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Thread: Winchester royal bones: Cnut, Emma, William Rufus and more

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    Winchester royal bones: Cnut, Emma, William Rufus and more

    Fingers crossed on this announcement; it's hard to conceive of a more exciting assemblage for potential aDNA study. This update just out from work at Winchester Cathedral on a project to examine bones held in six chests that are marked as containing pre-Conquest royal remains including eight kings, two bishops and a queen. Among them are Cynegils, king of Wessex, Egbert, first king of all England, and his son Aethelwulf, the father of Alfred the Great; Cnut and his wife Emma of Normandy, and William Rufus. Archbishop Stigand, who played an important role in the events of 1066 and is pictured on the Bayeux Tapestry, is also among the remains, as well as a “King Edmund” who may be Edmund Ironside. They were held in chests at the cathedral until being scattered and mixed together during the Civil War. Carbon dating back in 2015 (calibrated for the “marine reservoir” effect) revealed that the remains really do date from the same period as the names on the chests, six of which they were returned to in the 17th century.
    The following announcement is just out from the Church of England. There's no mention of DNA (Bristol University was reported as working on this at one stage) but let's hope that changes. The quote below that “We cannot be certain of the identity of each individual yet” seems to suggest it might as well as the promise of “exciting developments” ahead as the study continues:

    "Working in the Lady Chapel at Winchester Cathedral, which became a temporary laboratory, the researchers reassembled over 1,300 human bones, with the aim of restoring the identity of the kings, one queen, and several bishops traditionally thought to be within the chests. Each bone has been carefully measured and recorded, and at least twenty three partial skeletons have been reconstructed, a remarkable finding in itself since it was originally believed that the mortuary chests contained the remains of no more than fifteen people...
    The ability to identify the sex, age and physical characteristics of these individuals has resulted in some exciting discoveries, including the remains of a mature female dispersed within several chests. It is not yet certain, but these bodily remains could be those of Queen Emma, daughter of Richard I, Duke of Normandy, the wife of two successive Kings of England, Ethelred and Cnut, and the mother of King Edward the Confessor and King Hardacnut. She was a powerful political figure in late Saxon England, and her family ties provided William the Conqueror with a measure of justification for his claim to the English throne.
    Completely unexpected was the discovery of two juvenile skeletons, adolescent boys who had died between the ages of 10 to 15 years in the mid-11th to late 12th-century. Their presence in the chests was not recorded and their identity is still unknown, but they were almost certainly of royal blood.
    We cannot be certain of the identity of each individual yet, but we are certain that this is a very special assemblage of bones’ commented Professor Kate Robson Brown, who led the investigation.
    The continuing research is deepening our understanding of the early Anglo-Saxon kings and queens of England, and visitors can find out more about the project from 21 May when Winchester Cathedral launches its landmark National Lottery Funded exhibition Kings and Scribes: The Birth of a Nation. The bones of the female skeleton have been 3D printed and laid out as a key exhibit in the exhibition.
    More exciting developments will be revealed over time as the investigation to identify the individuals in the chests continues. These discoveries could place Winchester Cathedral at the birth of our nation and establish it as the first formal royal mausoleum."
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    This could get really interesting!

    Time to get some popcorn!

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    Cat Jarman's twitter profile has a few things about this and there is a comment here: https://twitter.com/CatJarman/status...39336467501056 which says "...aDNA analysis is in progress but that far back in date it makes no sense to try to relate to living descendants - if there were any known - because there are just too many so the data are meaningless! (see @AdamRutherford's book for a great explanation of this)"

    While I'd fully agree with that statement on the autosomal DNA and relating to living descendants, that rather ignores Y and mt DNA. Although they may only be using the DNA to confirm which bones go with which individual in separating the jumble.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deadly77 View Post
    Cat Jarman's twitter profile has a few things about this and there is a comment here: https://twitter.com/CatJarman/status...39336467501056 which says "...aDNA analysis is in progress but that far back in date it makes no sense to try to relate to living descendants - if there were any known - because there are just too many so the data are meaningless! (see @AdamRutherford's book for a great explanation of this)"

    While I'd fully agree with that statement on the autosomal DNA and relating to living descendants, that rather ignores Y and mt DNA. Although they may only be using the DNA to confirm which bones go with which individual in separating the jumble.
    Well, that's hugely disappointing.

    Wouldn't it be interesting to test autosomal, Y/mt to learn more about the whole "how Germanic is England" question? Testing Anglo-Saxon kings and a Danish king like Cnut and some Normans would be fantastic.

    Oh well...
    Last edited by spruithean; 05-18-2019 at 01:07 PM.
    Y-DNA: I-A14097(Scotland),
    Big Y: I-F2642>Y1966>Y3649>A13241>Y3647>A14097 (1,850 YBP)
    mtDNA: pending (Westeremden, Netherlands)
    Other lines:
    R-M222 x2, R-L21 x2, I-M223, R-S1141, R-U198 & R-U106, mtHg J1c3
    Known ancestry
    Paternal: Britain & Ireland, France and Germany
    Maternal: Netherlands

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    Quote Originally Posted by spruithean View Post
    Well, that's hugely disappointing.

