Genetic link between the British and Basques

An abridged version of this article

Professor Stephen Oppenheimer of Oxford University, says 81% of the Welsh have DNA evidence which shows a common link to ancestors who came to Britain from northern Spain as the ice age ended.

Most people in Scotland, Ireland and Wales were assumed to be descended from Celtic farming tribes who migrated here from central Europe up to 6,500 years ago. The English were thought to largely take their genetic line from the Anglo-Saxon invaders of the Dark Ages who supposedly wiped out the Celts in England.

But that’s all part of a “Celtic myth”, says Professor Oppenheimer in The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story.

“The majority of the gene pool of the British Isles is very ancient and dates to the era after the last great Ice Age. It has nothing to do with Celts or Anglo-Saxons or any more recent ethnic labels.

“The Ice Age made Britain a polar desert and there was nobody living here around 13,000 BC until the first settlers came to the British Isles from the Basque country of northern Spain between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago.

“Something like three-quarters of the ancestors of our modern gene pool arrived then.

“The ancestors of some 88% of the Irish, 81% of the Welsh, 79% of the Cornish, 70% of Scots and 68% of the English arrived here during that period. None of the later immigrations contributed anything more than 5% to the gene pool.”

Apparently, Y chromosome haplotype R1b is the majority in Wales, and it was probably the norm in the North African Oranian culture before the E3b1b replaced it in the Neolithic (conquest pattern) as you see it a lot of R1b in black Africans, but not E3b1b. I’m thinking… Afro Asiatic may have made itself the dominant language in North Africa very early on, with elements of it’s grammar making it’s way into the Celtic languages via the IM culture. There seem to have been some African Mt L haplotypes in Spain that couldn’t be attributed to the Berbers/Moors (can’t remember source), and the microlithic technology crossed over from North Africa in the paleolithic.

They need to break down the R1b family better so we can trace population movements better.

There’s a mention of E3b1 being present in England as well in the Capelli study (2003) but I can’t find a break down of what types! This is put down to the Roman occupation, but it could have been anyone.

Explains why I look like a pasty Spaniard.

5 responses to “Genetic link between the British and Basques

  1. Doesn’t make much more sense that it denotes a more northern continental origin of the whole British/Irish population? The difference in the R1b apportions actually would denote a male-only demic change in that original area (probably the Rhin basin), surely associated to migrations and conquests such as those of Indo-Europeans in a later date (Chalcolithic) than that of the original colonization of the islands (Epipaleolithic).

    The paper is old and I have discussed this before: that model is the one that makes best sense, even if the initial perception may be the one the authors suggest and you reproduce. Basically Dutch, Belgians, Northern French and Germans (the most likely source population for Epipaleolithic British/Irish) have seen their Y-DNA much more altered than the British, and specially than the Irish, while the mtDNA pool has remained almost unchanged at both sides of the sea. This fits almost perfectly with the concept of male-mediated genetic transfer by seminomadic Indo-European invaders.

  2. Yes, but it’s not just DNA. The Welsh look a bit different too, as I’ve said, I can pass for Spanish if I tan. A lot of anthropologists have comented on the Mediterranean appearance of the SW English before.

  3. Sorry for my late reply, I lost track.

    I understand that pygmentation differences are not major markers of anthropometrical typology, specially as they may be of major adaptative value for those living in the far north (non-neutral).

    I also understand that blondism must have existed in West Eurasia as minority trait since deep in Paleolithic times. I suspect that there was some selection in favor of this trait already in Central European Paleolithic and that further selection happened with the colonization of the North in the Epipaleolithic.

    If the original British arrived from middle-Western continental Europe (northern France, Belgium, Rhineland), in a time that had not yet seen the Indo-European migrations, they could well have been relatively dark in overall pygmentation (for European standards, of course). But I understand that in those Epipaleolithic times, already Eastern England was more culturally connected to Denmark (Maglemosean culture), what may mean two somewhat different stocks since the very beginning (and may even relate to R1bc9, now called R1b1b2a1, present in both England and Northern Europe but with pretty old-looking subclades exclussive of the island).

    All this does not exclude later Atlantic connections and occasional migrations. These connections are archaeologically quite clear for the Megalithic period and later for the Bronze Age, when the British islands, Iberia and much of France were the last pre-Indoeuropean remains in Europe (Italy maybe too but they have a somewhat different stock, at least for Y-DNA). It was only the Celtic conquest of central and western Iberia c. 700 BCE what destroyed the Atlantic economic and cultural area, that then went under Phoenician control.

  4. I think you’ll find the model espoused at to make sense of the evidence.

  5. actually, you got the numbers backwards. the oxford journals study that you are quoting from states that welshmen have the highest percentage of R1b in europe, at 89%. basque males have the second highest percentage, at 88%. 81% of the irishmen inherit R1b, although 98% of irishmen in connacht and munster inherit r1b, regions in which a minority of the irish population live. it has been found that 77% of scotsmen inherit that gene.

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