Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Female Bronze Age ‘incomers’ changed genetic landscape of Orkney, study finds

Professor Jim Wilson. Picture by University of Edinburgh.
Professor Jim Wilson. Picture by University of Edinburgh.

A large group of European women farmers who moved to Orkney around 5,200 years ago almost entirely wiped out the local female population’s DNA.

That is the finding of an ancient DNA profiling project by the universities of Edinburgh and Huddersfield.

The research, using DNA taken from human remains found on Westray, has found that within 1,000 years, the genes of the original settlers can only be found in a small number of the female population.

In layman’s terms the women who came had children with the male locals, and wiped out the local female population.

The Indo-European speaking women, some of the first visitors to the islands, are likely to have moved to the islands from around the area of the Black Sea.

Excavation work carried out by archaeologists on a Bronze Age settlement at the Links of Noltland on the island of Orkney.

They farmed in places such as Notland on Westray and on Orkney’s mainland.

Researchers from Edinburgh and Huddersfield universities combined archaeology with the study of ancient DNA from Bronze Age human remains to shed light on this pivotal moment for the islands.

While further research will need to be undertaken to find out why the women came – it is a world first that such a mass migration of women happened, and changed the population so dramatically.

A huge study to find the DNA of Orcadians is still continuing.

Orkney was an influential cultural centre

An Edinburgh University spokesman said: “Around 5,200 years ago, during the Neolithic period, when farming first took hold, Orkney was a hugely influential cultural centre.

“Yet, as Europe moved into the Bronze Age around 4,500 years ago, the islands’ influence dwindled and it supposedly became more insular.

“Despite this, after studying human remains from the Links of Noltland site on the remote northern island of Westray, the research team concluded that Orkney experienced large-scale immigration during the Bronze Age.”

Skara Brae – Orkney is a centre of archaeological discovery.

Although male lineages from the original Neolithic population survived for at least another thousand years – by the Iron Age the female lines were largely replaced and experts say they are  “vanishingly rare” today.

Human genetics professor Jim Wilson, at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “It’s absolutely fascinating to discover that the dominant Orcadian Neolithic male genetic lineage persisted at least 1,000 years into the Bronze Age, despite replacement of 95 per cent of the rest of the genome by immigrating women.

“This lineage was then itself replaced and we have yet to find it in today’s population.”

Why is the DNA profile of pre-historic Orkney so important?

Orkney and Shetland communities have long been seen as prime sites for gathering information on human movements in the Neolithic period, due to their settled populations.

Before this project, researchers believed Orkney was a community with long-term stability due to the self-sufficiency of farmsteads on the islands.

The study is due to appear in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]