Ancient Irish genomes confirm Bronze Age steppe incursion

Press release: First ancient Irish human genomes sequenced.

BBC: Ancient DNA sheds light on Irish origins.

Guardian: Origins of the Irish down to mass migration, ancient DNA confirms.

These settlers were followed by people, initially from the Pontic steppe of southern Russia, who knew how to mine for copper and work with gold, and who carried the genetic variant for a blood disorder called haemochromatosis, a hereditary genetic condition so common in Ireland that it is sometimes called Celtic disease.

These people also brought with them the inherited variation that permits the digestion of milk in maturity – much of the world becomes intolerant to the milk sugar lactose after infancy – and they may even have brought the language that became what is now Irish. Some of them, too, had blue eyes.

“There was a great wave of genome change that swept into Europe from above the Black Sea into Bronze Age Europe and we now know it washed all the way to the shores of its most westerly island,” said Dan Bradley, professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin.

“And this degree of genetic change invites the possibility of other associated changes, perhaps even the introduction of language ancestral to western Celtic tongues.”

The Dublin team and colleagues from Queens University Belfast report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the two great changes in European prehistory – the emergence of agriculture and the advance of metallurgy – were not just culture shifts: they came with new blood. An earlier population of hunter gatherers was successively overwhelmed by new arrivals. And in Ireland, these new settlers began to define a nation.

But the latest study throws more light on the birth of a nation. All three dead men from Rathlin Island carried what is now the most common type of Irish Y chromosome, inherited only from male forebears. [. . .]

And Lara Cassidy, a researcher in genetics at Trinity College Dublin and another co-author, said “Genetic affinity is strongest between Bronze Age genomes and modern Irish, Scottish and Welsh, suggesting establishment of central attributes of the insular Celtic genome 4,000 years ago.”

The PNAS paper: Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome
The Neolithic and Bronze Age transitions were profound cultural shifts catalyzed in parts of Europe by migrations, first of early farmers from the Near East and then Bronze Age herders from the Pontic Steppe. However, a decades-long, unresolved controversy is whether population change or cultural adoption occurred at the Atlantic edge, within the British Isles. We address this issue by using the first whole genome data from prehistoric Irish individuals. A Neolithic woman (3343–3020 cal BC) from a megalithic burial (10.3× coverage) possessed a genome of predominantly Near Eastern origin. She had some hunter–gatherer ancestry but belonged to a population of large effective size, suggesting a substantial influx of early farmers to the island. Three Bronze Age individuals from Rathlin Island (2026–1534 cal BC), including one high coverage (10.5×) genome, showed substantial Steppe genetic heritage indicating that the European population upheavals of the third millennium manifested all of the way from southern Siberia to the western ocean. This turnover invites the possibility of accompanying introduction of Indo-European, perhaps early Celtic, language. Irish Bronze Age haplotypic similarity is strongest within modern Irish, Scottish, and Welsh populations, and several important genetic variants that today show maximal or very high frequencies in Ireland appear at this horizon. These include those coding for lactase persistence, blue eye color, Y chromosome R1b haplotypes, and the hemochromatosis C282Y allele; to our knowledge, the first detection of a known Mendelian disease variant in prehistory. These findings together suggest the establishment of central attributes of the Irish genome 4,000 y ago.


Anonymous said...

as usual i don't get the point of n/a's highlights.

the irish are the irish are the irish...from the bronze age...except they had blue eyes...except...

the british isles are weird...are they not?

the concentration of blue eyes is significantly less that that shall i put it...the part of western europe which was never conquered by the romans...which isn't to say the romans had anything to do with it.

basically the same part of western europe where one sees SOCIALISM, SMALL GINI, HIGH MOBILITY.

but there's even a trope, "the black irish".


john, paul, george, and ringo?

one had blue eyes?...

the one that no less than bobby fischer thought was jewish...listen to his interview from jail in japan.

if booby were a girl i'd've sucked her cock.

