A groundbreaking new study conducted by 144 geneticists and archaeologists has determined that British people today owe more to a group of settlers known as the Beaker People than they do to the Neolithic farmers who constructed Stonehenge, with 90 percent of British DNA today the direct result of these new arrivals to Britain 4,500 years ago.
As University of Oxford archaeologist Barry Cunliffe jubilantly proclaimed, the results of the new study conducted on these Beaker People are “absolutely sort of mind-blowing,” as the Daily Mail reported.
“They are going to upset people, but that is part of the excitement of it.”
The new research was conducted on the ancient remains of 400 skeletons that lived immediately preceding the creation of Stonehenge and ones that came directly after it.
While the Neolithic farmers who built Stonehenge had lived in Britain for around 1,500 years, they were quickly replaced by a new and mysterious people who were quite different from those residing on the island and building these massive monuments.
These early Neolithic individuals are believed to have been quite Mediterranean in appearance and would have had dark skin and eyes, which is in marked contrast to the Beaker People who traveled to Britain from Holland and had pale skin and light eyes.
#SciNews: Ancient DNA reveals that the British population was all but wiped out and replaced roughly 4,400 years ago. Find out more about the Beaker people in Britain: https://t.co/jsjUBpz1dbpic.twitter.com/iNJPmxQzHg
— NaturalHistoryMuseum (@NHM_London) February 21, 2018
Dr. Mike Parker Pearson of University College London is one of the authors of the new study on the Beaker People, and explained that while British people have long considered themselves to be the modern descendants of Neolithic farmers, this new research has conclusively shown that very little DNA remains of these monument builders.
“Most of us have thought the people who built Stonehenge were our direct ancestors, but actually this study shows that they are only distantly related to us, if at all. We now realize these people had totally disappeared from the British population within 1,000 years.”
Further, the Natural History Museum’s Ian Barnes has commented that the lighter-skinned people of Britain today are much more closely related to the Beaker folk, who usurped the earlier Neolithic communities, according to The Guardian.
“At least 90 percent of the ancestry of Britons was replaced by a group from the continent. Following the Beaker spread, there was a population in Britain that for the first time had ancestry and skin and eye pigmentation similar to the majority of Britons today.”
Arrival of Beaker folk changed Britain forever, ancient DNA study shows https://t.co/MTKu2FNMUF
— Guardian Science (@guardianscience) February 21, 2018
But what happened to the original Neolithic farmers who lived in Britain 5,000 years ago? While some are of the belief that the Beaker People may have unwittingly brought diseases like the bubonic plague to the country, the University of Bradford’s Ian Armit believes that it is much more complicated than this, and that there are a number of things that may have happened to help displace the earlier inhabitants of Britain.
“It’s not necessarily a story of violent conquest. There is some evidence of a declining population and increased growth of forests, suggesting that agriculture was in decline. We could be looking at climate change, or even an epidemic of imported disease to which they had no resistance. But we certainly now have the evidence that they were replaced – and they never came back.”
The new research on the Beaker People and their contribution to 90 percent of the DNA of modern British people today is the biggest study of ancient DNA that has ever been undertaken and can be read in the journal Nature.