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Thread: Genetics of the Orcadians

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    Orkney People: Study Finds Strong Pre-Viking DNA

    A DNA study of Britons has shown that genetically there is not a unique Celtic group of people in the UK.

    According to the data, those of Celtic ancestry in Scotland and Cornwall are more similar to the English than they are to other Celtic groups.

    The study also describes distinct genetic differences across the UK, which reflect regional identities.

    Read BBC Science correspondent Pallab Ghosh on the study here.

    As just about anyone in Orkney will tell you, Orcadians are different.

    This study underlines that, albeit not in the way they might think.

    The authors divided the UK's genetic variations into 17 major clusters. They found the biggest level of variation separated the samples in Orkney from all of the rest.

    The Orcadian branch of the tree splits into three distinct clusters, with the island of Westray qualifying for one of its own.

    As you might expect, the influence of Norse DNA is strong in all three. But not as strong as you might think.

    The paper says Norwegian DNA has contributed to about 25% of Orcadian DNA. What's more, the estimated dates of that contribution coincide with the historical record: it's when the Vikings started to turn their attention to the islands. The authors say that's further validation of their methods.

    But the evidence suggests that, for all the cultural power of the islands' Norse heritage, the genetic legacy of Pictish and other pre-Viking DNA remains strong.

    Just as important, though, is what this study does not tell us.

    We're dealing here with relatively small variations in DNA. They're useful in helping us find major demographic changes through human history. They can also help avoid pitfalls in modern disease studies. But this is not a "racial" map of the UK.

    For a start, the sample looked only at middle aged Caucasians, all four of whose grandparents were born within 50 miles of each other. That means, as the authors point out, it looks at genes which were established before the major population movements of 20th century Britain.

    There may be no single "Celtic gene" but many scholars have long suggested that Celtic identity is - like Britishness - a cultural construct.

    Most of us are happily free to choose the identities we want rather than have one forced upon us. And we can choose multiple identities - European, UK, British, Scottish, Nordic and Orcadian, say - and express them all at the same time if we want.

    Meanwhile every one of us remains 100% human.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland...tland-31946436

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    Genetics of the Orcadians

    Over 1,000 years after the Vikings arrived, native Orkney Islanders are still genetically a quarter Norwegian.

    They are proud of their Viking ancestors but are not as Norwegian as they might think. The lion’s share of the genes of Orkney Islanders can be traced to the native peoples who lived their several millennia before Norwegians invaded and annexed the islands in the 9th century.

    Mapping genes

    British and Australian researchers have mapped the genetic structure of today’s Brits. They found that the only place where the Viking inheritance is genetically strong is the Orkney Islands. Orkney were under Norwegian rule for centuries and as a result, 25 percent of Orkney Islanders’ genes can be traced to Norway.

    The locals tend to be enthusiastic about their Viking heritage, which has now also been strongly identified in their genes:

    “The people here are very fond of Norway and I feel most welcome,” says Ragnhild Ljosland. The Norwegian researcher is an associate professor at the Centre for Nordic Studies at Orkney College in Kirkwall, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

    Dialect

    Ljosland’s research is in language, not genetics. She explains that words in Orkney dialect often have a close historic relationship to Norway:

    “I feel that the Orkney dialect is just as Norwegian as it is Scottish,” she says. Ljosland mentions vowels, which have remained the same. For instance the Norwegian båt and the English boat, or the names for farming tools and animals. As for birds the Norwegian skarv (cormorant) is a scarfe in Orkney, a teist is a tistie and a lomvi is a loomie.

    Ragnhild Ljosland explains that in the 15th and 16th centuries Norway and the the rest of Scotland shared stronger linguistic traits. Contemporary Norwegian and Scottish speech was then closely related.

    Using the landscape

    The Centre for Nordic Studies has initiated a project which also covers the way the Vikings made use of the landscape when they settled in the Orkneys.

    “The Vikings came here and found a landscape which was already in use, with farms, paths and burial mounds. These mounds look like the ones in Norway from the Viking Era, but they actually pre-date them,” explains Ljosland.

    Picts

    The same goes for the genetic make-up of today’s Orkney Islanders. It traces back much further than many have believed. A surprisingly large amount of their genes stems from the Picts and other peoples who lived on the islands long before Harald Fairhair took control of them in 875.

    The other Vikings who dominated parts of the UK – the Danes in Danelaw (or Danelagh) in Eastern England – have not left anything comparable to the DNA signature as the Norwegian Vikings in the Orkneys. In fact the population of the Orkneys is the most genetically distinct in the UK, thanks to a quarter of their DNA coming from Norwegian ancestors. Most of the population in Eastern, Southern and Central England is fairly homogenous. Prior to the mass migrations of the 20th century, the last immigrants to significantly alter the British genetic make-up were the Anglo Saxons who came in the 5th century after the Romans left Great Britain.

    No equivalent in Celtic DNA

    The Celtic languages and culture are seeing something of a revival in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall. But the latest research shows that the Celtic impact is more a matter of culture than genes. The Celts in Southwest England’s Cornwall, for instance, were far closer related to other English groups than to the Celts in Wales and Scotland.

    The international team of researchers behind the charting of the British genes is from the University of Oxford, University College London and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia. The collected DNA samples from a carefully chosen geographically diverse sample of over 2,000 Brits. All of those selected had grandparents who were born less than 80 kilometres from one another. This has given the scientists information about the genes of the local populations in three generations.

    The data was then compared with samples from 6,200 persons in ten different European countries.

    Professor Peter Donnelly of the University of Oxford, who co-led the research, said in a press release: “It has long been known that human populations differ genetically, but never before have we been able to observe such exquisite and fascinating detail. By coupling this with our assessment of the genetic contributions from different parts of Europe we were able to add to our understanding of UK population history.”
    http://sciencenordic.com/orkney-isla...cent-norwegian

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    You can see on this map that the Orkney Islanders are not very different genetically from the other Scots or even the Northern English:

    https://i.servimg.com/u/f11/19/63/76/41/potbi210.jpg

    Name:  p67969791-3.jpg
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    How well would they pass in Norway?

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