When considering what to write about, I remembered a 2016 press release which gives a more detailed look at British genetics which is not frequently discussed in the political right, and given the type of language used in its presentation, this is understandable. Like the mass media’s framing of the possibly dark-skinned “Cheddar Man”, a normal Mesolithic European who was not genetically a modern sub-Saharan African (LINK), the language used in the presentation of these results appears to be another ruse intended to create a narrative to justify current liberal immigration policy and cosmopolitanism in the UK. Nevertheless, the uninterpreted numerical results presented by AncestryDNA are intriguing and appear to fit with other genetic and historical information about the ethnogenesis of peoples of the British Isles.
The three largest admixtures in the British Isles are:
“British”, an Anglo Saxon admixture (Somewhat of a misnomer as the Anglo-Saxons were not the original Britons). It reaches its highest percentage in England at 35-40 %, which agrees with earlier results on Anglo Saxon admixture in England, using DNA samples from actual Anglo-Saxon graves.
“West European” French/German admixture, primarily located in the areas once inhabited by the Continental Celts (starting c. 500 BC), and likely the genetic remains of this ancient people. It peaks in Southeastern England, possibly due to the Hallstatt culture’s greater influence in that area. It also generally correlates with the geographic distribution of the mostly continental French, German and Alpine Y-haplogroup R-U152/S28 in the British Isles.
“Celtic” Irish admixture (different from the Continental Hallstatt Celts). This Irish admixture is ubiquitous in the British Isles but most represented in the “Celtic Fringe” areas: Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. This is the same pattern observed with the genetic affinity of modern Brits and Irish to Bronze Age Irish specimens from Rathlin Island (Cassidy et al., 2016), and the frequency of Y-haplogroup R-L21. It may be a genetic remnant of the first possible Celts to arrive in the British Isles in the Bronze Age. In some areas of Britain, it could also be partly imported by migrations and raids out of Ireland onto the western coast of Britain around 400 AD and about a century later in western Scotland creating the Dál Riata kingdom.
The Scandinavian admixture is around 9-10% throughout England and, not surprisingly, peaks in the East Midlands, the heart of what was once Danelaw territory. Trace levels (~1-4 %) of admixtures from the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe are ubiquitous throughout the British Isles.
The results obtained by Ancestry DNA show “British”/Anglo-Saxon admixture peaking, not in East Anglia (as in Martiniano et al., 2016), but in Yorkshire, the East Midlands, and Southwestern regions of England. It may be that the genetic model produced by Ancestry is able to be more accurate because it considers several admixtures from distinct geographic areas of Western Europe, helping to minimize errors caused by the aggregation of regional admixtures during analysis.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the knowledge of whether or not the genomes from Anglo-Saxon remains were used to define the “British”/Anglo-Saxon admixture of AncestryDNA. However, in the comments below one amateur genetics article, one individual, Bruce Petersen, with three grandparents from Denmark and one from Norway reported having 63 % “British” admixture, and 33 % Scandinavian admixture. This result suggests that the “British” admixture of AncestryDNA is indeed Anglo-Saxon, as it is found at a clear majority percentage in the approximate geographic homeland of the Anglo-Saxons (Denmark) and to a lesser degree in England, and to an even smaller degree in other parts of the British Isles which have not been permanently settled by Germanic peoples. As visible in two of the maps of England below, the regional frequencies of “British”/Anglo-Saxon admixture also appear positively correlated with those of Y-chromosomal haplogroups I1, I2, R1a, and R1b-U106, associated with Germanic ethnic groups but almost never with Celtic ethnic groups (I2 being the exception in some cases). This further supports the idea that this “British” admixture is Germanic rather than Celtic in origin. If this is true, the name of this admixture, “British”, is mistaken; it should perhaps be called a “Jutlandic” or “North-Sea” admixture instead.
The combination of “British”/Anglo-Saxon and “Scandinavian” admixture totaling around 50% throughout most of England may be why modern Danes have such a high genetic affinity to modern Brits (even compared to Norwegians and Swedes) as indicated in Athanasiadis et al., 2016. Given that about 50 % of the Y-chromosomal lineages in England are likely of Germanic origin, and given the ~50 % Germanic autosomal admixture in England, a parsimonious explanation is that nearly equal numbers of men and women migrated to England among the Anglo-Saxons, and possibly among the Danes also.
