and 122 lived over 30 miles from the locative place of origin.  However, these are the locative surnames that still remain in Norfolk, that appear to have an origin within the County.  Many more would have crossed county boundaries into Suffolk, Lincolnshire, etc.
  • "It seems probable from this evidence, however, that most Norfolk families must have changed their place of residence at least between the period when surnames became hereditary, and the early sixteenth century.".
  • There was no pattern to suggest a large migration from any one part of the County, to another.

2) Locative surnames originating outside Norfolk

  • "In the two main sources, there are 1,260 persons bearing surnames which can be derived with fair certainty from places in England, but outside Norfolk".
  • The author then discusses possible biases, for example, some parts of England appear to have generated more locative surnames than others.  It also suggests that about a third of all English surnames are locative, and proposes a rough approximation, that this could "be about 2,500 persons of outside origin amongst the total of about 18,000 listed in the two main sources, or rather more than 13 per cent".  This suggests quite a few people had been moving from other parts of England, into Norfolk between the 13th and 15th centuries AD.
  • Where were they from?  The two main contributors were the neighbouring counties of Suffolk and Lincolnshire. Some had simply moved from close to the Norfolk county boundary.   
  • Cambridgeshire, another neighbouring county, for some reason contributed far fewer.  The East Midlands was also, surprisingly, not a major contributor of locative surnames in 16th Century Norfolk.  There were no locative surnames from Wales.
  • Here is another surprise, Yorkshire turned our to be a common origin - equally spread through the three ridings.  Each riding of Yorkshire had contributed about 40 persons in Norfolk with locative surnames.  The author does point out that Yorkshire is a big county, and is particularly rich in locative surnames, however: "it is evident that there must have been considerable movement from Yorkshire to Norfolk.  Yorkshire surnames are distributed throughout Norfolk in the early sixteenth century.  They are not particularly concentrated in ports or coastal areas, and indeed, are as widespread in central Norfolk, well away from the sea, as in other parts of the county.".
  • There was also a notable contribution of locative surnames from NW England - Lancashire, Cumbria, and Westmorland.
  • The distribution of these surnames was by no means urban based.  Yamouth and Norwich had lower concentrations than the average.  These migrations look more rural.
  • There were very few surnames of any origin type that could be safely regarded as Welsh.
  • There were very few surnames of any origin type that could be safely regarded as Scottish.
  • The author then moves on to records of other foreign born aliens.  I am aware of the influx of Dutch and Flemish religious refugees, into the City of Norwich during the early 16th Century, however, here I learn something new.
  • "there was certainly a considerable migration of aliens into Norfolk, and foreign immigrants came to reside in many Norfolk villages, not merely in a few ports or large towns.  In 1436, for example, when many aliens took oaths of allegiance, 146 persons who took oath are noted as living in Norfolk.  This was not the whole number of aliens in Norfolk...".  A list in 1440 for example, lists 192 aliens residing in Norfolk at 62 different places.  The author feels that those 15th Century records understate the real percentage of immigrants living in Norfolk at that time.
  • The Continental immigrants did not bring in many new surnames.  Many had no surname listed, or had adopted local surnames.  For example, immigrants listed at Norwich in 1440, included persons by the surnames Rider, Johnson, Forest, Skynner, Couper, Bush, Goldsmyth, and Glasier.  Some surnames marking their nationality did survive in 16th Century Norfolk, such as French, Ducheman, Briton / Brett (Breton) etc.

Brancaster, a North Norfolk village.

In summary, what this book has taught me today:

  1. Many families, despite our ideas of the dying fuedal system, were moving around East Anglia, and even England between the 13th and 16th centuries.
  2. There were relatively few people in 16th century Norfolk, with origins in Scotland, or Wales, and perhaps few from the nearby East Midlands or Cambridgeshire.  However, there was migration down from Northern England, particularly from Yorkshire, but even from NW England.
  3. There were also migrations, from the nearby Continent, and these migrations (and the above Northern English) migrations were not strictly urban.  They reached many villages.

Celebrating my Neolithic Ancestors

Image above, last year, holding an artifact from the Neolithic Tomb of the Sea Eagles in Orkney.

