Orkneys of the Bronze Age were able to resist the expansion of the Indo-Europeans

(ORDO NEWS) — A new study of the genome of the inhabitants of the northern archipelago showed that the migration of the population on the islands was not quite the same as on the continent or in Britain.

During the Neolithic period (from 3800 to 2500 BC), the Orkney Islands developed intensively. Agriculture flourished there, people built stone dwellings and tombs, maintained, judging by the finds, contacts over long distances.

Beginning around 3200 BC, the number of settlements (and population) steadily increased, and the new ceremonial monuments and ceramic styles that originated in the islands spread throughout Britain and Ireland. Around 2800 BC, for reasons not entirely clear, the process began to wane, although Neolithic traditions persisted until at least 2500 BC.

Unlike elsewhere in Britain, there is little material evidence of the bell-beaker culture in Orkney , which is traditionally associated with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans in the British Isles.

The small number of finds relating to this culture made it possible to assume that in the Bronze Age the Orkneys developed in isolation. It turned out that this assumption is completely wrong.

Orkneys of the Bronze Age were able to resist the expansion of the Indo Europeans 2

An international team of scientists led by Katharina Dulias of the University of Huddersfield (UK) compared genomic data from 22 Bronze Age and three Iron Age burials ( Lynx of Noltland on Westray Island) with Neolithic burials from across the archipelago.

The study and comparison of ancient DNA revealed a level of migration on a scale that could not be imagined from archaeological data. It turned out that, despite their perceived isolation, the Orkneys experienced massive immigration during the Early Bronze Age, replacing most of the local population.

The newcomers probably spoke Indo-European languages ​​and carried a genome partially derived from pastoralists who lived in the steppes of the Northern Black Sea region.

The situation was approximately the same in the rest of Britain and Europe in the III millennium BC, but there were differences. In northern and central Europe pastoral expansions before the Bronze Age tended to be led by men, with women joining the growing population from local farming groups.

In Orkney, the researchers found just the opposite. Typical mitochondrial DNA passed down the female line here is DNA that appears in these places in the Bronze Age. But the Y-chromosomal DNA, transmitted through the male line, can be traced the same as from the original Neolithic population.

Orkneys of the Bronze Age were able to resist the expansion of the Indo Europeans 3

Moreover, these male lines persisted for at least a thousand years after the start of the influx of new mitochondrial DNA, which was not observed anywhere else.

In the rest of Europe, the “local” genes of Neolithic men are largely disappearing. True, the Neolithic lines on Orkney were nevertheless supplanted during the Iron Age and are extremely rare today.

In other words, the archipelago survived the same waves of migration as the rest of Europe, but at the same time managed to retain its Neolithic roots. If it is quite simple: the descendants of those who came from the steppes could not force out the local men. Why did it happen?

The archaeologists excavating at Links of Noltland argue that the answer may lie in the long-term stability and self-sufficiency of Orkney farming, which genetic evidence suggests was already male-dominated by the Neolithic peak.

When a pan-European recession set in towards the end of the Neolithic, they may have had a unique opportunity to survive harsher times and maintain power over the population as new people arrived.

It is not entirely clear why the main reason is the self-sufficiency of farms: the population of the islands actively developed fishing. That is, it was the food strategy that was quite diversified.

Of course, recalling the Neolithic monuments of the archipelago, I would like to assume that the matter is in some peculiarity of the local culture that brought up good warriors. But such a hypothesis is extremely speculative: in those difficult times, there were enough soldiers in other places.

In any case, it is clear that the expansion of the Indo-Europeans in Europe in the third millennium BC cannot be considered one monolithic process with general patterns, since it was more complex. The Bronze Age succeeded the Neolithic in different ways in different parts of Europe.


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