Last year, ancient DNA was in the headlines when it was determined the ‘Beaker People’ who arrived in Britain c 4500 years ago, genetically replaced 90% of the previous population. At that time, studies were saying that the ‘Steppe Ancestry’ found in these people was not found in the Beaker population of Spain, long thought to be the earliest area of the ‘Beaker package’ and probably the dispersal area into the British Isles. So this changed what seemed to be an emerging picture of a more western origin, as well as the possible source of the highly dominant Y-DNA R1b in these areas.
However, a newer more region specific study has shown that the same Steppe ancestry is indeed found in the Spanish Beaker population, and also that they became genetically dominant in that region in a relatively short time, exactly as happened in Britain. (In other areas, such as central Europe, they became more blended into the earlier populations.)
In fact, the new story is eerily familiar and leads back to what was suspected–that the west Atlantic coast was a corridor for much trade and migration, and perhaps the dispersal of early Proto-Celtic languages. The main difference is that the Beaker culture is now looking to have arisen in central Europe with the blending of Steppe migrants and other local groups, and then spread out in several directions, including Spain, with arrival in Britain coming from BOTH from the Low Countries and Germany and from the western Atlantic seaboard.
The study of DNA in both ancient and medieval examples is certain throwing up many surprises; new work on the remains from the Tudor ‘Mary Rose’ shipwreck also showed that amongst the sailors were several North Africans and a Spaniard.
The stories coded within our genes from time immemorial will eventually be told.