Ancient British Diversity

Some archaeologists apparently think that there was a lot of diversity in Roman Britain, which means black people. There’s zero hard evidence of a single one. Which doesn’t prove that some Nubian with a serious case of wanderlust didn’t end up in Londinium, but it can’t have been common, and possibly it never happened at all. Ancient DNA could settle the question once and for all.

Some of this has been fueled by archaeologist claims of finds of non-local skeletons. North Africans were part of the empire and must have showed up occasionally, but I wouldn’t think in very large numbers. There’s no genetic trace, any more than there is of ancient sub-Saharan African admixture.

A lot of this confusion seems to have originated in a craniometric analysis program, FORDISC. Which is apparently a total piece of crap. This may have increased its popularity: a program that generates entertainingly wrong results will inevitably produce many interesting and publishable results. Note to readers: trust, but verify.

There’s a hot-off-the-internet paper by Alexander Platt and Jody Hey claiming that recent sub-Saharan African gene flow (~400 years ago) account for 1.2% of the UK gene pool. What rot. SSA genes are as different from Europeans as people get – easy to identify. Yet no-one else has seen this. That recent, there would be lots of linkage disequilibrium – it’s not there. Moreover, only a historical illiterate could ever have made this claim. There was no influx of Africans in the 1600s: it never happened. By the 1700s there were some free blacks in England, especially in London, but they don’t seem to have done very well. London was a pesthole for everyone (average life expectancy of 29) but those free blacks did worse – poverty and pneumonia, I think. Anyhow, if this secret black immigration had really happened you’d see gradients: high in the home counties, low in the Outer Isles, etc.

I am trying to think of a good excuse for Alexander Platt and Jody Hey. So far I can’t. Reader’s suggestions are welcome.

This reminds of the paper a couple of years ago that assumed that ancient Egypt was black and was only Natufianized by the Arab conquest. You know, there must be a lot of people attending university and accumulating vast debts that actually believe the flaming radioactive crap taught there. Partly this may be because some universities look impressive: I was talking with some people at Princeton this summer and it was clearly trying to be imposing. Perhaps if we re-sited those dubious departments, removed them from the poison ivy halls of academe, students would develop appropriate levels of skepticism.

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110 Responses to Ancient British Diversity

  1. Criticas says:

    College, the bar with the $30,000 annual cover charge.

    • Rifleman says:

      This issue became an issue a few months ago due to British media deciding to add blacks to every era of British history.

  2. Reminds me of a visit in 2009 to Dr. Johnson’s House in Gough Square. The principal exhibit was his exotic servant Francis Barber, giant poster and all. I suppose Francis was interesting as a novelty, and merited a little spot somewhere; but even if one tires of things to say about Johnson (without tiring of life) how far down the chute we have slipped.

    • dearieme says:

      It seems to me that the main interest in the Barber story is that it showed what a decent cove old Saml was. It adds a certain weight to his question: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”

      • Exactly right, he even forgave the little scamp when he ran away to join the navy, and got him discharged.

      • syonredux says:

        “. It adds a certain weight to his question: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?””

        Huh. Never knew that Liverpool slave merchants were known for “yelping” for liberty…..

        • dearieme says:

          It’s a poor rhetorical tactic to pretend to be dim.

          • syonredux says:

            “It’s a poor rhetorical tactic to pretend to be dim.”

            Is it? I’ve found it useful. It helps to reveal nonsense… Dr Johnson (whom I respect; I did a seminar paper on “Rasselas” in grad school) prattling on about drivers of Negroes yelping for liberty……After all, New England was the most stolidly anti-Tory region in mainland Anglo-America…..yet NE had far fewer slaves (e.g., slaves never accounted for more than approx 2% of the population of Massachusetts) than, say, Jamaica…..

  3. Irate eye rater says:

    If you put the anthropology department somewhere dubious enough, anthropology might start happening there again.

  4. JerryC says:

    Come on, everyone knows that black people invented spaceship-pyramids in ancient Egypt. Sheesh.

