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New bodies of proof suggest that the roots of the Irish may spread out to all the corners of the earth

WE live in interesting times. Archaeologists have long argued over whether the evidence supported theories of great migrations into Great Britain and Ireland, or whether it was simply evidence of the movement of ideas and goods.

The results of three research projects just published in British Archaeology (November-December 2016), look set to provide some answers, but to also challenge some prevailing orthodoxies.

These projects examined DNA from human remains in England and published genomic descriptions of 23 individuals. There were 12 men and 11 women and there were four Iron Age, 11 Roman and eight Anglo-Saxon.

However, of interest is a brief reference to similar research conducted in Northern Ireland: "In December, genome studies of four prehistoric individuals excavated in Ireland were published by a Trinity College, Dublin team working with colleagues at Queen's University, Belfast.

"All four individuals showed significant evidence for immigration, from the Middle East (an early neolithic woman from Co Down) and from the Pontic Steppe (three early Bronze Age men from Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland)."

The Pontic Steppe is over to the north-east of the Black Sea, where the modern states of Ukraine and Kazakhstan lie.

It seems likely that further genome studies will be conducted on ever-more human remains to deliver a better understanding of who the Irish are - and where we came from.

Interesting times indeed, eh?



Belfast Telegraph