English are one-third Anglo-Saxon, reveals ancient DNA
| Monday, January 25, 2016 - 09:53
London: Nearly a third of British ancestors were Anglo-Saxon immigrants and were genetically very similar to the modern Dutch and Danish communities, says a study.
Comparing the ancient genomes with sequences of hundreds of modern European genomes, 38 percent of the ancestors of the English were found to be Anglo-Saxons, the research revealed.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, used ancient genetic information to showing just how integrated the people of Britain were.
Researchers conducted the first whole-genome sequences of ancient British DNA from the human skeletal remains, dating back to the late Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon period, which were excavated from burial sites near Cambridge in the UK.
"By sequencing the DNA from 10 skeletons from the late Iron Age and the Anglo-Saxon period, we obtained the first complete ancient genomes from Great Britain," said Stephan Schiffels, a researcher at Max Plank Institute in Germany.
"Combining archaeological findings with DNA data gives us much more information about the early Anglo-Saxon lives," added Duncan Sayer, archaeologist and author on the paper from the University of Central Lancashire.
Modern British and continental European genomes from the "UK10K project" and the "1000 Genomes Project" were compared with the genomes from the ancient skeletons.
Researchers discovered that the Anglo-Saxon immigrants were genetically very similar to modern Dutch and Danish.
They contributed 38 percent of the DNA of modern people from east England and 30 percent for modern Welsh and Scottish.
The Anglo-Saxons first settled in the south-east of England so this pattern is consistent with their migration pattern.
"This study, using whole-genome sequencing, allowed us to assign DNA ancestry at extremely high resolution and accurately estimate the Anglo-Saxon mixture fraction for each individual," noted Richard Durbin, senior author at the Sanger Institute.
More full genome sequences and further improvements in methodology will allow us to resolve migrations in even more detail in the future, he added.