  5. Carl the Parl says:

    How white was Egypt, anyway?

    • gcochran9 says:

      in Roman times, about 90% from a group originating in the Levant, similar to the EEF farmers (from Anatolia) that settled Europe and are the main ancestry of Southern Europe today. ~10% Nubian, probably. Genetically closest extant population to Roman-era Egyptians: Sardinian highlanders.

      • simontmn says:

        I noticed Wikipedia says Kushites are closest to modern Berbers & Bedouin:

        “Dental trait analysis of Kushite fossils dating from the Meroitic period in Semna, Nubia, found that they were closely related to Afroasiatic-speaking populations inhabiting the Nile Valley, Maghreb and Canary Islands. Among the examined ancient populations, the Kush people were nearest to the X-Group culture bearers and Christian era inhabitants of Semna, and more remotely to the Capsian makers, Byzantine period Egyptians from the Kharga Oasis, the Guanche autochthones of the Canary Islands, Roman/Byzantine period Egyptians from El Hesa, 12th Dynasty Egyptians from Lisht, Punic era Phoenicians from Carthage, and New Kingdom period Pharaonic Nubians from Soleb. Among the recent groups, the Kushites were morphologically closest to Shawia and Kabyle Berbers from Algeria, followed by Arabic-speaking Bedouins from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. The Kush skeletons and these ancient and recent fossils were also phenotypically distinct from those belonging to recent Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan-speaking populations in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as from the Mesolithic period inhabitants of Jebel Sahaba in Nubia.[18]” –

        I, like a lot of people I think, had assumed Nubians were Nilo-Saharan.

      • Consider the implication (of Fst) says:

        Greg, you’re correct in a sense but it’s not quite that clear cut. Autosomal Fst from the Levant Neolithic and Levant Early Bronze Age is actually among lowest in modern day Egyptians among present day populations.

        Levant Neolithic -modern Egypt Fst: 0.025, with comparable values for modern Cypriots: 0.026 and for Sardinians 0.033)

        Levant Early Bronze Age-modern Egypt Fst: 0.011, with comparable values for modern Cypriots: 0.012 and for Sardinians 0.024

        These aren’t published in the paper, but the blogger at Eurogenes, Davidski, used the same methods for Fst estimation that Iosif Lazaridis used in his Near East paper to produce them. He’s done this various times and this is one of them: (note Levant Early Bronze Age here is Jordan_EBA).

        You can check out Lazaridis’s Fst estimates here – Unfortunately these don’t include modern Egyptians, but it is noteworthy that the lowest Fst from the ancient Levantine samples are for Lebanese, Jordanians, Bedouin and Palestinians, not Sardinians or Italians.).

        The outgroup f3 distances using an African outgroup (Mbuti) from the paper are indeed totally closest to Sardinians, but those treat drift and African admixture in a drastically different way than a simple Fst. African admixture specifically greatly accelerates differentiation in the outgroup f3 stat.

        So it depends on which kind of distance you’re looking at. Fst actually may be more sensible.

      • Carl the Parl says:


  6. FORDISC certainly looks “problematic”, particularly when instead of looking at the entire series of crania in a genetic group only a small sample of “typical” ones were evaluated.

  7. Bob says:

    Is it difficult to classify skulls and skeletons? I assumed physical anthropologists could do it fairly easily with the naked eye. Or is that just for completely intact specimens? Is it old, degraded fragments of crania that are difficult to classify and require craniometric programs?

  8. Bob says:

    FWIW, FSU’s anthro dept. moved out of the strip mall this past summer and into the Johnson building on Paul Dirac Drive:

  9. pyrrhus says:

    This Platt/Hey paper is another great example of the “peer reviewed” research we have been told to worship….

  10. MawBTS says:

    Good post.

    There’s zero hard evidence of a single one.

    There is textual evidence of at least one black soldier in Britain. In Septimus Severus’s Historia Augusta he writes (chapter 22)

    in Britain […] an Ethiopian soldier, who was famous among buffoons and always a notable jester, met him with a garland of cypress-boughs. 5 And when Severus in a rage ordered that the man be removed from his sight, troubled as he was by the man’s ominous colour and the ominous nature of the garland, the Ethiopian by way of jest cried, it is said, “You have been all things, you have conquered all things, now, O conqueror, be a god.”

    Note that the Latin word (Aethiops –> Aethyopian) seems to be a bit ambiguous. Some dictionaries give it as a man from anywhere in Africa, others give it as a man south of Roman Africa (which might have meant Axum, or Kush).

    I think there’s a strong chance that this man was black. If Severus was “troubled” by his “ominous” skin color, he must really stood out. And since there was a division of Moors manning Hadrian’s wall…

    • gcochran9 says:

      Perfectly possible. Moors weren’t black though.

      • MawBTS says:

        Perfectly possible. Moors weren’t black though.

        I know. My meaning is that if the “Aethyopian” had the same skin color as the Moors, he wouldn’t have stood out as remarkable, so he was possibly darker.

    • Halvorson says:

      After looking at 2,193 English Y-Chromosomes, geneticists did manage to find one who carried the Black African haplogroup A. It’s at least 300 years old.

      • MawBTS says:

        Why is this interesting? By 1764 there were 20,000 blacks living in London.

        • Halvorson says:

          I love The Gentleman’s Magazine as much as anybody, but I’m not sure their writers are the most reliable census takers.

        • syonredux says:

          “Why is this interesting? By 1764 there were 20,000 blacks living in London.”

          That estimate is on the high side.Most of the estimates for London that I have seen are lower (approx 10,000).20,000 might be a good estimate for the entirety of Britain, though.

          • karl says:


            I found this to be politically motivated and almost preposterous to see a university professor claiming that Medieval London was diverse by present standards. \

            “Take London, for example. Researchers have shown that people from the Middle East and Africa lived side by side with English whites in the Middle Ages. DNA evidence from 14th century bodies shows that some were newcomers, while some had lived in England for generations.”

            Some institutions accept setting the bar low in order to create a world they really want to see.

        • Hugh Mann says:

          I don’t know where they went then, because prior to WW2 the total number of ‘Coloured Workers’ was 7,000 – and I assume a fair number of those were ‘lascars’ – a term which covered seamen from Yemen to Malaysia, You found such communities in Cardiff, Liverpool, South Shields.

          “On 3 February 1954, under the agenda item ‘Coloured Workers’, Churchill is quoted, with abbreviations, by Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook as saying: ‘Problems wh. will arise if many coloured people settle here. Are we to saddle ourselves with colour problems in UK? Attracted by Welfare State. Public opinion in UK won’t tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits.’

          Florence Horsbrugh, the then Minister of Education and Conservative MP for Manchester Moss Side, is recorded as adding: ‘Already becoming serious in Manchr.’
          Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you
          Read more

          Then David Maxwell-Fyfe, the Home Secretary, gave a figure of 40,000 compared to 7,000 before the Second World War and raised the possibility of immigration control. “

      • Rosenmops says:

        From the article:
        “New research has identified the first genetic evidence of Africans having lived amongst “indigenous” British people for centuries. ”

        Why is indigenous in scare quotes? Are they suggesting that there are in fact to indigenous British people? As a person descended from indigenous British people I’m feeling triggered.

        The article goes on to say that there is no such thing as races.

        • Frau Katze says:

          It’s all garbage. Ignore them.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          “Why is indigenous in scare quotes?”

          cos then the international law relating to indigenous peoples would apply

        • Frau Katze says:

          The concept of indigenous is related to people who were invaded and/or colonized. It may feel like we’re being invaded, but international law disagrees. Here’s a definition of indigenous

          “Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.”

      • gcochran9 says:

        There’s one. as for the 1.2% African ancestry bit, that’s nonsense. By the way, is there any real point in trying to project Africans back into the British past, when they were barely ever there?

