Genetic Chaos

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Evidence for an apartheid-like social structure in early Anglo-Saxon England

The role of migration in the Anglo-Saxon transition in England remains controversial. Archaeological and historical evidence is inconclusive, but current estimates of the contribution of migrants to the English population range from less than 10,000 to as many as 200,000. In contrast, recent studies based on Y-chromosome variation posit a considerably higher contribution to the modern English gene pool (50–100%). Historical evidence suggests that following the Anglo-Saxon transition, people of indigenous ethnicity were at an economic and legal disadvantage compared to those having Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. It is likely that such a disadvantage would lead to differential reproductive success. We examine the effect of differential reproductive success, coupled with limited intermarriage between distinct ethnic groups, on the spread of genetic variants. Computer simulations indicate that a social structure limiting intermarriage between indigenous Britons and an initially small Anglo-Saxon immigrant population provide a plausible explanation of the high degree of Continental male-line ancestry in England.

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