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Paternity Tests to Prove Bronze Age Ancestry


Using the same DNA technology found in widely available kits for paternity tests, the University of Sheffield hope to be able to prove that men migrated from the Mediterranean to places such as Parys Mountain on Anglesey, Great Orme at Llandudno and Conwy in Wales during the Bronze Age and discovered copper.

Just like mail order paternity tests, a simple swab on the inside of the cheek is all it takes to gather samples of DNA for analysis and then the DNA will be compared with a specific DNA marker attributed to people from the Balkans or Spain. The specific DNA marker has been mentioned in previous studies on which the project is based and is distinctive enough to link the Mediterranean with Wales early in the genetic history of the North Welsh communities.

All of the participants in the study would have their data treated as strictly anonymous and researchers are basing their study on work which was done previously in the area of Wales which is famous for copper mining. In fact, it’s copper which was the purpose for the prospective migration of the men 4,000 years ago as, during the Bronze Age, metal was something worth travelling for.

The Project

The men which the University seeks to attract for the project do need to fulfill some very specific criteria, however, they need to have been born in the area and their paternal grandfather must have been born there too for them to qualify as participants. The researchers are eager to get as many men who fulfil these criteria to come forward and help, because the more samples of DNA they accumulate the better the quality of data they can produce.

According to Bob Johnston, one of the researchers, the more men who come forward for the study the happier he will be because all of the previous work on the project has involved only a handful of men. He said ideally, he would have hundreds of DNA samples to compare from the area.

Johnston also commented that if he finds a cohesive link between all the samples which is a distinctive genetic signature he can then work out if the mens’ ancestors really came from the Mediterranean and, if so, what time they arrived there. He also added that the study could reveal what types of skills the ancestral metal workers would have brought with them to the Welsh mountains.

Experts working on the project additionally mentioned that despite the perceived connection between the Mediterranean and Wales, it’s unlikely that the descending population in Wales would look remotely Mediterranean in origin. Instead, experts say that the visual characteristics would have been diluted by hundreds of years of breeding and that the number of Mediterranean travellers reaching North Wales (if there were any at all) would have been a small number by today’s standards.