        • syonredux says:

          It’s all about “bending history slightly, but in a progressive and useful way”:

          “Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat to tackle whitewashing in new episode”
          “Showrunner Steven Moffat said he has ‘bent history’ to address the issue in Thin Ice which will see The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) arrive in early 1800s London.

          “History is always whitewashed,” Moffat told TV Guide. “How do we manage to have a diverse cast despite that? The way that we did it was… [to just] say that you will see people of different colours there. In fact, there were.

          “People all didn’t arrive in the twinkle of an eye. It is bending history slightly, but in a progressive and useful way.””

          • gcochran9 says:

            Fuck “progressive”and the mule it rode in on.

            • Frau Katze says:

              The Commies were really good at altering history. All to serve The Cause.

              That mentality is now present here. And apparently The Cause is much more interested in their ideology than truth.

              We don’t care what your history books tell you. If we were in charge we dispose of inconvenient books. Nor would scientists using DNA contradict us.

          • TWS says:

            Estimates for gays are at 40% and blacks at 50% or some ridiculous number like that in the U.S. All because of the perception movies and tv had created. Why not fake history too?

            • Frau Katze says:

              You know it makes sense to the ideologues.

            • Misdreavus says:

              You forgot to mention pretty, thin, attractive looking lesbians; 100 lb women who can beat up men twice their size; black superhackers; and gay men in monogamous relationships.

              Somehow, we mongrelized people of the new world have been neglected entirely from this narrative. When will it be our turn?

              • helenahankart says:

                I’m willing to bet
                1) You’d have been happy to give Jody Foster one
                2) Jessica Aguilar could beat the ass of anyone on this page
                As to the others
                3) I assume you are ruling out Indian ones? Otherwise–no idea (Arent most of the good ones anonymous?)
                4) I know several personally–possibly slightly less proportionately than monogamous heterosexual partners–but then 70% of hetero ones cheat so thats not much of a recommendation, is it

              • gcochran9 says:

                You want to rethink all of those?

              • Airgap says:

                I’ll put $1000 on Steve Hsu to beat Jessica Aguilar if you can set it up

              • helenahankart says:

                Do I want to rethink them?
                1) Nope. I’d still give her one. She wouldnt want one from me, but thats hardly the point
                2) Not only that I’d bet I could teach a halfway fit 100lb woman to grapple (to submission or KO) the ass out of anyone on this page, unless any MMA fighters or Judo blackbelts have wondered in by mistake. To be fair–this used to be my job (and hobby) but I’m happy to take money on it. Next HBES….
                Less facetiously–when teaching self-defence to smaller folk you arent teaching them to win a boxing or wrestling match which has rules (like no taking out of eyeballs or testicles). Imagine a 250lb man holding kitty cat (aw). No contest. Well, imagine same guy holding onto a cat when I’ve just sprayed them both with a hose. Think he could hold on without special equipment?
                Fighting for dominance is not the same as fighting for your life. Special forces training manuals have very little that requires strength or mass. It requires ruthless aggression–which sure, most women dont have. Most men dont have it either unless they have a bit of training.
                3) Cant recall what the question was. This was a month ago. But Ill stick to it on principle that if someone was offering me broscience, I’ll oppose it
                4) Monogamy wouldnt need social strictures if it was easy, and now we have, what 50% divorce rate? I’ll stick here as well.

    • syonredux says:

      Should note that the Augustan History is not exactly the most reliable source…..

  11. syonredux says:

    Pretty soon they’ll have Blacks erecting Stonehenge….

    From a review of Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History:

    “Olusoga reminds us that Britain’s ‘island story’ cannot be understood in isolation from the rest of the world and certainly not from Africa and other parts of what was once the British empire. He also demonstrates that Africans were often a central part of Britain’s history centuries before the empire, going back to the Roman period and beyond. Indeed, he argues that black British history is not just about black people but about encounters between blacks and whites, including intermarriage or the ‘mixed relationships’ that have been commented on since Elizabethan times.