    Wouldn't it be interesting to test autosomal, Y/mt to learn more about the whole "how Germanic is England" question? Testing Anglo-Saxon kings and a Danish king like Cnut and some Normans would be fantastic.

    Oh well...
    Yes More Y, please.
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadly77 View Post
    Cat Jarman's twitter profile has a few things about this and there is a comment here: https://twitter.com/CatJarman/status...39336467501056 which says "...aDNA analysis is in progress but that far back in date it makes no sense to try to relate to living descendants - if there were any known - because there are just too many so the data are meaningless! (see @AdamRutherford's book for a great explanation of this)"

    While I'd fully agree with that statement on the autosomal DNA and relating to living descendants, that rather ignores Y and mt DNA. Although they may only be using the DNA to confirm which bones go with which individual in separating the jumble.
    Well, as long as they publish the data, their inability to find modern descendants is irrelevant to us.
    Living DNA Cautious mode:
    South Wales Border-related ancestry: 86.8%
    Cornwall: 8%
    Cumbria-related ancestry: 5.2%
    Y line: Peak District, England. Big Y match: Scania, Sweden; TMRCA 1,280 ybp (YFull);
    mtDNA: traces to Glamorgan, Wales, 18th century. Mother's Y line (Wales): R-L21 L371

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    Quote Originally Posted by spruithean View Post
    Well, that's hugely disappointing.

    Wouldn't it be interesting to test autosomal, Y/mt to learn more about the whole "how Germanic is England" question? Testing Anglo-Saxon kings and a Danish king like Cnut and some Normans would be fantastic.

    Oh well...
    She doesn't say that they are not testing autosomal, Y or mt DNA. She does say that "...aDNA analysis is in progress" without any further specification on the nature of the DNA analysis. The comment about ignoring Y and mt DNA is my own - to clarify, I was referring to the fact that Cat Jarman probably doesn't appreciate that uniparental markers such as Y or mt DNA can be used to track descent on those lines. But then again, she's not a geneticist and she wont be involved in any of the DNA testing or analysis.

    I believe that her point is that which has been made by Adam Rutherford (and others) several times - at some point on going back through the generations you get back to the indentical ancestor point (say, for example Cynegils, king of Wessex, since he's the first of the named individuals in JonikW's post) - if Cyneglis has descendants who are living today, then statistically all Europeans alive today can count Cynegils as one of their ancestors. The more popular example of this is the "all Europeans are descended from Charlemagne" articles https://www.theguardian.com/science/...dam-rutherford - which is eactly true and based on all lines and not including specific descent on one line using a uniparental marker such as the Y chromosome line.

    I wasn't implying that there won't be useful information that comes out of DNA analysis of these samples, and I don't believe that Cat Jarman was implying that either. I believe her point was more that there's not a lot of value or point in a modern individual trying to claim descent from say Cyneglis as a many times great grandfather based on comparing the modern individual's autosomal DNA profile to the autosomal DNA profile of Cyneglis because basically he's every European's many times great grandfather on one line or other or he's no-ones. Genetic recombination over that gap of time means there's unlikely to enough appreciable autosomal DNA to compare, but statistically it's meaningless even if you could. I'm pretty sure that is what she means.

    But yes, if the DNA analysis is sound, there will be useful information that can be gleaned from this - comparison with populations, genetic drift, traits, uniparental markers (Y/mt), etc. As JonikW says, as long as they publish the data and make it available, others will be able to use the data. This includes ourselves. It's worth pointing out that in the majority of papers where we have got the ancient I1 DNA data, Y-DNA wasn't the primary focus of any of these published papers. In most cases, the discussion of Y-DNA encompasses an entry in a table and two or less sentences in the main manuscript.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deadly77 View Post
    She doesn't say that they are not testing autosomal, Y or mt DNA. She does say that "...aDNA analysis is in progress" without any further specification on the nature of the DNA analysis. The comment about ignoring Y and mt DNA is my own - to clarify, I was referring to the fact that Cat Jarman probably doesn't appreciate that uniparental markers such as Y or mt DNA can be used to track descent on those lines. But then again, she's not a geneticist and she wont be involved in any of the DNA testing or analysis.

    I believe that her point is that which has been made by Adam Rutherford (and others) several times - at some point on going back through the generations you get back to the indentical ancestor point (say, for example Cynegils, king of Wessex, since he's the first of the named individuals in JonikW's post) - if Cyneglis has descendants who are living today, then statistically all Europeans alive today can count Cynegils as one of their ancestors. The more popular example of this is the "all Europeans are descended from Charlemagne" articles https://www.theguardian.com/science/...dam-rutherford - which is eactly true and based on all lines and not including specific descent on one line using a uniparental marker such as the Y chromosome line.