It would appear from the modern distribution of both Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian admixture that there was likely heavy gene-flow from England into Wales sometime after the early middle-ages, possibly in the Norman era.
East Anglia and London, areas of Britain which experienced disproportionately high Romanization, not surprisingly have the greatest Italian/Greek admixture in the UK at 2.53 % and 2.51 %, and the greatest Iberian admixture at 3.43 % and 3.39 %, respectively. An obvious explanation for this is that the Romanization of these regions would have allowed for the introduction of some admixture from the Mediterranean basin, although it was only enough to have a lasting impact at trace levels.
London has the greatest “European Jewish” admixture (3.66 %) in the UK, well above that of the rest of the country, including East Anglia, at ~1.60 % or less. This may indicate a disproportionately high concentration of Jews around London at some time in history, a few of which left their tribe and intermarried with the non-Jewish population.
The Finnish-Russian trace admixture which peaks in Scotts may have been brought by Saami admixed Norsemen, or it could be a calculation error caused by the greater Mesolithic hunter-gatherers admixture in the Scotts (especially Orcadians), which is also present in Northeastern Europe.
The main goal of this article is to describe the prehistoric origins of extant Caucasoid subraces using both physical anthropology and genetic science.
The Cro-Magnid subrace is likely one of the oldest Caucasoid subraces. It is often characterized in contrast to Nordic and Mediterranean phenotypes by its robust skeletal build and broad face. However, because of very heavy admixture with Neolithic migrants from Anatolia and the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, it is no longer present in its original form, and now is only responsible for producing a somewhat more robust face in certain phenotypes which are otherwise more recent in origin (Borreby, Dalo-Faelid, Paleo-Atlantid, Tavastid). The populations in which modern Cro-Magnid phenotypic features sometimes persist are not surprisingly Northern European, having significant Hunter-Gatherer ancestry (see admixture estimates) related to the Loschbour specimen shown below.
Europeans belonging to the Mediterranean subrace (“Mediterranids” proper) derive most of their ancestry from a series of Near Eastern migrations into Europe, especially that of early Neolithic Anatolian cereal grain farmers. Compared to the Cro-Magnid, the Mediterranean is more gracile. This could be a result of a Neolithic adaptation to less dietary vitamin D as fatty animal foods were no longer relied upon for energy. It could also be because as subsistence agriculture was adopted, it was no longer necessary to have a robust skeletal build to protect against injuries from hunting large animals. Most Mediterranean Europeans living south of the Alps, Balkans and the Pyrenees, with the possible exception of Sardinians, also possess a significant genetic contribution from Bronze and Iron Age incursions from the Near East of the Phoenicians and Luwian Sea Peoples (whose migration is possibly memorized in the myth of Aeneas and other Trojans leaving Western Anatolia and settling in Italy in the late Bronze Age). The European genetic clines produced by admixtures from the Near East during the Neolithic and metal ages can be seen in the PCA below.
The abundance of Near-Eastern ancestry in Mediterranean Europeans compared to other Europeans is evident in the phenotypes of a slightly olive complexion, dark wavy hair, and dark eyes. Amphorae and sculptures from ancient Greece would seem to indicate that the majority of the population and some prominent aristocrats, particularly in Athens (such as Pericles), were of a predominantly Mediterranean phenotype, having dark wavy or curly hair which is much less common in Northern Europe.
The Mediterranean subrace, however, is not limited to Europe, or even the Mediterranean basin. The Orientalid phenotype is often considered a Mediterranean racial type; however, its inclusion of both Arabs and Iranians can be misleading as Iranians are in fact more closely related to the “Armenoid” of Armenia and the Caucasus than to the Arabs also considered Orientalid.