Anonymous said...

funny thing about the irish and HBD-tards...

they're notorious drunks...YET were the very first to distil alcohol in europe and can claim the very first scholastic worthy of note John Scotus Eriugena...

i mean come on. ireland is at the very outer edge of europe.

it's like fucking portugal.

geography explains ireland's under-achievement.

Anonymous said...

but i am a total eye color "racist"...nothing but blue eyes for four generations in my family...and before idk...

the whole Der Mythus des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts is based on it.

sorry brown-eyeds. we have stars on thars.

but just like language, contra the pc thought police, eye color is important...not for the color but for what it says about one's ancestors...most of the time...

there's even a theory that blue eyes spread because women found them so sexy. sexual selection.

Santoculto said...

Ireland was a british plantation during long time of their history. if irish people had some cognitive potential to be developed (and it's obvious that they does) britz(krieg) contribute a lot to retard this development. Ireland is historically analogous to Armenia, Lebanon and Poland.

Poland and Ireland are two very similar countries. Non-latin catholics, predominantly rural during most part of their history... seems, succumbed by powerfull neighbor countries, with greater percentage of light eyes and with great migration.

Anonymous said...

If it is true that the Irish are descended from Bronze Age invaders (or is that only male lines?), why do they look rather more Cro-Magnid than the European average?

Onur Dincer said...


If it is true that the Irish are descended from Bronze Age invaders (or is that only male lines?), why do they look rather more Cro-Magnid than the European average?

Do they? Atlantids look nothing like Cro-Magnids and have Aurignacoid origins instead.

Anonymous said...

For lack of a better source at hand, here is Richard McCollough's estimate:

40% Brünn (indigenous Paleolithic inhabitants, most common in the west),
30% Keltic Nordic (most common in the east),
9% North-Atlantid,
9% Borreby
3% Palaeo-Atlantid,
3% Trønder,
2% Noric,
2% Anglo-Saxon,
1% Hallstatt Nordic

Brünn: "Mostly unreduced, typically dolicho- or mesocephalic and mostly depigmented Upper Palaeolithic survivor of Cro-Magnid provenience" (SNPA)
Borreby: "Mostly unreduced, brachycephalized, and depigmented Upper Paleolithic survivor of Cro-Magnoid stock" (SNPA)

Brunn plus Borreby alone is half, and an implied clear majority in the west (acc. to McCollough).

If western Irish stock is predominantly Cro-Magnid (Upper Paleolithic), according to the physical anthropologists and here sketched out by McCollough, well that doesn't fit with what the geneticists are proposing here, as I read it, of a total population replacement in the Bronze Age.

In the Bronze Age Replacement scenario, the western Irish (who were subject to less genetic flow from England, etc. over time) should be completely devoid of Cro-Magnid stock today. All replaced by, presumably, Nordid or Mediterranid strains, as those waves were. Am I right? Do you follow this?

The only way this makes sense is if the people replacing the aboriginal Irish in the Bronze Age were also of Cro-Magnid stock to some degree, which I don't think is being proposed. As usual, I don't fully understand academics' jargon, and it may only be talking about Y chromosomes, which is only a small piece of the overall story. There are mechanisms I can conceive of by which Y chromosome lines can be nearly totally replaced over time but overall ancestral stock is not influenced nearly so dramatically.

Onur Dincer said...


I think those percentages are flawed. North Atlantids should be making a much higher percentage in Ireland. Anyway, since Bell Beakers have partial steppe origins, it would only be natural for them to be mostly some reduced or unreduced Cro-Magnoid types and this is already what I know about their phenotypes, though I do not know the percentages of the subtypes in Bell Beakers. As for genetics, thanks to the advances in ancient DNA research we now know how Ireland was heavily colonized/replaced by Bell Beakers during the Bronze Age, and this is not just haplogroup but also autosome research:

Unknown said...

Yes, modern Irish people do reflect more of the Bronze Age characteristics. Most Irish have the R1b Y-haplogroup, blue eyes and are pale.