Today in this post, I am celebrating my Neolithic heritage.  Another ancestral genetics enthusiast pointed out that rather than Anglo-Saxon, for a Brit and North West European, I actually had indications of enhanced Neolithic Farmer ancestry on most ancient DNA calculators (more on that below).  I was actually quite pleased to have that pointed out, and this post explains why I love the idea of being a modern Neolithic Man.

I remember being fascinated by the past as quite a young child.  On holidays across the British isles, I craved nothing more than visits to castles.  At home in Norwich, I'd haunt the local museums.  However, a love of the Neolithic took hold during my twenties. First, a fishing and drinking tour of Ireland with my brother, took me to the Newgrange Passage Grave site in the Boyne Valley.  Awesome impact.  Then several years later, I picked up the broken butt end of a Neolithic polished flint axe head on farmland behind my cottage.

The above photo is an image of another broken Neolithic flint axe head that I recorded during a surface collection survey many years later in Thetford Forest.

This eventually pulled me into a phase of looking for more prehistoric flint, which I later formalised into the Thetford Forest Survey.  During that period, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission, Norfolk Archaeology, and Suffolk Archaeology, I recorded thousands of struck flint and ceramic artifacts - many from the Neolithic.

Above image taken at the Castlerigg Stone Circle in Cumbria in 2006.

Any chance that I got, I'd also visit Neolithic sites across the British Isles - and continue to do so, hence last year I had a cycling tour of many late prehistoric sites in Orkney.  Absolutely love the Neolithic.  Even though an atheist, I have to confess that some of these sites give me a special vibe.  I have half-seriously told neo-pagan friends, that If I had to choose some gods, Then maybe they would be those of the Neolithic.  Something about the remote sites.

Above image - sorry for looking so bloody miserable and awful.  Swinside Stone Circle, Cumbria.

Our New Understanding of the Neolithic of Europe

What I really want to write about here though, is how recent population genetics, over the past ten years, is transforming how we see the Western Eurasian Neolithic.  Archaeologists had long pondered, our relationship to the British Neolithic people, and going further back and in turn - their relationship to the earlier Mesolithic hunter-foragers of the British Isles.

What recent research of both ancient and modern DNA has so far revealed is that after the last Ice Age, hunter-foragers moved up to Britain from Southern Europe.  Meanwhile, new cultures and economies were developing in the Middle East of SW Asia.  Across the Fertile Crescent, that ran up the Levant, East Anatolia, eastwards, then down the fertile valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys - people started to settle, domesticate wheat, barley, goats, sheep, cattle and pigs.  They started to farm for the very first time.  This was the Neolithic Revolution.  The first fired ceramics - pottery was added to the recipe, along with polished stone tools.  Eventually these populations also absorbed the very first metallurgy, literacy, and town building - falling into the southern half of those river valleys in Mesopotamia.

Image above - Standing Stone at Stillaig, Argyll, Scotland.

From the Levant and Anatolia, both along the Mediterranean, and direct across the Balkans by land, Neolithic culture and farming technology spread westwards and northwards across Europe.  Population genetics now tells us that this WAS carried by people.  It was not just a transfer of culture and artifacts.  DNA from South-West Asia was strongly carried across Europe.  The Neolithic farmers were a people, with roots in the Near East.

What happened to the old European hunter-foragers?  It seems a mixture of displacement and admixture.  As the Neolithic Revolution rolled across Europe, it did pick up some hunter-gatherer DNA.  However, few of the male haplogroups.  By the time that the First Farmers reached the British Isles, they would have had an ancestry mixed between Near East Asian and European hunters.  Without a doubt, brides and perhaps slaves were taken along that long route from Anatolia to Britain.  This pattern perhaps continued when they reached the Irish and British Isles, and confronted some of the last hunter-gatherer populations of North West Europe.

Image above.  Ring of Brodgar, Orkney.

All of this was fine.  The British Isles were settled by Neolithic peoples around 4,100 BC.  I've seen many of their monuments, studied excavation reports of their archaeological sites, and held many of their flint artifacts.  It was a dominant culture here for two thousand years.  Religious systems may have come and go.  They erected so many monuments here that still survive.  Causewayed enclosures, long barrows, cursuses, henges, monoliths, cairns, standing stone circles, timber circles, mounds, Silsbury Hill - and of course, the internationally renown Stone Henge.  However, we now realise that they carried much DNA from South West Asia!

