Could Welsh Star Stanley Baker's Ancestors Be Bronze Age Copper Miners from Spain? Quest to Unravel Genetic Puzzle

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 21, 2009 | Go to article overview

Could Welsh Star Stanley Baker's Ancestors Be Bronze Age Copper Miners from Spain? Quest to Unravel Genetic Puzzle


Byline: Darren Devine

EVER wondered where the Welsh get their dark, swarthy looks from? The brooding looks of Welsh characters like Sir Stanley Baker and Richard Burton are well known - and now new research aims to prove that the genetic make-up may come from the Spanish and Portuguese.

The researchers believe Wales became home to an influx of migrant workers from the Iberian Peninsula and the Balkans 4,000 years ago that helped shape the biological construction of modern Wales.

Academics at Sheffield University want to show the genetic traces of migrants who came to work in Bronze Age copper mines on Llandudno's Great Orme and at Parys Mountain, on Anglesey, can still be found.

They are hoping men whose families have lived near the mines for generations will help them establish a genetic link back to the migrants..

They are looking only at male DNA, because men's Y chromosomes carry their genetic heritage from father to son.

The research builds on previous work which showed a sample of people in Abergele, North Wales, had a genetic signature found in the Balkans and on the Iberian Peninsula.

Dr Bob Johnstone, a lecturer in landscape archaeology, said: "Our plan is to sample enough people so we can say whether it's a genuinely unusual (genetic) signature in Britain.

"If it is then we need to go to archaeological and historical data to look for information as to why that might be the case." Dr Johnstone says during the Bronze Age there was strong contact along the Atlantic coastline between North Wales, south-west Scotland, Cornwall, the Irish coast and the Iberian peninsula.

The Sheffield academic added: "If there has been an early Bronze Age immigration then one suggestion might be that it's connected to the copper sources.

"They were extremely important to Britain and Ireland in the early part of the Bronze Age. A lot of the copper used in bronze objects at that time came from the copper mines in North Wales." Last year professor John Koch suggested the Welsh could trace their ancestry back to Portugal and Spain.

His work debunked the century-old received wisdom that our forebears came from Iron Age

Germany and Austria. …

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