DNA results and discussions


Click  Arrow on browser to return back to previous page


 to bottom of page

DNA and the origin of the Celts in Europe

The Y-chromosome test for males.

Details of the Y-Chromsome Test are given elsewhere.

The Y-chromosome is split up into small segments of DNA and the length of some of these small marker segments is measured.  Each ‘marker’ tested normally has a sequence of between 8 to 30 identical repeat units.  It has been found that different racial groups have different repeat lengths for different markers. 

A Haplogroup (Hg) is a group of people that have the same DNA signature. Haplogroups  are denoted by letters and numbers, e.g. R1b.  In Table 1 the Haplogroup R1b has a  DNA signature comprising the numbers 14, 12, 24, 11, 13, 13.

Table 1

The first column in the Table gives the Haplogroup associated with the numbers in the rows. The remaining columns are the names given to the small marker segments of DNA and the number of repeat units.  The term DYS refers to the part of the DNA structure from which the marker sequence is obtained. The rows of numbers are referred to as a DNA signature.

 

Marker name and number of repeat units in chain

Haplogroup

DYS 19

DYS 388

DYS 390

DYS 391

DYS 392

DYS 393

R1b

14

12

24

11

13

13

R1a

14

14

22

10

11

13

I1

16

12

25

11

11

13

A large portion of the population of Europe have DNA signatures similar to those in Table 1. Other populations, such as the Chinese, have very different DNA signatures.  Since the Y-chromosome is inherited, persons in a particular Haplogroup can be said to originate from a distant ancestor in an ancient tribe.   

Studies on the European population show that each country has people belonging to a range of Haplogroups, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2

This Table shows the percentage of the population that belongs to the  Haplogroups R1b,  R1a and  I1 in different European countries.

Country

%   R1b

%   I1

% R1a

Ireland

90

9

 

Wales

89

6

1

Basques

90

8

 

England

69

19

9

Friesland

56

39

9

Germany

47

34

9

Norway

26

51

18

Sweden

20

54

17

Italy

36

45

3

Russia

27

17

43

Greece

14

45

5

It is seen that the Irish, Welsh, Scots and Basques are predominantly Haplogroup R1b.  It is thought that these peoples belonged to an early group of settlers in Europe.  In modern times these population groups have been referred to as Celts.  

It can be seen that this ‘Celtic’ DNA signature (R1b) is very common throughout Western Europe.  It is thought that the tribe having this DNA signature (now referred to as Celts) stayed in the Iberian peninsular during the last ice-age. When the ice started to recede, this tribe moved into the rest of Europe in both a northerly and easterly direction.  The occurrence of this Celtic Haplogroup decreases from Western to Eastern Europe and is virtually non-existent in the Asian or Middle-eastern populations. 

It can also be seen that the populations of most countries are derived from a number of different Haplogroups.  For example, the proportion of Celtic (R1b) in Sweden is relatively low and the predominant Haplogroup is I1 (this is letter I followed by number 1).  This suggests that Sweden was originally settled by several tribes that have intermarried to form the present day nation. 

Russia has a high proportion of its population belonging to Haplogroup R1a

Some Haplogroups have subgroups within them.  An example is Haplogroup I1.    

Table 3

The table shows the percentage of a country's population belonging to Haplogroup I1.   The Hg I1 has many subdivisions including I1a, I1b and I1c.   The Table shows the percentage of persons in a country belonging to Hg I1, and then the subgroup to which they belong. The data is obtained from a number of different sources and is thus incomplete. The figures do not always add up since there are other Hg I1 groups and sub-groups that I have ignored for simplicity.  For simplicity, I have averaged some values. For example, Russia is a large country with considerable racial variation within it. Rather than put in all the different values for the different parts of the country, an average value has been used.

