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Thread: On the Britons and Anglo-Saxons

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    On the Britons and Anglo-Saxons

    So what is the latest, using genetic data and other disciplines, on the Anglicization of England and the Celtic Britons? It seems obvious based on various P312 subclades, not to mention the possibility of some U106 being present in Britain prior to the Anglo-Saxons, that the Celtic Britons didn't come to an abrupt end. What though was the process by which Anglicization happened so rapidly and left so few Celtic loanwords, place names, material culture, etc. in England?

    Some specific questions I have perhaps some might be able to assist with:

    1. Is it really the case that there was some strict apartheid and that the Celtic Britons were regulated to an underclass, or were those who were assimilated to be founder in the higher ranks? It seems possible that certain Saxon royal houses, such as that of Wessex, may have actually been Anglicized Celtic Britons:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerdic_of_Wessex#Origins

    So I wonder, is it possible some of the Celtic Britons essentially joined up with the Anglo-Saxons and were thereby in positions of higher rank rather than the assumed stereotype of Celtic peasants? I've heard this theory about Britons willingly joining the Saxons, but it seems odd that one would willingly give up ones language and culture in favor of an invaders.


    2. Was there any difference between Northern England and Southern England in terms of survival of Celtic Britons or the ways in which they were integrated into English society? It seems a common position that Southeast England is the most English-English, whereas perhaps Northumbria may have been more Celtic in nature? I believe I read that Lothian/Bernicia/Northumberland in particular may have been less firmly Anglian?

    In short please share anything on Anglicization, Celtic survivals, the Celtic component of the English, etc.

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    That's a big topic! I think the consensus is that the situation will have varied in different parts of the country. For example, in the Peak District the Angles seem to have had little or no hold in parts. That's because their graves avoid the Hope valley and places where Eccles names (church sites) survived into sub-Roman times and beyond. Dykes in the area have also been interpreted as dividing the two communities, as in some other parts of England.
    Last edited by JonikW; 08-13-2018 at 07:30 AM.
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    Genetically the insular celtic paper is the best resource for this IMO. It includes a comparison of modern clusters to ancient iron age Britons and Anglo Saxons as well. That should answer your questions on the autosomal front.

    http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetic...l.pgen.1007152

    I should add, that IIRC one of the ancient Anglo-Saxon samples we have is autosomally like a native Briton, but his burial indicated high status in Anglo Saxon society - so it seems that some of the Anglo Saxons were ethnic Britons, even at the higher levels. The two groups must have mixed a good amount.
    Last edited by sktibo; 08-13-2018 at 12:16 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sktibo View Post
    Genetically the insular celtic paper is the best resource for this IMO. It includes a comparison of modern clusters to ancient iron age Britons and Anglo Saxons as well. That should answer your questions on the autosomal front.

    http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetic...l.pgen.1007152

    I should add, that IIRC one of the ancient Anglo-Saxon samples we have is autosomally like a native Briton, but his burial indicated high status in Anglo Saxon society - so it seems that some of the Anglo Saxons were ethnic Britons, even at the higher levels. The two groups must have mixed a good amount.
    If I remember correctly - and normally I would check first but I have to go to the dentist - the high status individual was a she, not a he. There was another sample that appeared Anglo Saxon but she looked to be a lower status person and there was another who appeared to be an intermediary between the two. The only male sample that I know of was I-M253, who I believe was the sample NO3423, found in the same paper as the Roman Gladiators.


    Edit:

    Our analysis of early and middle Anglo-Saxon samples from East England adds significantly to our picture of the Anglo-Saxon period in Britain. In the cemetery at Oakington we see evidence even in the early Anglo-Saxon period for a genetically mixed but culturally Anglo-Saxon community24,25, in contrast to claims for strong segregation between newcomers and indigenous peoples7. The genomes of two sequenced individuals (O1 and O2) are consistent with them being of recent immigrant origin, from a source population close to modern Dutch, one was genetically similar to native Iron Age samples (O4), and the fourth was consistent with being an admixed individual (O3), indicating interbreeding. Despite this, their graves were conspicuously similar, with all four individuals buried in flexed position, and with similar grave furnishing. Interestingly the wealthiest grave, with a large cruciform brooch, belonged to the individual of native British ancestry (O4), and the individual without grave goods was one of the two genetically ‘foreign’ ones (O2), an observation consistent with isotope analysis at West Heslerton which suggests that new immigrants were frequently poorer26,27