    The latest archaeological techniques and historical research show that in Roman Britain there were many individuals of African heritage of all classes. We are now becoming more familiar with the fourth-century ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ of York and ‘The Beachy Head Lady’ from sub-Saharan Africa, thought to have lived in East Sussex c. 200 AD. It seems likely that soon we will have more conclusive evidence that Africans were travelling to Britain long before the arrival of the Romans.”

    • Frau Katze says:

      The UK SJWs are jealous that they don’t currently have the same sized black population as the US. And the ones they have now don’t seem as angry (to go by the news.)

      I think that SJWs look around for things to complain about.

      There’s not many blacks in Canada. That leaves a grievance vacuum, and you know what happens to vacuums. It’s been filled by whipping up natives.

      Cities are passing pronouncements that they’re built on “unceded” territory. Unceded territory makes up the majority of the country.

      I guess US SJWs are so busy with blacks and illegal immigrants that the natives have been completely pushed off the agenda.

      • TWS says:

        They have the U.S. beat to hell on rape gangs though. Old Blighty, come for the exploding concerts stay for government sanctioned rape gangs.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Agreed. But gang rapists aren’t a suitable target for SJW activism. Even SJWs recognize the best they can do is to try to ignore them.

          I’m amazed at how much violence the left will sanction but even they know that gang rapists cannot be cast in an positive light.

          But I must admit that the gangs were permitted to carry on for far too long because it might be “racist” to deal with them.

          Appropriate leftist reaction: ignore. Accuse anyone who brings it up as racist and Islamophobic. I’ve run into this in real life (on “liberal” forums).

          I don’t live in the UK, so correct me if I’m wrong.

  12. syonredux says:


    Don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Watching The Royal Society reach this level of degeneracy…

    “Testosterone Rex triumphs as Royal Society science book of the year
    Psychologist Cordelia Fine’s dissection of the myths that sustain assumptions about sexual difference acclaimed by judges as ‘a cracking critique’”

    “A book that rubbishes the idea of “fundamental” differences between men and women has become the 30th winner of the prestigious Royal Society prize for science book of the year.

    Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine review – the question of men’s and women’s brains
    The psychologist provides more evidence that the inequality of the sexes in society is cultural not natural
    Read more
    Psychologist Cordelia Fine is the third woman in a row to win the £25,000 award, which has been described as the Booker prize for science writing. Her book, Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds, follows Gaia Vince’s win for Adventures in the Anthropocene in 2015 and Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature in 2016.

    Judges of the Royal Society Insight Investment science book prize, which was awarded in London on Tuesday, praised Testosterone Rex for its eye-opening, forensic look at gender stereotypes and its urgent call for change.”

    • gcochran9 says:

      They gave that prize to to Guns, Germs, and Steel also. Perhaps I need to review some other winners – did they pick Chariots of the Gods?

    • Third woman in a row, eh? My, my, my.

    • Frau Katze says:

      That’s very depressing. Is it possible that some judges disagreed but were afraid they’d lose their jobs if they spoke out?

    • helenahankart says:

      Gould’s “Mismeasure of Man” wa showered with praise. All too frequently books that say “dont worry, science hasn’t found anything to bother your preconceptions, go back to sleep”, get showered with praise. Why else would John Horgan be able to make mortgage payments?

      • I have an anthropology degreed daughter who refused to read Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate” after I had read it. She said she would only read it if I read “Mismeasure of Man.” When I told her I had read it and had it in my library, she still refused to read “The Blank Slate.”

        • Frau Katze says:

          That’s a pity she won’t read it. Mind you, I would never even suggest to my daughter that she read something that challenged her worldview. I’m not even sure exactly what her worldview is, she never speaks of it. She’s kind of like an alpha male, but she’s a female. She was like that as soon as she could talk. Teen years were a nightmare.

    • helenahankart says:

      Re Cordelia Fine. Did those people actually read her gawd-awful book? I did. And I read other books too. Do they just look at the conclusions, go “thats something I want to believe” and then issue awards?

