Genetics Make Welsh Distinct
ICWales: Genetics make Welsh distinct
Nearly 500 years after the Act of Union, genetic research shows that the people of Wales remain markedly different from the English.
Geneticist Prof Steve Jones says the Welsh and the Irish are among the most homogenous people in the world. He and colleagues at University College, London, have spent years creating a genetic map of the Y chromosome, which is passed by males from generation to generation. The results show that the Welsh are related to the Basques of northern Spain and southern France and to native Americans. All are descended from the Kets people of western Siberia.
Prof Jones, who was born in Aberystwyth, said the Y chromosomes showed a marked difference between males on the Welsh and English side of the border.
"This shows that in the Dark Ages, when the Anglo-Saxons turned up, there was the most horrible massacre on the English side. They killed everybody and replaced them.
"The Welsh Y chromosome is similar to that of the Basques. In the male line, at least, the Welsh and the Basques are survivors or relics of a period before huge numbers of farmers filled Europe from the Middle East.
"There has been much less interbreeding in Wales than you might expect. Wales and Ireland have the most homogenous group of males of anywhere in the world, from the research that's been done so far."
Surprisingly perhaps, the genetics show that the Welsh are not related to the Cornish, despite the similarity of their languages.
"The Cornish are in effect Anglo-Saxons who for a time used a language that was hanging around."
The genes of Scottish males also betrayed considerable inter-mixing with outsiders. Prof Jones, who recently published a book called Y - The Descent of Man, said genetics provided more reliable clues to the distant past than language did.
He said the Y chromosome common among Welsh males was an ancient one.
"Most native Americans have the same one. They came from Siberia much later, over the Bering Strait."
The Kets themselves have not held out as well as the Welsh have. They came into contact with Russians in the 17th Century and have largely become assimilated, especially during the Soviet era.