The Longue Durée of Genetic Ancestry: Multiple Genetic Marker Systems and Celtic Origins on the Atlantic Facade of Europe

Brian McEvoy, Martin Richards, Peter Forster, Daniel G. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Celtic languages are now spoken only on the Atlantic facade of Europe, mainly in Britain and Ireland, but were spoken more widely in western and central Europe until the collapse of the Roman Empire in the first millennium A.D. It has been common to couple archaeological evidence for the expansion of Iron Age elites in central Europe with the dispersal of these languages and of Celtic ethnicity and to posit a central European "homeland" for the Celtic peoples. More recently, however, archaeologists have questioned this "migrationist" view of Celtic ethnogenesis. The proposition of a central European ancestry should be testable by examining the distribution of genetic markers; however, although Y-chromosome patterns in Atlantic Europe show little evidence of central European influence, there has hitherto been insufficient data to confirm this by use of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Here, we present both new mtDNA data from Ireland and a novel analysis of a greatly enlarged European mtDNA database. We show that mtDNA lineages, when analyzed in sufficiently large numbers, display patterns significantly similar to a large fraction of both Y-chromosome and autosomal variation. These multiple genetic marker systems indicate a shared ancestry throughout the Atlantic zone, from northern Iberia to western Scandinavia, that dates back to the end of the last Ice Age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-702
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Volume75
Issue number4
Early online date12 Aug 2004
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

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