Blood of the Isles, by Bryan Sykes


1. This is the very first book to be written about the genetic history of Britain and Ireland using DNA as its main source of information.

2. The results, explained in the book, exceeded even my most optimistic expectations of the power of genetics to make a real contribution to our knowledge of a small region.

3. I hope that you will agree that from now on genetics can take its proper place alongside history and archaeology as one of the principal lenses through which to view the past.

4. We had the first laboratory in the world that recovered DNA from human and animal bones that were hundreds or even thousands of years old.

5. The ancestors of most native Europeans were hunter-gatherers and not, as was commonly believed at the time, farmers who had spread into Europe from the Middle East about 8,500 years ago.

6. The Polynesians had come from Asia, not America.

7. The southern and eastern coasts of England are sinking at a rate of an inch a year. The west and north coasts are rising at about the same rate or sometimes faster.

8. By the time Julius Caesar wrote his Gallic Wars, around 60 BC, the people of Gaul called themselves Celts. So while the Greeks used Keltoi to refer to outsiders, coming from beyond the limits of the civilized Mediterranean world, the name itself might originally have come from one or more of the tribes themselves. For the Romans, the terms Celt and Gaul were pretty much interchangeable, used to describe the inhabitants of their territories in France and northern Italy and to tell them apart from the real enemy – the Germans. However, when we come to the people of Britain and Ireland during the Roman period, nobody called them Celts. They called them a lot of things, but not Celts.

9. Celtic identity, in ireland, Wales and Scotland, and the language defines itself in part at least as being ‘not English’.

10. The Celt is perceived to be the British -or even the European- aboriginal.

11. There is a growing feeling, as Beddoe moves around the country, that he is forming the view that darkeyed and dark-haired people are the remnants of the indigenous Britons that were later supplemented, or displaced, by the Saxons and the Vikings.

12. Normans are really no more than recycled Vikings.

13. The X-chromosome has nothing directly to do with sex. Women are not women because they possess two X-chromosomes, Women are female because they don’t have a Y-chromosome.

14. For the first six weeks of life, there is no visible difference between male and female embryos. At about that time, the sex gene on the Y-chromosome switches on. This sends a signal to a whole series of other genes situated on other chromosomes, which, between them, actively divert embryonic development away from female and towards male. Men truly are genetically modified women.

15. If, just by looking, I could recognize a Gaelic word or a Saxon spelling somewhere in the sequence of DNA letters. But the genes were stubbornly silent, oblivious to the tongues of their bearers.

16. In Mongolia, 8 per cent of men have inherited the Genghis chromosome. Throughout Asia and occasionally on other continents, the number comes to a staggering 16 million.

17. None of the High Kings ever managed complete dominance over the whole island of Ireland, some had a very good try and this may well be reflected in an Irish GenghisnKhan effect.

18. Though it was Ireland’s misfortune to be occupied by the English for so long, it entirely avoided being conquered by the Romans, which large swathes of Britain did no. One negative consequence of this lucky escape was that there are no written histories of Ireland from the Roman period. Not until the arrival of Christians in the fifth century AD, however unreliable.

19. To a Roman, the Irish, did not differ much from the British.

20. almost 10 per cent of Irish men and women are the direct maternal descendants of Ursula. Because the clan is so old and there has been such a long time for mutations to accumulate, we found only three people who have Ursula’s sequence unmodified by genetic change, none of them lives in Ireland! One lives in Hampshire in southern England, another in London and the third in New York.

21. From research done throughout the world over the past decade, Y-chromosomes can now be separated into twenty-one paternal clans, eight of which occur in Europe. Of these eight clans only five occur in the Isles to any appreciable extent.

22. There is usually only a single DNA sequence mutation between the Y-chromosome of one clan and another, even though they have been separated for tens of thousands of years. Y-chromosomes are not shuffled at each generation.