They must have thought that they, their beliefs, and their social systems would last until the end of time.  We currently think that their populations and farming declined towards the end of their period.  There is a little evidence that they may have been subject to plague from Asia.  This might have weakened them for the next invasion and displacement.

Image above of Skara Brae, Orkney Neolithic settlement.

Image above of Mottistone Longstone, Isle of Wight.

The arrival of the Sons of the Steppes - the Beaker

I'll write more about these guys in a later post.  Around 2,100 BC, a new people and culture turned up in the British Isles.  Whereas the Neolithic peoples had largely originated in SW Asia, south of the Caucasus (with some European hunter-gatherer DNA picked up on the way), these new arrivals largely originated to the NORTH of the Caucasus, on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes.  Their Steppe ancestors perfected the domestication of the horse, bronze metallurgy, and wheeled wagons. The founder Steppe population has been identified by archaeologists as the Yamnaya.  They rolled into Eastern and Central Europe, where their arrival appears to have spawned the Corded Ware Culture.  Their descendants in turn appear to have spawned the Bell Beaker Culture in Western Europe.  In turn, the Bell Beaker appears to have developed into the Atlantic Seaboard Celtic Culture of fame and fashion.

The Eurasian Steppe male haplogroups absolutely dominate present day Europe.  However, again, they appear to have absorbed some women with Neolithic and even earlier Hunter-Gatherer populations into their genome.

The Three Way across Europe

Across modern Europe, we are a mixture of three distinct late prehistoric populations or genetic out-layers - from most recent to oldest:

  1. Yamnaya or Steppe
  2. Neolithic Farmer
  3. Western Eurasian Hunter-Gatherer

The above image is from CARTA lecture. 2016. Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute.  All Rights Reserved.

As can be seen above, some Neolithic DNA has survived in present day Europe.  It is strongest in Southern Europe.  Yamnaya ancestry is more of an influence in Northern Europe, although, old Hunter-Gatherer survives strong in the Baltic Republics.  The modern population closest to our Neolithic ancestors are the Sardinians.  So close, that when Ötzi, a frozen preserved Neolithic body was discovered in the Alps, his DNA was seen as so similar to present day Sardinians, that some incorrectly suggested that he had travelled to the Alps from Sardinia!

A Sardinian family while reading LUnione Sarda 

A Sardinian family.  With a mandolin.  Therefore perfect for here! By Roburq (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

My Neolithic Admixture

David Wesolowski's K7 Basal-rich test

Basal-rich

The Basal Eurasians are a hypothetical "ghost" population derived from DNA studies.  It is suggested that they splintered from other modern humans 45,000 years ago, presumably outside of Africa, somewhere around the Middle East.  They significantly contributed DNA to the Early Neolithic Farmers of the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia, and consequently, on to all of us modern West Eurasians.  

 David gives the English average as 26.5%.  My result is 28.8%

Global 10 Test

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

  • 55% Baalberge_MN (European Middle Neolithic)

FT-DNA My Ancient Origins

  • 47% Farmer (Neolithic)

My Eurasia K9 ASI Oracle:

  • 27% Early Neolithic Farmer

My Gedrosia K15 Oracle:

  • 25% Early European Farmer

My MDLP K16 Modern Admixture

  • 31% Neolithic (modeled on genomes of first neolithic farmers of Anatolia)

My MDLP Modern K11 Oracle:

Admix Results (sorted):


# Population Percent
1 Neolithic 37.33


Image above.  Grimes Graves Late Neolithic flint mine complex, Norfolk

My Neolithic ancestry appears to be strong, for a Brit.  However - my Neolithic ancestors may not have all - or even at all, have lived in the British Isles.  My Neolithic ancestry may have been picked up along the way, across Europe, by ancestors as they travelled across Western Eurasia.

What did I learn about my genetics in 2016?

