The study sheds new light on the obscure origins of the Picts in Scotland

A Pictish standing stone at Rhynie in Aberdeenshire

A Pictish standing stone at Rhynie in Aberdeenshire

The Picts were local to the British Isles and weren’t part of the large-scale migration from exotic locations in the east, new research suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the John Moores University (LJMU) in Liverpool, is helping to shed new light on the origins of the Picts people.

The Picts were first mentioned in the late 3rd century AD as resisting the Romans and formed a powerful kingdom ruling much of what is now north-eastern Scotland.

The researchers said that in the medieval period the Picts were thought to have immigrated from Thrace (north of the Aegean Sea), Scythia (Eastern Europe) or the Isles north of Britain but, as they left few written sources of their own, little it is known of their origins or relationships to other cultural groups living in Britain.

However, bioarchaeologists have now conducted what is being described as the first in-depth analysis of Pictish genomes, revealing a long-standing genetic continuity in some regions of the British Isles.

READ MORE: Ancient Picts knew Greek gods, new discoveries suggest

Dr Adeline Morez, visiting lecturer in the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences at LJMU and corresponding lead author of the study, said: ‘Our results support the idea of ​​regional continuity between the Late Iron Age and the Early medieval times and indicate that the Picts were local to the British Isles in their origin, as their gene pool is drawn from the Old Iron Age and not from large-scale migration from exotic locations far to the east.

“However, by comparing the samples between the Southern and Northern Picts, we can also see that they were not a homogeneous group and that there are some distinct differences that indicate patterns of life-course migration and mobility that require further study.”

Researchers used Identity By Descent (IBD) methods to compare two high-quality Pictish genomes sequenced from individuals excavated from Pictish-era cemeteries at Lundin Links in Fife (Southern Pictland) and Balintore in Easter Ross (Northern Pictland). with those of previously published ancient genomes as well as the modern population.

The national team:

The national team:

Dr. Linus Girdland Flink (above), from the University of Aberdeen, explained: ‘Our DNA results show that individuals from the west of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Northumbria show a higher degree of identity sharing By Descent (IBD) with Pictish genomes, meaning they are most genetically similar among modern populations.

Lundin Links’ analysis of mitochondrial genomes has also provided insight into another Pictish theory: that they practiced a form of matrilinism, with succession and possibly inheritance going to a sister’s child rather than directly through the male line.

The researchers said that in a matrilocal system they would expect to find females who would remain in their birthplace for life. However, at Lundin Links, the diversity in maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA suggests that this was not the case.

READ MORE: Uncovering the mysteries of Pictish Scotland

The researchers said this finding challenges older assumptions that Pictish succession was passed on through the mother’s side and raises further questions about our understanding of Pictish society and its organization.

Co-author Professor Joel D Irish of LJMU added: ‘Of the peoples present during the first millennium AD in Britain, the Picts are one of the most mysterious.

“Their distinctive cultural characteristics such as Pictish symbols and the paucity of literary and archaeological sources have led to many different hypotheses about their origin, lifestyle and culture culminating in the so-called ‘Pitti problem'”.

The study is published in the open access journal Plos Genetics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *