Along came a controversial paper, lets bandwagon on it….

A good friend of mine (Hi Chris) asked me to comment on something a site with a Facebook Page is saying.


The statement was. That the Irish peoples had almost no Neolithic Famer or Mesolithic and Paleolithic Hunter Gatherer genetic components in their make-up. Furthermore this was due to diseases, and warfare. Alrighty then.


Ok so there are three distinct groups in the European genetic landscape

  • The Hunter Gathers (who got funky with Neanderthals and Denisovans on a limited basis). They also had dark skin, curly hair, and light eyes.
  • The first Famers from the Near East (most likely where Turkey is now). Often this is called the Llinearbandkeramik or Linear Pottery Culture.
  • The group that is most likely the Indo-Europeans. This is most commonly associated with the Y-Chromosome Haplogroups I and R. Its might be considered the Yamnaya culture was the Proto-Indo European. Though you can start a fight with academics over this. Ultimately it was a Bronge Age culture we’d say had all the bits and bobs we call Celtic that ended up here.

Add to this the Normans and Vikings trying their hardest to establish in Ireland. Though the Normans found that to be beyond the pale. Of course there were other groups, but they’ve not dented the landscape as much as the first three.


Right a little back history. The Hunter-Gatherer peoples of Europe probably retreated to the Caucus mountains during the Younger Dryas. It cold cold, and nasty in Ireland, and its assumed (but not proven) that if they did not leave, they did nor survive, of survive in great numbers. Because WE have a new Mesolithic Hunter Gatherer culture come in after things warmed up. Its been estimated there were no more than 8000 of the Hunter-Gather people.  They lived mostly by fishing, gathering shellfish, and eating seabirds. Their health would have been suspect, as there has been evidence of there being parasitic infestations on remains we’ve found, due to poorly cooked fish. With just 8000 members, with suspect health, it would not take much effort to out breed them. Chances are intermarriage (as was seen else where in Europe) happened.

hunters over the farmers in a fight. Over time, the farmers would win, based on numbers.


Next we got a Farmer package of domesticated Cereals and domesticated animals (Cow, sheep, and goat) with the Neolithic peoples. They appear to have come from the near East. Their settlements were probably a lot more densely populated, and as a consequence yes indeed diseases would have been there. We’ve seen in the modern world, a “common cold” can be a death sentence to isolated groups. Clearly from the bits and pieces of Hunter-Gatherer DNA in the Irish genome, there was intermingling. Just like with Neanderthals. Ultimately the way of life died out, to make way for the more certain farmers life.


Now there were bound to be some issues. The landscape for the Hunters in Ireland was reduced pretty much at that time to wild boar. Deer and Aurochs had been hunted out. The Neolithic farmers brought with them, cattle and pigs, both much less dangerous than the now absent aurochs and wild boar. Add to this essentially placid sheep and goats, I fully expect that the hunters were initially a pain in the arse for farmers. So its not impossible that violence resulted in a genocide, though we don’t see that in grave remains. The two groups likely did not mix. I’d also initially put my money on the So what about it?


But lets jump to the meeting of the Bronze Age “Indo-Europeans” and the Neolithic Farmers. While Bronze is not the ideal metal for everything, its much better than stone. It will take far and away more abuse. The farm practices of the incoming IE peoples were likely based around bronze tools, which would survive longer, which is good, as they took much more effort to make. The war practices would have been different too.


These folks built the Megalithic structures we associate with Ireland (and the rest of Europe). If the page in question is to be believed, the Neolithic Farmers, got almost wiped out by the incoming Indo-Europeans, based on the current Genetic makeup of the Irish people.


Its been estimated that the population in Ireland of Neolithic farmers was betweek 100 to 200 thousand. Around 2500 BC, there was some sort of economic collapse, and a period of declining population. Around 2000 BC the bronze age started in Ireland, and the Indo-European peoples were the prime suspects for this.


Can we infer that the Indo-European peoples did a Kurgan hypothesis to the Neolithic peoples? Culturally they certainly did. The culture from 2000 BC onwards is all theirs. Genetically does this hold up?


We may as well look at the Neolithic cultural change and the impact on the Mesolithic peoples first. I’m going to point out, that these studies are based on ancient samples compared with modern and those ancient ones are one we have limited numbers to play with.


Cassidy et al. performed (in 2015) a really nice Genomic study on remains in 2015. It showed that unsurprisingly the introduction of farming to Ireland was a migratory displacement of the earlier Hunter-Gatherer peoples. Quite simply 8000 individuals (assuming the estimation is near correct) are not going to last long, when a lifestyle that allows more people to eat comes along.


The Bronze age cultural replacement was probably dealing with one hundred thousand (100 000) individuals however (assuming again this was a good estimate). Cassidy and co-workers decided that while it was a cultural replacement, it was an admixture of the peoples.


The Irish origenes site is citing David Reich a geneticist known for population genetics, and currently working at Harvard Medical School. He is specializing in a number of areas including the origins of the Indo-Europeans. I am familiar with his work, but had not spent much time with it since finishing my Post Grad diploma in Bioniformatics. He’s a really good source for the most part. The most part however includes that he has claimed that 90% of the population in Britain was replaced by the incoming Indo-Europeans. It puzzles me how he can jump to that conclusion. Now I will fully admit, my Bioinformatics is purely armchair, in that I don’t do that science anymore, I’m paid to work out how to scale up pharmaceutical process, safely, and also to improve them to male them cheaper. I would note I am deliberately avoiding the controversy of how Reich is handling “race”. I’ve not read his book (I plan to read it over Christmas). However his 90% replacement statement has had to behemoths in the area (Barry Cunliffe) and Darcy Moore ask him to explain his comments more clearly. For those interested he makes the statement in  the book “Who we are and how we got here


I will investigate this more.


Now lets look at Irish Origenes. It’s the brain child of one Dr Tyrone Bowes and he’s run it since 2011. Prior to that he was Senior scientist at the National University of Ireland in Galloway. He also has side companies of Scottish Origenes, and English Origenes. I’m not going to fault him on his knowledge, though I’m a wee bit surprized he is quoting a single academic (I don’t care if he is from Harvard) who’s not fully explained this view.