  1. I learned that there was no genocide of the British by the Anglo-Saxons.  Instead, POBI (Peopling of the British Isles), and a survey based on remains in the Cambridge area, suggested that only around 25% to 45% of the Early Medieval admixture of present day ethnic English was Anglo-Saxon.  The majority was earlier British.  It appears that there was a significant immigration event of Anglo-Saxons, but they admixed with the British, they didn't displace them.
  2. I discovered many more recorded ancestors of my mother, through her great grandmother Sarah Thacker (nee Daynes), in South and Mid Norfolk.
  3. I discovered more recorded ancestors of my father, through his maternal grandmother Emily Smith (nee Barber) in South Norfolk, and over in Suffolk.
  4. I have been mapping my ancestral events across East Anglia, and South-East England.
  5. I rebuilt my gedcom file using the open source Gramps software application.
  6. I extended my father's family tree in the Swanton Morley and East Dereham area of Mid Norfolk
  7. I further researched the life, career, and military service of my paternal great grandfather.  His Royal Field Artillery service number was 32392.
  8. I  received my first ever DNA for ancestry test results from 23andMe.  I started to understand how autosomal DNA tests for Ancestry do not work as they are intended, on populations such as the English.  I've since greatly explored how my, and other English, are seen by current DNA for Ancestry.  I discovered how these tests mistake background population admixture, for more recent family admixture.
  9. I tested my mother at 23andMe, and phased my results to her.  I discovered that our results are more "Continental" than for most English.  However, there was more of a southward pull towards France, than to Scandinavia.
  10. I discovered that our mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is H6a1.  I am currently awaiting more in depth test results on mt-DNA from FT-DNA.
  11. I learned that my Y-DNA haplogroup was L.  A big shock, as it is considered Asian rather than European.  Further tests revealed it to be L1b2c (L-SK1414), only one of a handful yet recorded in the World, and most likely originating in the area of Iran and Iraq.  I discovered that it must have travelled from Asia to Southern England between 2,000 and 500 years ago.  My Y ancestors would have been Western Asian before then.  Possibly connected to Mesopotamia, and would have been Ibex hunters perhaps in the Zagros mountains earlier than that.
  12. I discovered the family of my ancestor David Peach, from the village of Maxey, in the East Midlands.  I discovered that he had been transported for Life to a tough penal colony in Tasmania, for stealing two cattle.
  13. I learned and explored the ancestry of my surname line back into Oxfordshire, and up the Thames Valley to the village of Long Wittenham.
  14. I visited the WDYTYA genealogy event in Birmingham.
  15. Like many other people involved in population genetics, I've learned that there really was a great expansion across Europe, from the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, during the Early Bronze Age.  I've accepted that earlier European Y haplogroups in particular have been greatly displaced by this event.  The founder group of this migration event have been identified as the Copper Age Yamna or Yamnaya Steppe Pastoralists.  My own mt DNA haplogroup H6a1, most likely, moved into Europe with this migration wave.  The Global 10 test suggests that circa 38% of my ancestors from that time period, were of the Yamna.  The Yamna themselves were admixed earlier with a group of Ice Age Siberian hunter-gatherers, known to population geneticists as the ANE (Ancient North Eurasian).  According to the K7 Basal-rich test, circa 14% of my ancestors at that time had belonged to the ANE.
  16. I've learned from the Global 10 test, that around 55% of my ancestors during the Middle Neolithic, were European Neolithic Farmers, who had descended partly from hunter-gatherer groups from different parts of Eurasia, and also from a "ghost population most likely that lived during the last Ice Age somewhere in the Middle East.  It has been called "Basal Eurasian", and the K7 Basal-rich test suggests that circa 29% of my ancestors of that time, belonged to that group.
  17. I've learned that there was a population of hunter-gatherers across the Near East and Europe, that we call the Villabruna Cluster Type.  They arrived in Europe during the later part of the Ice Age circa 15,000 years ago.  They had a lower Neanderthal percentage, and closer relationship to Near East groups than the earlier hunter-gatherers of Ice Age Europe.  The K7 Basal-rich test suggests that I could have inherited up to 57% of my DNA from that group at that time (through a variety of later admixed populations).
  18. I've explored DNA tests that suggest that I have some Southern European ancestry.  I've discovered that this is common for the English, and probably reflects very old admixture events.  The English often have a small Southern European signal, and they have slightly lower levels of ANE, and slightly higher levels of European Neolithic Farmer, than do their Irish, Scottish, or Scandinavian neighbours.  In other words, a more Southern pull.  POBI noted a pull to France, and dates it to a number of previously unknown migration events from the South during late prehistory.  Others have suggested Medieval Norman and French admixture.  Both could be correct.
  19. With the help of online genealogy, I've now greatly expanded my Family Tree.  My gedcom file presently includes records of 1665 individuals, including for 252 direct ancestors of myself!