23. With Ireland there was very little difference to be seen in the geographical distribution of the maternal clans in different parts of the Island. However, in Leinster, 73% of Y-chromosomes are in the clan of Oisin. In Ulster, this rises to 81%. In Munster, 95%. In Connacht 98%. Recalling the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland that began in Leinster.

24. Vikings began to arrive in Orkney, and in Shetland to the north, at the end of the 8th century.

25. Any tribes the Romans encountered who either wore tattooes or adorned their bodies with wode earned the uncomplimentary nickname, Picti, literally the ‘painted people’, is also from the same root as Pretani, the Gaelic term which, the islanders used to describe themselves and from which the name Britain itself derives.

26. The Picts also left behind a collection of remarkable stone structures unlike any other in the Isles – the brochs. The language of the Picts enters the realms of the unknowable. Which all adds to the mystery.

27. The balance between the Gaels of Dal Riata and the Picts seesawed until the Gaels gained the upper hand and in 843 the Gaelic king Kenneth MacAlpin was crowned the first king of Alba, a unified country covering both the land of the Picts and Dal Riata. His claim to the throne was a combination of the Gaelic patrilineal succession of Dal Riata and the matrilineal inheritance system of the Picts. The land came to be called Scotland because Scotti was the label the Romans gave to all Irish immigrants into Britannia.

28. as a response to the external threat of the Vikings, the unification of Scotland under a single king came shortly.

29. James VI became king of England and Ireland as well.

30. The Anglo-Norman lords had their eyes on Scotland, their presence there, hence, was very influential to the Y-chromosome pattern.

31. Recalling the Irish results, 100% of men with Gaelic surnames are in the same clan of Oisin. Oisin is still the major clan in both Shetland and Orkney, with just under 60% of men in this paternal clan who are indigenous Pictish. The remaining 40% are from Wodan and Sigurd who had Viking ancestors. This is oversimplification since we discovered that third of Norwegian men were of Oisin clan.

32. Two thirds of Icelandic Y-chromosomes were Scandinavian, the remaining were from Ireland and Scotland. The origin of maternal DNA was reversed, with only a third from Norway and two thirds from Ireland and Scotland. This confirmed that Icelandic men raided the coasts of Scotland and Ireland for wives.

33. There was as much Norse mtDNA in the Northern Isles as there were Norse Y-DNA. The Viking settlement of Orkney and Shetland had been peaceful! They brought their women with them.

34. The paternal clans (of Pictland) were slightly older than in Ireland, but still much younger than the maternal dates.

35. We can confidently conclude that the Picts and the Celts have the same underlying genetic origins.

36. there are 200,000 men who carry Somerled’s Y-chromosome who drove the Norse from the Isles.

37. the Irish Y-chromosome infiltration into the west of Scotland is the signal of relocation of Dal Riata from Ulster to Argyll. The Y-chromosomes are more diverse in the Pictland regions. It has sth to do with the tradition of matrilineal inheritance.

38. irish gaelic (Q-celtic) never displaced the p-celtic of the welsh as it did in Scotland.

39. saxons westward expansion was halted where Romans had their lines in Wales.

40. i still hope to finf one person with Neanderthal DNA which i could recognize so long as it is mtDNA.

41. but the neat division between saxons, angles and jutes and their various destinations in England almost certainly applies only to the leaders, not the mass of settlers.

42. schoolchildren learn that Alfred the great saved england from the Danes. He clearly did not, as the Danes won control of half of the country.

43. The number of exact close matches between the maternal clans of western and northern Iberia and the western half of the Isles is very impressive, almost all of us are Celts and are not related to the Celts of Hallstadt and La Tene. 44. It is very difficult to distinguish Saxon, Dane and norman on genetic basis. There are far more people with Celtic ancestry in England than can claim to be of Saxon or Danish descent.

Interview on coast-to-coast radio:

in this interview he says: “It is no exaggeration to say that men are genetically modified women .. the natural course of development is into a girl, the Y-chromosome is a graveyard of the genes.”