      • Toddy Cat says:

        From James Thompson, here are the people who selected this book for the prize;
        These are the basis facts I have been able to gather about the judging panel.

        “Prof Richard Fortey, FRS is a British palaeontologist, geologist by training, who served as President of the Geological Society of London, with a primary research interest in trilobites. He is the author of popular science books on a range of subjects including geology, palaeontology, evolution and natural history.

        Naomi Alderman is a novelist, author and game designer. At Oxford she read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

        Claudia Hammond is a broadcaster, writer and part-time psychology lecturer at Boston University’s London base where she lectures in health and social psychology. She has written three popular books.
        Shaminder Nahal is a television journalist, Deputy Editor of a news program.

        Dr Sam Gilbert, Institute of Cognitive Science, UCL. Has a strong research record in cognitive neuro-psychology.”

        So we have a geologist, a game designer, a part-time lecturer, a TV journalist, and an actual cognitive scientist making this award, not the entire Royal Society. Exactly one of these people has any business making such a judgement, and we don’t know how he voted. This might explain a few things…

        • Calvin X Hobbes says:

          Here’s a comment from the article at The Guardian:

          SamGilbert AbouHassan
          5h ago
          3 4

          Hi AbouHassan,

          I was one of the judges this year (I’m a neuroscientist based at University College London) and can confirm that Greg Cochran was not on the panel. I did read his review though and found it unpersuasive and inaccurate at points. I hope it doesn’t put you off reading Cordelia Fine’s excellent book.

          best wishes,


          • helenahankart says:

            Are you in contact with him? Would he like to lay out exactly what he thought was “excellent” about it?

            • Calvin X Hobbes says:

              I was scrolling through the comments at the Guardian article this morning and saw the comment I copied. That comment suggests he was all in favor of Cordelia Fine getting this prize. I know nothing else about him.

              • Toddy Cat says:

                Andrew Sabisky, the freelance British writer, stated “Testosterone Rex winning the prize is best understood as culture war escalation in response to Trump/Brexit”

                This sounds pretty accurate to me.

              • helenahankart says:

                “Culture war escalation to Tump anbd Brexit”? So, the response to oafs who dont understand politics or economics is to propose the alternative of gender studies? Do these people have heads that button up the back or something?

  13. Pingback: British genetics, again | The Old Inheritance

  14. helenahankart says:

    I dont know about the 17th century, but at the end of the 18th century London could be described in the following manner by Pierce Egan
    “Every cove that put in an appearance was quite welcome, colour or country considered no obstacle … The group was motley indeed – Lascars, blacks, jack-tars, coal-heavers, dustmen, women of colour, old and young, and a sprinkling of the remnants of once fine girls, and all jigging together. ”
    There was even a kinda sorta black boxing chmpaion (Tom Molyneux) although he was denied the “official” title (which wasn’t official because officially it was lillegal, but you get the idea).
    Not sure why any of this matters, mind you?

    • Ziel says:

      And let’s not forget Pablos Fanques, the 19th century circus impresario! But again none of these examples contradicts our hosts lower limit of the 18th century

  15. MawBTS says:

    What do you think of the recent “female Viking warrior” story?

    A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics

    I read it, and it looked pretty convincing. Now it’s coming apart at the seams and feel like an idiot.

    Let’s Debate Female Viking Warriors Yet Again

    There are doubts about the provenance of the bones, because they were excavated in the 19th century and the chain of custody has become confused since then.

    There are no wounds or injuries on the woman’s body – surprising for a battle-hardened warrior.

    None of the authors are specialists in language or texts. They draw strong conclusions from weak or meaningless evidence (the woman was a “high ranking officer” because she was buried with a set of game pieces, thus proving she had a “knowledge of tactics and strategy”), and they ignore competing explanations. There are any number of reasons why a woman might be buried with weapons and armor, without her being a warrior herself.

