Lara Cassidy, a geneticist at Trinity College Dublin who was not involved in the study, described the study as “a triumph. It takes a step back and looks at Bronze Age Britain on a macro scale, where large movements of people over the centuries in likely to have profound cultural and linguistic implications.”
dr. Reich said the study showed how archaeologists and ancient DNA researchers have made great strides in recent years in coming together to answer questions of interest to archaeologists.
“In large part, this is due to the large ancient DNA sample sizes that can now be generated economically,” he said. “These studies are also beginning to answer questions that really matter biologically and culturally.”
dr. Reich, a pioneer in the rapidly evolving field of paleonomics, is something of a puzzle master of human origin. By sequencing DNA from ancient skeletal remains and comparing it to the genetic material of individuals living today, he and his collaborators bring together ancient population patterns that traditional archaeological and paleontological methods cannot identify. Overthrowing established theories and conventional wisdom about post-glacial migrations, they illuminate humanity’s bastard nature.
Despite all the success of what Dr. Reich calling the “genomic ancient DNA revolution” in transforming our understanding of modern humans, the practice of extracting DNA from ancient human remains has raised ethical issues ranging from access to samples to ownership of cultural heritage. Critics point out that in some parts of the world, the question of who should be considered indigenous has the potential to fuel nationalism and xenophobia.
To address these concerns, Dr. Reich and 63 archaeologists, anthropologists, curators and geneticists from 31 countries set out three months ago a set of global standards to treat genetic material, promote data sharing and appropriately involve indigenous communities, even though the guidelines mattered little . reassure critics.
Since languages were “usually spread by movements of people,” said Dr. Reich, the wave of migration was a plausible vector for the spread of early Celtic dialects in Britain. “Everyone agrees that Celtic branched off from the ancient Indo-European mother tongue as it spread westward,” said Patrick Sims-Williams, professor emeritus of Celtic studies at Aberystwyth University. “But they’ve been arguing for years about where and when that branching occurred.”