Peopling Britain

In Europe, the history of human migration over the last 11,600 years is being mapped by geneticists with data from DNA. Some old ideas are shown to be false.

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In this week’s Nature magazine (519, pp 309-314) S Leslie et al compare the fine-detail genetic structure of the British population. They have analysed DNA data from 2,039 British people and compared the clusters to those from 6,209 mainland Europeans.



After the last ice age falling temperature allowed migration from the south and east. Genetically distinct groups of Britons and Saxons occupied the largest region.

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Other populations invaded from Scandanavia and lowland Europe making a complex pattern of populations.

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There is no evidence that Celts were ever a discrete group. However, the Welsh, Cornish, Devonian and Orkney populations were distinct and remain in those regions.