    […]


    Given the mixing apparent ∼500 CE, and that the modern population is not more than 40% of Anglo-Saxon ancestry, it is perhaps surprising that the middle Anglo-Saxon individuals from the more dispersed field cemetery in Hinxton look more genetically consistent with unmixed immigrant ancestry. One possibility is that this reflects continued immigration until at least the Middle Saxon period. The unmixed Hinxton group, versus the mixing of the Oakington population, shows that early medieval migration took a variety of forms and that these migrants integrated with the incumbent population in different ways.

    Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon genomes from East England reveal British migration history

    https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10408


    Second Edit:

    Genomic signals of migration and continuity
    in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/art...comms10326.pdf

    The purported migrations that have formed the peoples of Britain have been the focus of generations of scholarly controversy. However, this has not benefited from direct analyses of ancient genomes. Here we report nine ancient genomes (B1 �� ) of individuals from northern Britain: seven from a Roman era York cemetery, bookended by earlier Iron-Age and later Anglo-Saxon burials. Six of the Roman genomes show affinity with modern British Celtic populations, particularly Welsh, but significantly diverge from populations from Yorkshire and other eastern English samples. They also show similarity with the earlier Iron-Age genome, suggesting population continuity, but differ from the later Anglo-Saxon genome. This pattern concords with profound impact of migrations in the Anglo-Saxon period. Strikingly, one Roman skeleton shows a clear signal of exogenous origin, with affinities pointing towards the Middle East, confirming the cosmopolitan character of the Empire, even at its northernmost fringes.

    […]

    Using the ratio between sequencing reads aligned to the X and Y chromo- somes16, it was possible to assign biological sex to each individual, confirming skeletal assessments: the Anglo-Saxon and each Roman-period sample were male, whereas the Iron-Age sample was female .... the majority (6/7) of Driffield Terrace samples belong to sub-lineages of R1b-L52/L11, which reaches its highest frequencies (470%) in Western European countries18. Sample 3DRIF-26, on the other hand, despite belonging to the same burial context, presented a lineage consistent with haplogroup J2-L228, which has a modern distribution centred on the Middle East, but which is also present in the Caucasus region, the Balkans and Italy19. The Anglo-Saxon (NO3423) sample was assigned to haplogroup I1-S107, which is widespread in Nordic countries20.
    Last edited by JMcB; 08-13-2018 at 03:36 PM.

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    Thanks for the replies.

    I've seen some odd theories out there to explain the dearth of Celtic loanwords, place names, material culture, etc. among the Anglo-Saxons, such as much of England already being Germanic prior to the proper Anglo-Saxon migrations. I don't think this is true, but again it does seem odd to me that many Britons would willingly allow themselves to be absorbed into a foreign culture at the cost of abandoning their own language, traditions, etc.

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    This bit from Higham's Britons in Anglo-Saxon England doesn't take genetics into consideration, but nonetheless an interesting observation:

    The Anglo-Saxon immigration had, therefore, long been viewed as exceptional by the standards of fifth-century Europe, in terms both of the sheer numbers involved and its inclusion of a mass of peasantry.This picture of mass migration squeezing out the Britons became less credible, however, as new answers began to emerge to the question: How many Britons were there? From the 1960s onwards, aerial photography and archaeological survey revealed hitherto unsuspected numbers of new sites and population estimates for Roman Britain, which centred on a mere million or so in the 1930s, climbed to two to four million for the fourth century, with some estimates significantly higher. Britain was beginning to look very full of people indeed in the later Roman period: indeed, such figures approximate to the sixteenth century, which was a period of marked population pressure. For the Britons to have been overwhelmed numerically by continental immigrants who had ferried themselves across the Channel in small boats was looking ever less plausible.

    Traditional views of Germanic immigration, of course, face comparable difficulties of scale. Bede informs us that three tribes were involved, among which the Angles derived from the area known in his day as Angulus, which can be identified with some confidence as the narrow isthmus of the Danish peninsula, around Schleswig and Flensburg. Thence Bede claimed that the East Angles, Middle Angles, Mercians and Northumbrians, plus other tribes which he failed to name, had migrated. A homeland approximating in scale to East Anglia and beset by numerous wetlands was therefore supposed to have populated two thirds of England, throwing up serious challenges to Bede’s credibility.