    What we have here is an interesting burial with a lot of competing explanations. But these people want her to be a warrior, so they stack the dice in favor of her being a warrior.

    The heavily emotional style of the article (opening with a quote from the Edda, etc) backs this up. It’s like Indian nationalists who passionately believe that Sanskrit is the oldest language, or Afrocentrists thinking the Egyptians were black. A political cause, guiding thought.

  16. Crimson says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    Many years ago I watched a British documentary uncovering the history of what I remember as a Yorkshirian family. I believe the family’s surname was Jolly.

    Their ancestor was an African slave/servant of a nearby bigwig. The documentarian took them to the descendant of the African’s master, who still had a portrait of his ancestor standing next to his African.

    One of the members of the family did have a octoroon sort of look, but would have had even less African ancestry than an octoroon.

    Also, as half-mentioned here already, Dr. Johnson’s Francis Barber né Quashey was an African in England who has left white descendants.

    • Philip Neal says:

      Years ago, when researching my ancestry in parish records of 18th century Lancashire, I came across the baptism of a boy said to be black and from the West Indies, neither infant nor adult, exact age unknown. Unfortunately, I did not copy the record as he was not related to me. It is clear that that kind of thing happened, but very rarely. I must have skimmed thousands of baptisms, marriages and burials from that time and place, but it was the only such case I encountered.

  17. Crimson says:

    There may be something to be said for how European blood can be found in most Hawaiians and some elite Muslims of every variety (a Malaysian princess recently married a Dutchman); as well as plenty of part-white, part-Carib etc. Africans across the African diaspora, but we don’t see much flow the other way.

    The Aga Khan is basically white. The King of Jordan is half-British, but we don’t see any half-Jordanian European royals. The closest thing would be those Moorish marriages centuries ago.

    From memory: Afrikaners have a bit of slavegirl in them, but frequently these slavegirls weren’t black.

    • dearieme says:

      When I was a boy I went to watch South Africa play rugby. Against a background of genuinely white people, and under a grey sky, many of the Afrikaners in the Springboks side visibly had rather a large ‘bit’ of black in them. The ‘boks with British names didn’t.

    • Bob says:

      The British royal family and other European royals are claimed to be descendents of Muhammad via the Muslim rulers of Spain.

    • sprfls says:

      Pushkin’s daughter married in European royalty (she would’ve been 1/16th African).

  18. bob sykes says:

    A while ago, the BBC ran a Stonehenge special that seemed to deny that there was any population turnover during the British paleolithic and neolithic.

  19. It is rubbish, isn't it? says:

    This is what I have to admit I thought after skimming over this paper and half understanding the details. “Well, this is all very nice… but you don’t need rare variants to detect 1.5% admixture. It’s right there in frequency shifts in common variants. It’s even there in 1000 sample size mtdna and ydna, barring something truly extraordinary. Fairly likely to have happened in Portugal. Therefore, this must be absolute rubbish”.

    Razib was rather more diplomatic at saying it sucked on twitter, with something like “Please replicate in Danes”, with the implication being that the result would probably replicate and much more clearly be historical nonsense. But then he’s trying to play nice for the majority left liberal popgen lab people.

    • gcochran9 says:

      So they should read me, if they want to to get there faster.

      Can you be left-liberal while simultaneously knowing history? I knew there weren’t ever that many blacks imported to England in that period, that most were in London, and they had bad demographics. As well as being reasonably familiar with state-of-the-art genetic analyses of England. Is that a hate fact? Does it make me a bad person? While we’re at it, since all facts are interrelated, doesn’t knowing anything at all, say unique prime factorization, threaten to make one a bad person?

