The idea that there is a common Anglo-Saxon ancestry based on biology is gaining currency among some religious and right-wing groups in Britain and the United States.
Watching: What is Anglo saxon?
In Britain, the new leader of the British Independence Party, Henry Bolton, suggested in a radio interview in October that in some communities native Anglo-Saxon populations were not seen.
In August, a religious group called the Odinist Association wrote to the Church of England asking for the two churches as compensation for a “spiritual genocide” that it claimed began in the 20th century. Saturday AD.
The Odinists used old Icelandic texts to reconstruct the indigenous religion of the Anglo-Saxons, which they claimed had been oppressed with the arrival of Christianity. The Anglo-Saxons are generally thought to have migrated into England in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. In contrast, Iceland was inhabited by Viking settlers in the ninth century. In America, this mixed medievalism is associated with white supremacy who use Anglo-Saxon and Viking motifs.
But archaeological research, DNA testing and ancient antiquities to uncover the “indigenous peoples” of the Ang-Saxons shows that fifth- and sixth-century English people have mixed heritage. and do not base their identity on biological heritage. The idea of Anglo-Saxon ancestry is a recent invention closely linked to the English base.
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DNA evidence suggests
For decades, archaeologists and geneticists have sought to identify Anglo-Saxons in England. An early effort in 2002 relied on modern DNA with a Y-chromosome study showing that 95% of Britons had replaced Britons with Anglo-Saxons, including various people from Northern Europe . But another study, based on mitochondrial DNA inherited from the mother, found no evidence of significant post-Roman migration into Britain. A third paper suggested that the genetic contribution of the Anglo-Saxons of southeastern England was less than 50%.
The discrepancy between the findings is due to the fact that these three papers used modern DNA and worked backwards. Working with my colleagues and I took a look at the question from the other direction – by working with ancient DNA.
Results from our recent study were published in Nature Communications and include evidence from an Anglo-Saxon site that I unearthed in Oakington, Cambridgeshire. In total ten skeletons were investigated. These include seven medieval tombs dating from between the fifth and eighth centuries – four from Oakington and three from Hinxton – and three earlier Iron Age tombs from Cambridge, dating back to the century second BC and first century AD prehistoric inhabitants of Briton.
We used a new method called rar rarecoal to look at ancestry based on the sharing of rare alleles, which are the building blocks of genes. Our research has concluded that migrants during what is considered to be the Anglo-Saxon period are most closely related to modern Dutch and Danes – and that modern East English populations are descended from 38% from their ancestors. The rest of England, including present-day Scots and Welsh, shared 30% of their DNA with these migrants.
DNA analysis of four individuals from the Oakington Anglo-Saxon cemetery determined that one of them matched an Iron Age genome, two were closest to a modern Dutch genome, and one was a hybrid. of two people. Each of these burials is Anglo-Saxon culture because they are buried the same way, in the same cemetery. In fact, the richest assemblage of Anglo-Saxon artefacts comes from individuals who match Iron Age genetic ancestry, and are therefore not a diaspora.
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It shows that these ancient people did not distinguish biological heritage from cultural association. In other words, a person who lived and died in the fifth or sixth century Oloton village of Oakington could be biologically related to an earlier inhabitant of England, a recent emigrant from mainland Europe. either descended from one or both – they were all treated the same in death.
Writing Anglo-Saxons in History
Biologically, these people were a mixed group who shared what we consider Anglo-Saxon culture. But they don’t think of themselves as Anglo-Saxons.
The Anglo-Saxon idea is a heavily romanticized and politicized concept. When Gildas, a sixth-century Monk wrote De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On British Destruction and Conquest), he was referring only to the Saxons. Writing 200 years later, Venerable Bede used the word Anglorum’ in his church history to describe a people united under the worship. In the ninth century, Alfred the Great used the term Anglo-Saxon to describe the extent of his kingdom – but this description does not exist.
It was not until the 16th century that the pre-Normans were consistently described as Anglo-Saxons. In the past, stories like 1485 Le Morteimaerthur, by Thomas Malory, romanticized Arthurian villains defending England from invading Saxons. This origin story was important enough to late medieval English that Henry VIII installed a round table in Winchester Castle.
It was not until the 19th century that Anglo-Saxon poems such as Beowulf, Seafarer and Wanderer were translated into English as interest in Anglo-Saxons increased. In London’s National Portrait Gallery, there’s a statue of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha dressed in Anglo-Saxon monarchy – a commission that equates their German descent with their object. This Anglo-Saxon origin story has its roots in politics, downplayed when anti-German sentiment during World War I led the royals to change their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor in 1917.
A convenient, but imprecise label
People of the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries certainly did not think of themselves as Anglo-Saxons and would not understand the description. The migration into Great Britain took place in profound prehistory, throughout the Roman and post-Roman periods – a fact the Classicist Mary Beard was declared defended on Twitter in August.
Migration then continued with Viking settlement in the ninth and eleventh centuries. Dutch and European migration into England was present throughout the Middle Ages and was particularly pronounced in the 16th and 17th centuries when Flemish weavers fled religious persecution.
Today, the term Anglo-Saxon is a convenient label for opponents of future immigration. While it generally describes several post-Roman and early medieval cultures, it has never accurately described a biological people as well as an indigenous one. DNA evidence indicates an integrator of mixed ancestry living side by side.
Anglo-Saxon ancestry is a modern English myth – the British did not come from one group, but from many people and are still present in our culture and in our genes.
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To hear more about racial myths, listen to the December episode of The Anthill on Legends, featuring an interview with Duncan Sayer.