    Considering the above there seems to be even more of a mystery regarding the rapid and complete Anglicization of what is now England.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gwydion View Post
    Thanks for the replies.

    I've seen some odd theories out there to explain the dearth of Celtic loanwords, place names, material culture, etc. among the Anglo-Saxons, such as much of England already being Germanic prior to the proper Anglo-Saxon migrations. I don't think this is true, but again it does seem odd to me that many Britons would willingly allow themselves to be absorbed into a foreign culture at the cost of abandoning their own language, traditions, etc.
    I agree with you on the Germanic presence prior to Anglo-Saxon immigration being a strange theory. While it accounts for the lack of Celtic loanwords and other things of that nature it definitely is not something mentioned in any historical texts. However one thing that should be pointed out is many of the laeti and foederati who were residing in Britain were of a Germanic and Gallic origin. A fair number of Germanic cohorts were station at Hadrian's Wall in the nearby forts. It isn't out of the question for these soldiers to have married British women, or settled on the island. Arbogast, a general in the Roman army of Frankish origin was a "native of Galatia Minor" he was born in Anatolia, obviously there had to be some population of Franks settled in that part of the empire.

    http://roman-britain.co.uk/military/...irregulars.htm, this website has a pretty decent collection of the various units in Roman Britain at the time.

    Here's where I think our modern thinking prevents us from looking at this time period with a different lens. We're looking at a Roman Britain, or a sub-Roman Britain, where people saw themselves to at least some (albeit dwindling) degree as part of a greater Roman identity (on the fringes of the empire). They may have unknowingly over time adopted Germanic pottery types, dwelling construction and other cultural aspects by contact, early intermingling, or as a way to advance and communicate with the new Germanic arrivals on the island. We know some individuals in the Anglo-Saxon graves were Britons in "disguise" and some at a genetic level appeared to be of mixed origins. - here is an article about ethno-identity in early Britain http://www.heroicage.org/issues/4/Matthews.html


    I want to mention this interview with Graeme Young about the burials at Bamburgh, they found an individual (or a few I can't remember) who seems to have grown up in Ulster or Western Scotland, in Bamburgh, part of Bernicia at the time. - http://www.heroicage.org/issues/4/Bamburgh.html

    Quote Originally Posted by Gwydion View Post
    This bit from Higham's Britons in Anglo-Saxon England doesn't take genetics into consideration, but nonetheless an interesting observation:

    The Anglo-Saxon immigration had, therefore, long been viewed as exceptional by the standards of fifth-century Europe, in terms both of the sheer numbers involved and its inclusion of a mass of peasantry.This picture of mass migration squeezing out the Britons became less credible, however, as new answers began to emerge to the question: How many Britons were there? From the 1960s onwards, aerial photography and archaeological survey revealed hitherto unsuspected numbers of new sites and population estimates for Roman Britain, which centred on a mere million or so in the 1930s, climbed to two to four million for the fourth century, with some estimates significantly higher. Britain was beginning to look very full of people indeed in the later Roman period: indeed, such figures approximate to the sixteenth century, which was a period of marked population pressure. For the Britons to have been overwhelmed numerically by continental immigrants who had ferried themselves across the Channel in small boats was looking ever less plausible.

    Traditional views of Germanic immigration, of course, face comparable difficulties of scale. Bede informs us that three tribes were involved, among which the Angles derived from the area known in his day as Angulus, which can be identified with some confidence as the narrow isthmus of the Danish peninsula, around Schleswig and Flensburg. Thence Bede claimed that the East Angles, Middle Angles, Mercians and Northumbrians, plus other tribes which he failed to name, had migrated. A homeland approximating in scale to East Anglia and beset by numerous wetlands was therefore supposed to have populated two thirds of England, throwing up serious challenges to Bede’s credibility.


    Considering the above there seems to be even more of a mystery regarding the rapid and complete Anglicization of what is now England.
    That is actually one of the main things that I've found so odd, Bede's description paints this image of such a small area of land supporting such large tribes, it doesn't make sense. Bede also seemed to be glorifying his ancestors, making them out to be more than they were.