That pretty much sums up my 2016 in genetic genealogy.

The rest of my Life saw dramatic changes in 2016.  I ended a six year old relationship.  Moved to a new home.  After eighteen years working for one renewable energy plant group, I changed to a new company, and a new renewable energy plant.  I started a new relationship.  I received my mandolin, hand made for myself.  I've lost my mojo for photography.  I travelled to Orkney, cycled over it's islands.  I travelled to Sofia, Bulgaria, partied at a Bulgarian reggae event.  Some mega changes for me in 2016.  Genetics are an interest, they are far from being my Life.

How did our family inherit a Y haplogroup L1b?

I've inherited from my father, a yDNA haplogroup of L1b M317.  Not a haplogroup ordinarily even regarded as European.  It's not particularly common anywhere, but of such low concentrations in North-west Europe, that it doesn't even appear on our haplogroup maps or tables.  Closely related L1a is concentrated in India, while L1c is concentrated around Pakistan.  But our sub clade L1b, has it's main concentration in Western Asia, south of the Caucasus.  It has been found for example in higher concentrations, in the Pontic Greek community that lived in Pontus, North East Anatolia, on the coast of the Black Sea.

By Spiridon Ion Cepleanu - Own work Derivative map, background of Uwe Dedering (File:Turkey relief location map.jpg), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20601902

I'm currently investigating the yDNA further with STR testing.  Unless the haplogroup was passed into our family at some point, via a non-paternal event, it should follow my surname line, which I've traced back to a John Brooker who fathered children in Oxfordshire during the early 19th Century.  The surname itself is certainly English.  It clusters in a few places in England - particularly in Kent / Sussex, although our family surname appears to have originated with a smaller cluster in the Oxfordshire / Berkshire area of England.  So how did we end up with an East Anatolian Y?

I quite like the below example of a similar, even more bizarre event in another English family, the Revis Family of Yorkshire, that share yDNA more normally associated with people in South-West Africa:

" ... it is surprising to find the haplogroup A1a (M31) in a family of the Yorkshire surname Revis. This haplogroup is close to the root of the human family tree and rare even in Africa. Genealogical detective work established that the Revis males who carried A1a fitted onto two family trees going back to the 18th century in Britain. A paper trail to a common ancestor could not be found, but genetically he can be deduced a few generations earlier. How A1a arrived in Yorkshire remains a mystery. As Turi King and her colleagues point out, it could have come via a round-about route and not carried direct from Africa.22T.E. King et al., Africans in Yorkshire? The deepest-rooting clade of the Y phylogeny within an English genealogy, European Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 15 (2007), pp. 288–293; G. Redmonds, T. King and D. Hey, Surnames, DNA and Family History (2011), p. 201-204. A possible clue is that the surname Revis is derived from Rievaulx.23P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997). In 1301 a William de Ryvaus was the wealthiest taxpayer in Marton, North Yorkshire, about six miles from Rievaulx, and a man of the same name paid tax in Gisburne (Guisborough) about 12 miles north of Rievaulx, while a William de Ryvauxe was the sole taxpayer for Barnaby, in the parish of Guisbrough.24Yorkshire Lay Subsidy - 30 Ed. I (1301), ed. W. Brown, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, vol. 21 (1897), pp. 32, 43 bis, 45. Rievaulx was a Cistercian Abbey in medieval times, founded from Clairvaux in France, and part of an Order with houses in Spain and Portugal built on land won from the Moors. No doubt genetic traces were left in Iberia of the Moorish centuries. A1a is not the most likely haplogroup to be among them, but perhaps not completely impossible. Master masons and other useful craftsmen could have been recommended by one monastic house to another in the Order. So we can dimly see one possible route from Africa to Yorkshire."

