Friday, March 20, 2015

Celts or Pre-Celts?

DNA Samples
A few years ago I blogged on genetic studies conducted in Britain attempting to find out how many of the native population possessed Saxon, Celtic, Norman and/or Viking ancestry. New analyses confirm that invasion narratives of massive displacement tend to be myths, as genetics verify.  Dan Bradley's team at Trinity College has been investigating similar Irish genetic markers. Larissa Nolan in the Independent reports that similarities in the "Celtic fringe" (my words) distinguish many Irish.

"Compared to the rest of western Europe, our genetic type has remained relatively untouched and this has also been found in Wales, Scotland and the Basque country. The rest of Europe has developed but we have remained pre-Celtic, we have retained much of our genes from many years back. We have not been as affected by migration as other places and this could be why our genetics are very similar." Many share an O-blood type; those of us from Ireland's west a marked rise in similar genes. By the way, headlines that Celts are not a separate genetic group are no revelation. The Cornish differ from the Scots as do the Northern from the Southern Welsh. Always it's language and culture, not blood, making up Celts, who are many peoples linked by similar tongues and customs, ancient or modern.

Some argue we go back to Mesolithic times as there was never a massive Celtic invasion. I recall from a 2003 study that the area around where my family originates, where no "invaders" reached, Castlerea in Roscommon (a radius for my grandfather's farm of just over twenty miles north-west and about five or six miles for my grandmother's farm from Castlerea) was the highest concentration: 93% "pure" genes. DNA with another "untouched" group, Basques, and that of Irish natives matched.

This chart from the 2003 report shows a cluster of core markers uniting the Basques with two Welsh locations, Haverfordwest and Llanidloes, and with Castlerea, as highest Y-chromosome "extremes."
Is this more than other parts of Connacht, I speculate, as the Aran Islands were garrisoned by the English? The researchers chose Castlerea as an indigenous locale likely separated from in-comers.

Marie McKeown summarizes this. "Men with Gaelic surnames, showed the highest incidences of Haplogroup 1 (or Rb1) gene. This means that those Irish whose ancestors pre-date English conquest of the island are descendants of early settlers who probably migrated west across Europe, as far as Ireland in the north and Spain in the south." Maybe the Leabhar Gabhala/Book of Invasions is true!

I also have been diagnosed with an abundance of iron in my blood, which also is a trait I inherit. So, along with my very fair skin, faint freckling, blue eyes, and once reddish-brown hair, I am truly Irish.
P.S. Frank McNally in the Irish Times took the piss, as they say, out of this recondite research here.

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