    I wasn't implying that there won't be useful information that comes out of DNA analysis of these samples, and I don't believe that Cat Jarman was implying that either. I believe her point was more that there's not a lot of value or point in a modern individual trying to claim descent from say Cyneglis as a many times great grandfather based on comparing the modern individual's autosomal DNA profile to the autosomal DNA profile of Cyneglis because basically he's every European's many times great grandfather on one line or other or he's no-ones. Genetic recombination over that gap of time means there's unlikely to enough appreciable autosomal DNA to compare, but statistically it's meaningless even if you could. I'm pretty sure that is what she means.

    But yes, if the DNA analysis is sound, there will be useful information that can be gleaned from this - comparison with populations, genetic drift, traits, uniparental markers (Y/mt), etc. As JonikW says, as long as they publish the data and make it available, others will be able to use the data. This includes ourselves. It's worth pointing out that in the majority of papers where we have got the ancient I1 DNA data, Y-DNA wasn't the primary focus of any of these published papers. In most cases, the discussion of Y-DNA encompasses an entry in a table and two or less sentences in the main manuscript.
    Thanks for that. I guess she's just saying there will be nothing to interest the average person. I'm thinking of Richard III and the Cheddar mitochondrial "match" back in the 90s, for example. Media coverage understandably focuses on modern descendants because that grabs people's attention. It's the boring autosomal, Y and mtdna stuff that would interest us.
    Living DNA Cautious mode:
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    Cornwall: 8%
    Cumbria-related ancestry: 5.2%
    Y line: Peak District, England. Big Y match: Scania, Sweden; TMRCA 1,280 ybp (YFull);
    mtDNA: traces to Glamorgan, Wales, 18th century. Mother's Y line (Wales): R-L21 L371

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonikW View Post
    Thanks for that. I guess she's just saying there will be nothing to interest the average person. I'm thinking of Richard III and the Cheddar mitochondrial "match" back in the 90s, for example. Media coverage understandably focuses on modern descendants because that grabs people's attention. It's the boring autosomal, Y and mtdna stuff that would interest us.
    Right - your Richard III example reminds me of how some of these points discussed in Turi King's RI lecture on Richard III (which is well worth a watch by itself): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsTyGKKl8UA

    In particular, where she discusses from 37 min onwards where several million of people alive today are descended from Richard III's family on all lines, but then stresses the use of Y and mt DNA to track the those lines of descent and then again near the end at 56-59 min where the chances of someone born in 1970s with broadly British ancestry not being descended from Edward III is 0.0000000000000000000000000001. Since the remains found in Winchester Cathedral are several centuries before that, I think that's what Cat Jarman means regarding relating to modern descendants.

    There was a similar point when Greg Davies did the Who Do You Think You Are? program and found he could claim descent from Owain Gwynedd, only to find everybody else locally could as well.

    This isn't to say that uniparental markers aren't useful - as Turi King explains in the linked RI talk, the matching mtDNA haplogroup of Richard III's remains to modern day descendants of his sister was a good piece of evidence in favour of identification, and the Y-DNA showed a likely paternal infidelity. And it's interesting for folks like us.

    But here's the other side of the coin - I'm mtDNA haplogroup J1c1 and Richard III is J1c2c3. 23andme tells me Richard III and I shared a common ancestor back in the last ice age on this line: Richard III.png

    Which is completely meaningless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deadly77 View Post
    Right - your Richard III example reminds me of how some of these points discussed in Turi King's RI lecture on Richard III (which is well worth a watch by itself): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsTyGKKl8UA

    In particular, where she discusses from 37 min onwards where several million of people alive today are descended from Richard III's family on all lines, but then stresses the use of Y and mt DNA to track the those lines of descent and then again near the end at 56-59 min where the chances of someone born in 1970s with broadly British ancestry not being descended from Edward III is 0.0000000000000000000000000001. Since the remains found in Winchester Cathedral are several centuries before that, I think that's what Cat Jarman means regarding relating to modern descendants.

    There was a similar point when Greg Davies did the Who Do You Think You Are? program and found he could claim descent from Owain Gwynedd, only to find everybody else locally could as well.

    This isn't to say that uniparental markers aren't useful - as Turi King explains in the linked RI talk, the matching mtDNA haplogroup of Richard III's remains to modern day descendants of his sister was a good piece of evidence in favour of identification, and the Y-DNA showed a likely paternal infidelity. And it's interesting for folks like us.

    But here's the other side of the coin - I'm mtDNA haplogroup J1c1 and Richard III is J1c2c3. 23andme tells me Richard III and I shared a common ancestor back in the last ice age on this line: Richard III.png

    Which is completely meaningless.
    Very interesting. For me the claim that everyone in Britain is descended from Edward III or in Europe as a whole from Charlemagne is flawed. It just takes the number of offspring and extrapolates that but doesn't take account of societal structure and rigid class rules in particular. In the same way I've heard the claim that everyone in the world has shared ancestry in the past few thousand years. Genetic diseases common to some populations as well as haplogroups show it isn't so.
    Living DNA Cautious mode:
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    Cornwall: 8%
    Cumbria-related ancestry: 5.2%
    Y line: Peak District, England. Big Y match: Scania, Sweden; TMRCA 1,280 ybp (YFull);
    mtDNA: traces to Glamorgan, Wales, 18th century. Mother's Y line (Wales): R-L21 L371

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