 

Hg I1 subgroup making up total Hg I1

Country

% Hg  I1

% Hg I1a

% Hg I1b

%Hg I1c

Ireland

11

 

 

 

Basques

6

 

6

 

England

18

 

 

 

France Normandy

24

12

 

5

France South

10

5

 

5

Holland

27

16

 

10

Germany

38

25

 

13

Denmark

39

 

 

 

Norway

40

39

 

1

Sweden

30

28

 

2

Italy

6

2

1

3

Sicily

42

 

41

 

Iberia

4

2

 

2

Bosnia  & all Balkan area

34

6

25

3

Russia & E. Europe

20

5

14

1

Near East

4

1

2

1

Central Asia

5

 

 

 

           

Haplogroup I1a is found strongly in Scandinavia, and also in Germany & Holland (and probably Denmark).

Haplogroup I1b is found in high concentrations in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Haplogroup I1c is found mainly in Germany & Holland (and probably Denmark).

It has been suggested that the Hg I1b tribe over-wintered in the Balkans area and then spread north and east after the last Ice-age.

It has been suggested that the original Hg I1a and Hg I1c diverged from the other Hg I1 groups about 15,000 years ago.   Some have suggested that the Hg I1a and Hg I1c may have been in Iberia and spread northwards to Germany, Norway and Sweden after the last Ice-age. 

Conclusions on Europe’s peoples

I have simplified the picture by only considering the Y-Chromosome test for males.  There are tests for females, which complicate the situation even more. 

The Tables above suggests that a ‘Celtic’ tribe (Hg R1b) spread from Iberia through out Europe after the last Ice-Age.  They settled extensively in Western Europe, but fewer numbers reached Eastern Europe. 

Another group of people (Hg I1a and I1c) settled around Germany and Scandinavia.

A third group from the Balkans (Hg I1b) moved northwards to settle in Eastern Europe.

When the Celts (from France) met the ‘German’ tribes they would have interbred so that the resulting population would carry a mixture of the 2 sets of DNA.  It must be emphasised that all the chromosomes (except the Y-) of the offspring are a mixture of the DNA of the mother and father.  Thus the merging of two tribes will quickly attain a uniform blend of DNA to form one people.  The Y-chromosome test merely tells you the ratio of the ancestral males from different tribes that form this new race.

Thousands of years ago Ireland had predominantly, or maybe wholly, ‘Celtic’, men in the original population.  The small amount of other genetic sources that are found today probably arose in more recent times via invasions from the Vikings, and then settlement by the English and Scots after the 1500s. 

The English were also probably nearly wholly ‘Celtic’ until the Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman invasions.  England still has significantly more persons with Celtic Y-DNA than Germany or the Scandinavian countries.  This might suggest that the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings did not replace the native Celts but intermarried to form the English.  The effect of the Normans on the gene pool was probably small, since they formed the aristocratic class, and did not import the French labouring classes.

History has documented the movement of Anglo-Saxons into England. In addition, the Vandals migrated across the Alps and through into France and Spain, the Visigoths migrated into Italy.  These movements of populations have changed the present genetic makeup of all the races in Europe.  The result is that the genetic studies that have been carried out can not be precise in determining the early history of Europe.  Basically, they say what the present state is.  However, they do throw some light on what might have happened. 

It is apparent that the whole of Western Europe is derived from relatively few tribes, all of whom might have been directly related to each other in early times (20,000 or more years ago).  All the original tribes will have interbred in different proportions in different regions of Western Europe to form the present nations of Europe. 

It is also said that the DNA signatures may have originated in their present form about 7000 years ago, i.e. soon after the last ice age had passed. However, the range quoted is between 3,000 to 20,000 years.  It is thus possible that the racial group that now occupies, for example, Sweden,   may have been comprised of all the constituent tribes prior to their re-emergence from Iberia after the last ice-age.  It seems unlikely that only pure blooded tribal groups emerged after the Ice-age.  If they have merged after the Ice-age, it is also possible that they merged prior to the Ice-age.

In summary, Western European nations are derived from relatively few original tribal groups.  Each present day nation is a mix of these tribes.  However, some nations, until recently, were less mixed than others, notably the Irish, Basques, Scots and Welsh.

 

to top of page