They Came from Europe and the Steppe: Mass Immigration to Great Britain in the Bronze Age

  • Migration movements shaped the entire history of mankind
  • The British Isles saw at least three such waves of immigration
  • About 3,000 years ago, the last wave brought Celtic language and milk tolerance.

People have always migrated and migrated to other regions for various reasons. Migration is as old as human history. Mass immigration from mainland Europe, for example, was experienced in what is now Great Britain in the Middle to Late Bronze Age. This is the result of a study of over 200 international researchers led by geneticists David Reich and Nick Patterson at Harvard Medical School in Boston, United States. The results were published in the journal Nature.

spread of Celtic languages ​​favored

According to the researchers, mass migration into ancient Britain may have supported the spread of early Celtic languages. The researchers also found evidence of changes in the DNA of milk consumption. “This suggests that during the Bronze Age, dairy products were used differently in Britain and Europe,” explain the study authors.

This shows how much the merging of large data sets from genetics with archaeological and other data from the past can tell us. It has the potential to provide a wealth of information about a time when Scripture did not yet exist.


David Reich
Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology and Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, USA

Immigration of farmers and hunters from Europe

According to the researchers, many farmers and hunters probably migrated from Europe to Britain during the Bronze Age. These were the ancestors of the later Neolithic farmers who lived around 3950-2450 BC. used to live. Genome analysis showed ancestry to be between 20 and 80 percent.

steppe to britain

Second mass migration around 2450 BC. BC was associated with the arrival of continental Europeans, who brought their ancestors with them from the Pontic-Caspian steppe and were the descendants of the shepherds who lived there. This plain between the Black and Caspian Seas is the western part of the so-called Eurasian Plain. “The Great Migration Movement meant that the ancestors of the population were almost completely exchanged (about 90 percent), so that the proportions of steppe ancestry in England and Scotland no longer differed from each other,” the authors write. “Today, however, the proportion of steppe ancestors in England is quite small.” This change may have been caused by subsequent events, which to this day remain a mystery,” it said.

Mass immigration from France

Great Britain appears to have had a tremendous influence on the French as well. Thousands of people also made their way north into the Iron Age after the Bronze Age. The international research team analyzed a previously unknown mass immigration into ancient Britain, which peaked between 1,000 and 875 BC. reached. “We believe that these immigrants came from France and made up about half of the Iron Age population in England and Wales,” it said.

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Milk tolerance as a survival advantage?

Since the language is generally spread through the migration of peoples, the results also support the notion that the Celtic languages ​​came to Britain from France at the end of the Bronze Age. “With genetic data from large migrant movements, we can identify practical times for language shifts,” said study leader Reich. Scientists and a team also found that the ability to digest cow’s milk was found in Britain between 1200 and 200 BC. Chr. increased dramatically. This happened almost a millennium earlier than in Central Europe.

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