    Heinrich Härke in "Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis" had this interesting quote:

    "It is now widely accepted that the Anglo-Saxons were not just transplanted Germanic invaders and settlers from the Continent, but the outcome of insular interactions and changes. But we are still lacking explicit models that suggest how this ethnogenetic process might have worked in concrete terms"
    It seems the growing consensus is that the Anglo-Saxons were a mixture of invaders, migrants and acculturated Britons. What the ratios were is not agreed upon, but I think a mixture like that could allow for such rapid Anglicisation and advancement in the hierarchy of the day. One example I like of some level of Anglo-Brittonic syncretism is what is seen in Northumbria, in Bernicia we see Northumbrian occupation of Brittonic hillforts (Dunbar, etc), an adoption of the Celtic Church and a larger presence of Brittonic graves in a traditionally Anglian kingdom.

    I should also mention the Magonsæte who had a leader named "Merewalh" which is allegedly a Celtic name which means "Famous Foreigner". As you mentioned a fair number of Anglo-Saxon kings had Celtic names, however so did Continental Germanic chiefs quite early on, a few examples are Maroboduus of the Marcomanni, Verritus and Malorix of the Frisii, etc.

    Sorry if this is all over the place, writing this on a cellphone is harder than I expected!

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    I think you make some great points spruithean. I wonder how many descendants of foederati and laeti are with us today. They would be indistinguishable from the slightly later Anglo-Saxons when it comes to DNA. Distinguishing by TMRCA match estimates would be next to impossible too. According to Dio, Marcomanni were settled in Britain by Marcus Aurelius; Zosimus says Burgundians were settled under the leader Igillus in the third century; and Ammianus Marcellinus says Alamanni were settled under Fraomar in the fourth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gwydion View Post
    Thanks for the replies.

    I've seen some odd theories out there to explain the dearth of Celtic loanwords, place names, material culture, etc. among the Anglo-Saxons, such as much of England already being Germanic prior to the proper Anglo-Saxon migrations. I don't think this is true, but again it does seem odd to me that many Britons would willingly allow themselves to be absorbed into a foreign culture at the cost of abandoning their own language, traditions, etc.
    This is an interesting article on celtic place names in England. The reference (and map) to names of rivers seems to show, as you would expect the greatest "Anglo Saxon" language influence in the East.
    There are of course parts of England where celtic place names are common and even use of the language carried on until very recent times, or still continues, like the English side of the Welsh border and Cornwall for example.
    I think myself the adoption of Anglo Saxon language rather than celtic forms was similar to the adoption of English in places like Wales during the 19th Century. It became the language of the Law and commerce education and the influential, so if you wanted to get on in life, it paid to speak the most "beneficial" language. Of course this was over hundreds of years. As we know, later on the English language spread over much of the World for much the same reasons. It don't think it means that all aspects of "celtic" culture and lifestyle were wiped out in England though, although of course these things diminish over time.

    http://www.yorkshiredialect.com/celtpn.htm

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    Intersting topic. In general sense I guess that apartheid is a wrong word that suggest a kind of racialism that at that time simply didn't exist. What did exist among the germanic people was a strict kind of class distinction the jarls (elite/nobiles), the karl (middle class, free farmers) and the thralls (slaves unfree). Marriages were arranged to keep up the status of the 'own class'. I guess this must have prevented the intermingle with the Celts in the early years. And especially the elite must have been interconnected across the North Sea. Through the ages this watered....

    Besides that there is another intriguing think because there was also a diversity of Germanic tribes....The initial Saxons (mid fifth century) originated in NW Germany (Lower Saxony) they settled in the diverse regions of England and the Netherlands were followed by some elite migration from Southern Scandinavia ('Jutes') in the sixth century to Friesland (central place Wijnaldum) also to the mound of the Weser (central place Sievern) and to Kent. They had a distinctive style and had a tremendous influence on the other Germanic tribes as well (Salin Style II). They spread also a new Odin religion.

    Still puzzling about their genetic effect. I suppose my father's K36 report of Lukasz gives a indication of this Saxon/Southern Scandinavian admixture......



    But may be too far fetched....
    Last edited by Finn; 08-13-2018 at 09:52 PM.

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