Scientists have unveiled a detailed genetic map of Ireland, revealing subtle DNA differences that may reflect historic events.
In their sample of the Irish population, the researchers identified 10 genetic groupings – clusters – that roughly mirror ancient boundaries.
The results also suggest the Vikings had a greater impact on the Irish gene pool than previously supposed.
The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Recent studies of DNA from ancient remains suggest that, broadly-speaking, the Irish genetic landscape was established by the Bronze Age, when migrants from mainland Europe – probably belonging to the Beaker archaeological culture – had settled on the island.
The latest paper highlights more recent population-shaping events in Irish history. The locations of the 10 clusters identified in the Irish population seemed to reflect either the borders of the four Irish provinces – Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht – or historical kingdoms.
For example, the researchers found that Munster divided into northern and southern genetic clusters. These appear to coincide with the boundaries of the Dál Cais and the Eóganacht – rival kingdoms established in medieval times.
[Co-author Gianpiero] Cavalleri said it was possible the high levels of Norwegian ancestry in the Irish might be confounded if substantial amounts of Irish DNA had found its way to Norway over time: “Perhaps people the Vikings brought back,” he speculated.
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