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Mol Biol Evol. 2006 Jan;23(1):152-61. Epub 2005 Sep 8.

Tracing the phylogeography of human populations in Britain based on 4th-11th century mtDNA genotypes.

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School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom.


Some of the transitional periods of Britain during the first millennium A.D. are traditionally associated with the movement of people from continental Europe, composed largely of invading armies (e.g., the Roman, Saxon, and Viking invasions). However, the extent to which these were migrations (as opposed to cultural exchange) remains controversial. We investigated the history of migration by women by amplifying mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from ancient Britons who lived between approximately A.D. 300-1,000 and compared these with 3,549 modern mtDNA database genotypes from England, Europe, and the Middle East. The objective was to assess the dynamics of the historical population composition by comparing genotypes in a temporal context. Towards this objective we test and calibrate the use of rho statistics to identify relationships between founder and source populations. We find evidence for shared ancestry between the earliest sites (predating Viking invasions) with modern populations across the north of Europe from Norway to Estonia, possibly reflecting common ancestors dating back to the last glacial epoch. This is in contrast with a late Saxon site in Norwich, where the genetic signature is consistent with more recent immigrations from the south, possibly as part of the Saxon invasions.

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