Copied from Ancestral Journeys

As for how our y-DNA may have arrived in Southern Britain, I can imagine a number of scenarios.  There is the early Neolithic hypothesis, that Y haplogroup L1b may be a remnant survivor of early European populations that had settled Europe before they were largely displaced during the Bronze Age, by DNA from the Eurasian Steppes.  But if that were the case, I'd expect it to be less rare.  L1b is scattered in low frequencies across Italy, and along the South European coast of the Mediterranean.  For that reason, it may be that it arrived here, or gradually made it's way across the Continent via the Roman or later Byzantine Empires, from Pontic Greek communities.  That is one possible route.

L1b homelands with Roman political boundaries circa 50AD

By Cplakidas - Based on Image:Arshakuni Armenia 150-en.svg. Province & client state outlines based on: Atlas of Classical History, Routledge 1985, pp. 160-162; History Map of Europe, Year 1 from Euratlas, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6431799

Pontic Greek Colonies around the Black Sea

By George Tsiagalakis - Own work - background topographical map from Wikipedia Commons Image:Topographic30deg_N30E30.png, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38138202

My Y Haplogroup L-M20 Resource Post


Edit. 03 May 2016

I've listed the origin (and sometimes origin or ethnicity) of all of the L-M317 listed on the Y haplogroup L project at ftDNA.  Including both SNP confirmed, and predicted:

Ten from Turkey (two specified as Armenian)

Five from Georgia

Three from Chechen Republic

Two from Greece (one specified as Pontic Greek)

Two from Portugal

Two from Italy

Two from Armenia (one specified as Turkish)

One from Iraq (Assyrian)

One from Kuwait

One from Azerbaijan (Azeri)

One from Lebanon)

One from Bulgaria

One from Austria

One from USA (surname Ayers)

One from Romania

One from Russia (Tatar)

One from Cyprus (Austrian Tyrolean)

In addition to these M-317's, there is the Pontic Cluster (L-PH8 (FTDNA L-M317) YCAii = 17-21) of 56 individuals, many only low level STR tested to predict L-M20.  Some of them however, are tested down to M317.  They are mainly in Turkey, Georgia, Iraq, and Greece.  One however, was in Germany (surname Stiffler).

Where will our L-M317 fit in?  Which of these will turn out to be my nearest cousins?


Our exotic Y Haplogroup L1b

A Y haplogroup is a genetic marker that is passed down on a paternal line.  From great grandfather, to grandfather, to father, to son, and so on it goes.  The mt-DNA haplogroup on the other hand, is a genetic marker on the maternal line.  Together, they represent only two lines of descent.  The below illustration demonstrates these two markers on our own family pedigree fan chart over recent generations:


What is exciting about these two human haplogroups, is that by recording their mutations, and plotting them both against both the geographical distributions of present-day populations, and of archaeological human remains, we can start to paint a picture of past movements and origins in population genetics across thousands of years.  We can start to see how some of our ancestors moved across the World during prehistory.  Haplogroups offer a personal touch.

My recent 23andme test reported that I have inherited an mt-DNA haplogroup H6a1 from my mother, and a Y haplogroup L2* from my father.  

My brother, sisters, and my sister's children should also share the mt-DNA haplogroup H6a1.  This mt-DNA haplogroup has recently been recognised as originating in Eurasia.  It mutated from earlier haplogroups from Central Asia.  Current thought based on recent evidence (2015) suggests that it was carried into Western Europe during the early Bronze Age, circa 5,000 to 3,500 years ago, by pastoralists that spread out of the Eurasian Steppes north of the Black Sea in the Ukraine and South Russia area.  These Steppe pastoralists have been associated with an archaeological culture known as Yamnaya, and H6a1 has been detected in female human remains there.  Archaeologists suggest that their success was in domesticating strains of horses, that they could ride, in order to manage larger herds and flocks of grazing livestock.  Another success may have been their development of wheeled carts, that could be horse drawn.  Whatever the factors were, they appear to have been so successful, that their descendants spilled out from the Steppes, dominating Bronze Age Europe.  Therefore based on current evidence and thought, it might seem fair to imagine that we have direct maternal ancestors that 5,500 years ago were women in this Eurasian Steppe Culture.  That is the personal touch of the haplogroup.

