Cornish are most ancient of britons

Indigenous Cornish and Welsh can claim to be the most ancient of Britons, according to scientists who are drawing up a new genetic map of the British Isles.

They studied variations in DNA taken from thousands of people living in rural areas.  The  aim was to work out where the ancestors of people in different areas came from — and how much they have intermingled over the centuries.

Only ‘rural’ dwellers were included, and all those tested had to have had all four grandparents born in the same area, using surnames unique to the areas as a guide.
Peter Donnelly, professor of statistical science at Oxford University and director of the Wellcome Trust centre for human genetics. Donnelly and his colleagues, who will be describing their work at the Royal Society’s summer science exhibition, to be held in London on 3-8 July, 2012.

The study leader is Professor Walter Bodmer, a leading Oxford geneticist. Donnelly and his colleagues analysed the differences at 500,000 ‘points’ in the DNA of 2,000 people (300+ in Cornwall), and the study has taken over 10 years.

The results showed that the Welsh, followed by the Cornish, remain among the most genetically distinct of all the groups on mainland Britain, and likely linked to populations along the Atlantic coasts for for many thousands of years.

“The people of Wales and Cornwall are different from … southern and central England,” Donnelly said.

Their blog says “Probably one of the most surprising patterns was the clear distinction between Cornwall and Devon, virtually along the County (sic) border.  We are still thinking about the patterns and how they might be related to history”.

Note: This article and map are sourced mainly from an item in the Sunday Times, 17 June, 2012  by Jonathan Leake, Science Editor, as well as the project web sites and related publications.

More information on the research:

The exhibition:

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