Modern Arabs are closely related to Neolithic inhabitants of the Levant, and modern Armenoids and Iranians are genetically similar to the people of the (Kura-Araxes) Bronze Age Armenian Plateau, possibly descended from the Anatolian Neolithic and the hunter-gatherers of the Caucasus (link). The Indid phenotype is also sometimes considered the Mediterranean and is common among modern Indo-Aryans, who have significant ancestry from the Iranian Neolithic (Lazaridis et al., 2016). The ancient Egyptians were Mediterranean Caucasoids who appear to derive their ancestry from both the Anatolian Neolithic and the Neolithic Levant (Schuenemann et al., 2017).
All of the people of prehistoric cultures which gave rise to peoples of a Mediterranean subrace share significant admixture containing a combination of Upper Paleolithic (Epigravettian) European hunter-gatherer and “basal Eurasian” DNA. This “basal rich” admixture, as it is called on the blog Eurogenes, might be considered proto-Mediterranean; it most likely emerged in Northern Africa or the Middle East and is distinct from the Sub-Saharan African genetic admixture. While this basal rich admixture is most abundant in racially Mediterranean populations, it is, in fact, ubiquitous in all extant Caucasoid populations.
The Nordic subrace possesses a geographic range including Southern Scandinavia, the British Isles, Northern France, the Low Countries, Northern Germany, and the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, extending to some degree into Russia. Archaeogenetic research indicates that Nordic populations possess almost all of their ancestry from three earlier Caucasoid groups: Neolithic Anatolian farmers, Pontic-Caspian Steppe pastoralists and European hunter-gatherers, who began combining in the Corded Ware Culture c. 3000-2300 BC (Allentoft et al., 2015; Lazaridis et al., 2016). Modern Northwestern Europeans appear to be descended mostly from Northern Bell Beaker peoples (Olade et al., 2018), who are probably descended from people of the people of the late Corded Ware Culture in Germany (Lemercier, 2018, link).
In the absence of Cro-Magnid influences, both the Nordic and Mediterranean subraces are characterized by a gracile skeletal build which in both subraces is likely inherited from Anatolian Neolithic farmers. Both Neolithic European farmers and steppe pastoralists often possessed the alleles associated with light skin in modern Northern Europeans (Allentoft et al., 2015), so both likely contributed to this phenotype in modern Nordic peoples. However, the depigmentation of the hair and eyes present in modern Nordics is unlikely to be a result of admixture from steppe pastoralists, as genome sequencing indicates that late Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age steppe peoples of the Yamna/Yamnaya/Pit Grave culture (3300-2600 BC) had brown eyes and dark hair (link). However blond hair and blue eyes were already very common among Neolithic agriculturalists of the Globular Amphora (GAC) (3400 – 2800 BC) and Funnelbeaker (TRB) (4300 BC – 2650 BC) cultures, appearing in at least 50 % of unearthed individuals from each culture (link).
These GAC and TRB peoples often possessing blond hair and blue eyes were descended mostly from Anatolian Neolithic farmers, and to a much lesser degree, Mesolithic Europeans (Mathieson et al., 2017; Skoglund, Malmstrom et al., 2014). The Corded Ware people who succeeded them accumulated increasing Anatolian Neolithic admixture as they remained in the same area where TRB and GAC cultures once existed (Mathieson et al., 2017; link). So, there were likely genetic contributions from the TRB and GAC peoples to the Corded Ware people. This could be responsible for the prevalence of blue eyes and blond hair in populations partly or mostly derived from the late Corded Ware peoples from the Baltic (Balto-Slavic and certain Finno-Ugric peoples (link)), the interior of Eastern Europe (early Graeco-Aryan peoples (link, link), including the Sintashta), Scandinavia (Germanic peoples), and possibly Western Germany and the Netherlands (Bell Beaker; proto-Italo-Celts (Lemercier, 2018)).
The very light skin and fair hair pigmentation likely predominated in Northern European Neolithic peoples as a result of a need to effectively synthesize vitamin D using sunlight at high latitudes given the lack thereof in a diet based on cereal grains and pulses. The alleles for light eye color could have predominated partially through a sexual selection, and because at least some of these alleles (such as rs12913832) also depigment the skin and hair allowing for adequate vitamin D synthesis in northern latitudes. The high frequency of lactase persistence developed due to reliance on cow-milk as a food source. However, the allele rs4988235 for lactase persistence was uncommon in the people of the Bell Beaker and Sintashta cultures, demonstrating that lactose tolerance likely reached its current prevalence in Northern Europe later during the Bronze and/or Iron Age(s).