But what about the Y haplogroup L2* that we inherited from our father, and our paternal line?  My brother and my son should share this Y haplogroup.  I'm making this post to better understand this heritage.

Y Haplogroup L


Distribution Haplogroup L Y-DNA

Distribution of Y haplogroup L today.  Above image by Crates (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

There were a number of surprises from my personal 23andMe DNA test results.  However, that my Y haplogroup is L2* was perhaps the biggest shock.  I take back all reservations that I had about DNA testing for ancestral purposes.

The 23andMe introduction that accompanied my reported Y haplogroup suggested "Haplogroup L is found primarily in India, Pakistan and the Middle East. The L1 branch is especially common in India, while L2 and L3 are more common further north.".  This is not an English haplogroup.  It is not even a European haplogroup.  It is regarded here as South Asian, spreading down from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, and across from Iran and into Eastern Turkey.  The above map illustrates the distribution of the Y Haplogroup L as we presently know it.  However, the Y haplogroup L has sub groups, that until recently were designated as L1, L2, and L3.  These subgroups were not distributed equally across the above geographic distribution.

"M76 (current L1a1, former L1) is the most common subgroup in India, while M76 and M357 (current L1a2, former L3) have approximately equal weight in Pakistan. M317 (current L1b, former L2) is rare in the Indian subcontinent. Iran seems to have all three major subgroups, while Turkey appears primarily M357. Other papers have found additional markers. For instance, L1b can be divided into two subgroups, M247 and M349. The people who do not belong to L1 have not been studied in academic papers, but only in personal genetic tests. Their ancestry is European, but it is possible that this group is present in the Middle East or Caucasus, where few people have tested". (Marco Cagetti).

My actual 23andme (ISOGG 2009) assigned L2* mutation should, using the latest designations, be referred to as L1b or, L-M317. I am seeing suggestions that L-M317 may have originated as recently as 10,000 years ago, between Levant and the Iranian plain. My haplogroup L-M317 appears to be strongest in clusters across Western Asia, between Iran and Turkey, with reports in Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Anatolia, the Chechen Republic, and the Russian Federation.  It is not South Asian.  Marco Cagetti suggests that it is at very low frequency in Southern Europe, less than 1%.  However, this table might suggest that there are stronger pockets of Y Haplogroup L in pockets across Italy.  It has been observed in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and along the Mediterranean.  A sub-clade, L-M317 M349, is found in the Levant, but also clusters in in Central Europe including Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.  M349 is subsequently believed to have originated in the Levant.

What about in England?  L1b doesn't appear to have been well documented or researched here.  The FTDNA Y Haplogroup L Project has mapped only three L submissions in the UK - including one undisclosed, one M349, and a single L-M317 - this one in the Basingstoke area, not a hundred miles from my surname carriers in South Oxfordshire.

The chances are, that my L1b will pan out to belong to the L1b1a M349 sub-clade.  It could relate the Rhine-Danube cluster recorded in Central Europe at the FTDNA Y Haplogroup L project.

So how did it get here?  Where do the European L1b's come from?   Some researchers suggest that it could actually be in quite old in Europe.  It could have spread westwards out of the Levant with the Neolithic Revolution, carried by the first farmers.  If this is the case, then it may have been severely displaced by the arrival of new waves of haplogroups that arrived in Europe later, during the Early Bronze Age, leaving just a few clusters to survive.  My Y could be a remnant of earlier European farmers, that were largely displaced by the same wave of haplogroups from the Steppes that carried my mt-DNA into Europe.

Alternatively, it may have arrived here any time later - during the Later Neolithic, or as is a popular theory, it could have been spread into Europe from the Pontic Greek clusters around the Black Sea, or from elsewhere, via the Roman Empire.  It may have even spread into Europe during the medieval.  Some people suggest Byzantine movements in Southern Europe as one possible source.  Others claim links between their L1b and Ashkenazi Jews in their ancestry - either known, or suggested by autosome ancestry composition testing.

It has been suggested that I commission a BIG Y test, but I cannot justify that cost. I think that it is worthwhile commissioning a Y STR test, in order to examine and provenance it. Then should future research bring up any new understanding, I'll be able to best place our lineage within it.  I've ordered the FTDNA Y111 test next.