Nordic phenotypes occur sometimes in the Mediterranean and the Balkans. The Celtiberians, Myceneans, and early Italic tribes who introduced Indo-European languages into the Mediterranean from the north would have carried Nordic traits with them. Classical literature would seem to substantiate this. Many Greek mythological figures such as Menelaus, Achilles, Apollo, Aphrodite, and Athena are all described as having light pigmentation. Certain Romans such as Augustus and Marcus Junius Brutus (the younger) possessed Nordic facial features. Augustus and many other Roman emperors also possessed, according to records, light pigmentation of the hair and eyes (link). Later, the Visigoths, Suebi, and Ostrogoths would add to the Nordic component in the Balkans, Italy, and Iberia. This would remain visible in the aristocracy of Spain for 1000 years after these invasions; Queen Isabella de Castille, born in 1451, possessed strikingly Nordic traits compared to the average Iberian, and even her own husband.
On the Relevance of Cephalic and Facial Indices
During the 19th and early 20th century, it was common to use facial index and cephalic index in racial classification. Some populations were classified as Alpinid, Dinarid, East Europid, and Armenoid, in part because of their brachycephaly. East Europoids and Alpinids were also distinguished by their broad faces.
It is completely possible if not probable that genetic variation between populations is responsible for some of the variation in cephalic and facial indices between populations (Stoev, 2013). A colder climate does appear correlated with a more brachycephalic skull (Beals, 1972; Bharati et al., 2001), probably because head-shape is related to cranial surface-area/volume ratio, which influences how well the cranium retains heat. Given that brachycephaly and a wider facial shape are both neotenous characteristics, selecting for brachycephaly could accidentally select for greater neoteny in general, leading to a broader facial shape, which may explain why these two traits often coincide. Exogamy also appears correlated with longer and narrower (less brachycephalic) head shapes (Billy, 1975), suggesting that brachycephaly results from the expression of recessive alleles. This could account for the brachycephaly of some populations inhabiting warmer climates, but which are subject to population isolation for cultural and/or geographical reasons: likely examples include the rural French, Albanians, and Italians of the Apennines and Po valley. This relationship may also account for the mesocephalic head shape of some ethnic groups inhabiting colder climates, such as certain Russians, Ob-Ugric peoples, and Finno-Volgaic peoples, who live near relatively large traversable waterways that allow for greater exogamy.
From 1200 AD to 1700 AD in Poland and surrounding countries, the average cephalic index increased drastically, from about 75 (dolichocephalic) to about 83 (brachycephalic) (Henneberg, 1976). Given that brachycephaly is probably selected for by a colder climate, this increase in the cephalic index could be an adaptive reaction to the temperature decrease between 1100 AD and 1600 AD.
Despite their drastic change in average cephalic index, modern Northern Slavs and Balts still form genetic clusters with individuals from the areas surrounding Poland (Pomerania, Bohemia, and the East Baltic) who lived well before 1200 AD (Mittnik et al., 2018; link; link). Therefore, the average cephalic index of an ethnic group appears much more flexible than most components of genetic variation which have been used to distinguish different ethnic groups and subraces. This could also be supported by the observation that the cephalic index of a population can change very rapidly and significantly over the course of a few decades (Pavlica et al., 2018; Stoev, 2013). Facial index has also been demonstrated to change significantly within a few decades in Croatia and in the Meitei people of India (Pavlica et al., 2018; Devi et al., 2016), and like cephalic index, may have much greater flexibility than the components of genetic variation which have been used to distinguish different ethnic groups and subraces.
In summary: it is likely that cephalic and facial indices are at least partly controlled by genetics, but given their flexibility, it may not be appropriate to use indices in subracial classification. Excluding the use of facial and cephalic indices in subracial classification, the genomic analysis of modern populations would likely result in the classification of East Europid and Nordid as variants within a single subrace; Central and Southeastern European Dinarid and Alpinid subraces as mixtures of Nordid and Mediterranid subraces; and Armenoid and the Iranian “Orientalid” variant as belonging to the same subrace. See the PCA below (modified from one originally from this article) for the genetic clustering patterns that support these classifications.
What is White?
Returning to the main dilemma which many are facing; one might like to ask the question of what is white? All commonly called “whites” are racially Caucasoid. In most formal discussions, “White” is often equated with Caucasoid, and can thus include both Middle Eastern and European ethnic groups. In more common or “folk” parlance, white usually refers to Caucasoids with a fair skin phenotype common in populations with an abundance of Nordic racial ancestry. Hence, when speaking accurately with regards to genetic ancestry, “White” should either refer to “Caucasoid” or to racially Nordic Caucasoids. If the former option is chosen, Europeans may be considered “white-Europeans” or “European whites”.
Addendum: Non-Caucasoid Admixture in Majority Caucasoids
To address this topic I will first use the Eurogenes K7 admixture calculator which uses Caucasoid admixtures sourced from ancient populations prior to the Neolithic, Bronze age, Iron age, and Medieval population movements. When viewing the spreadsheet, the populations ancestral to all modern Caucasoids are labeled “Villabruna-related”, “Ancient_North_Eurasia” and “Basal-rich”. East Asian ancestry is called “East Eurasian”, and Sub-Saharan African ancestry is referred to as “Sub-Saharan”; the “Southeast Asian” and “Oceanian” ancestry groups are predominate in Australoid populations.
Modern Semitic populations in Arabia and the Levant have little to no Australoid admixture and trace Sub-Saharan African admixture at around 1-3 % as well as some occasional East Asian admixture at ~0.5%. The Druze, Samaritans, and Lebanese Christians lack this additional East Asian and Sub-Saharan African Admixture. Most modern Indic and Iranic populations, except for some Kurds and Zoroastrian Iranians, possess some East Asian admixture (~1-9%), and Australoid admixture (~0.4-9%). Middle Eastern Islamic populations almost as a rule possess more non-Caucasoid admixture than Middle Eastern populations which have remained non-Muslim. This may be due to the conversion of Central Asian Turkic peoples and Sub-Saharan Africans to Islam. Ironically, some modern linguistic Turks, living in Trabzon, possess no more Sub-Saharan African, or East Asian ancestry compared to most Europeans.
Europeans, in general, do not possess much Sub-Saharan African ancestry, almost invariably under 0.2% in most of Europe (usually fluctuating greatly below this level in the same populations; an indication of calculator “noise”). In Europe, Sub-Saharan African admixture reaches maxima of 0.2-0.5 % in Sicily, and 0.5-1% in Portugal. 96 % of European Americans possess less than 1% Sub-Saharan African Admixture according to 23&Me (link). East Asian admixtures are present at .5-2% in West Russian, Ukrainian, and Eastern Baltic Populations. Russians in Kargopol are ~4-6 % East Asian. Finns have roughly 6-7% East Asian admixture; the Saami possess about 20% East Asian admixture. Other European populations have between 0.01 to 0.5 % East Asian admixture, often possessing almost this entire percentage range within the same populations, possibly indicating calculator noise at this level. Australoid ancestry fluctuates erratically in the European continent between 0.0 % and 0.8 %, possibly a sign calculator noise, or of certain populations possessing minimally less genetic drift away from the ancestral Eurasian population dwelling in India 70,000 years ago.
The Eurogenes K8 test also utilizes certain paleolithic West Eurasian populations to define admixtures, and two maps produced of Sub-Saharan African and East Asian ancestry, respectively, appear below. The results are not distant from those of the K7 test discussed above.
Generally, below a certain level, trace genetic admixtures are able to be considered “noise” or erroneous defects caused by the imperfection of the genetic model used to calculate admixture percentages. However, it seems likely that millennia of proximity with neighboring Uralic populations has led to the small peak in East Asian admixture among the Eastern Slavs and Balts, and that admixture from invading Moors gave a very small amount of Sub-Saharan African admixture to Portugal and Sicily which is not present elsewhere in Europe. In time, these trace admixtures may be selected out of the populations which possess them just as Neanderthal ancestry in humans has decreased from 3-6% 40,000 years ago to 2% in the present day (Fu et al., 2016).