  20. Pingback: The Glamour of Evil – The Orthosphere

  21. Greying Wanderer says:

    from the paper

    “A substantial proportion of variants with observed frequencies as low as 1e-4 are orders of magnitude older than can be explained without African gene flow…”

    so would an alternative explanation be those genes arrived a very long time ago?

    i could just about believe 1.2% total in port cities like London or Liverpool 300-400-ish years ago but not 1.2% in the whole UK however I’ve always believed some of the remoter regions of the UK (Atlantic coast and ex-swamps) had remnants of an archaic (or at least very divergent) element – so I wonder if that is a possibility?

    also from the paper

    “for alleles that occurred twice in the UK10K sample with tc values greater
    than 2,500, shows a considerable clustering across individuals, with 13% of individuals
    harboring ~40% of all such variants. This clumping is suggestive of recent introgression, but
    could also be consistent with older introgression with the decay of clustering slowed by nonrandom

    so question is where are those clusters: if they are around the port cities of empire days that points at the paper’s explanation but if the clusters are around refuge regions e.g. north Wales, Cumbria, Strathclyde, the Fens, Somerset levels etc then maybe it’s a lot older?

    (in the latter case also interesting if the clusters map onto the clusters of ydna E or not?)

  22. j says:

    By the 1700s there were some free blacks in England, especially in London, but they don’t seem to have done very well. London was a pesthole for everyone (average life expectancy of 29) but those free blacks did worse – poverty and pneumonia, I think. Anyhow, if this secret black immigration had really happened you’d see gradients: high in the home counties, low in the Outer Isles, etc.

    It may be so or not. (1) London was a pesthole, but people managed to reproduce. Blacks in other similar pestholes, say Boston in America, Buenos Aires in Argentina, left descendants. Their genes can be found in the current population. In warmer places such as Cuba and Jamaica, they prospered notwithstanding their poverty, slavery etc . Why not in Southeast England? (2) You are right about gradients and it certainly exists in Argentina and Uruguay. Has it been studied in the British Isles?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      What I’ve read elsewhere is for most of history cities were population sinks constantly replenished by excess population from the countryside (which if correct would explain the very limited demographic impact outside of Italy of the Roman empire). If so then the gradient of black ancestry in various countries would map onto the extent of the rural black population in various countries: a country with 90% black rural population would then have very high black ancestry and a country with 10% not so much.

      In which case you’d expect a country with practically zero rural black population to have practically zero black ancestry – unless there were some rural regions which had it from way back.

      • j says:

        Clark proved that English lower classes were extinguished, refuting the common assumption that the proletariat outbreeds the higher orders. History books are written by the winners, so African Brits will undergo retroactive multiplication and the country will recover its original name of Mzunguland.

  23. But there WERE blacks in England in the Middle Ages- Morgan Freeman was in that Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie…

  24. random observer says:

    Neither Mary Beard nor any other participant deigned to reply to my tweets on this debate a while back, nor would have any reason to. But…

    Even presuming any of these higher estimates for SSA presence in England were correct, why would that create any obligation on Britain to admit more now? The earlier ones would be represented today, if at all, by descendants among the British population of circa 1940. And…

    Will, in 1000 or so years, the recorded presence of white people in Africa or Asia be taken as justification for those places admitting white people on the basis of prior indigenous status?

  25. Hamar Fox says:

    I imagine the Platt and Hey nonsense is a combination of a weak model and a poorly selected sample. Comparison of very rare variants is already available for the 1000 Genomes populations:

    This doesn’t quantify admixture, but it does clearly show that there’s nothing weird about the GBR sample in its sharing with YRI. Indeed, from most to least, it goes: IBS>TSI>CEU>GBR>FIN. Working with unfortunately low resolutions for the heatmap, I tried to break down regions within those populations (by making assumptions from the intra-population relatedness of individuals). I got this: non-Basque Iberians>Tuscans>Basques>CEU>Cornwall>Kent>Orkney>Finland.

    Cornwall and Kent are so close that I initially counted Kent as having more, but on the second and third attempts, I found Cornwall had slightly more.

    Likewise, there is this study, which uses Britons sampled in London, no less (the POPRES sample):

    In all likelihood, Platt and Hey’s model was poor, which wasn’t obvious to them because they didn’t compare with any other European population. In addition, they used a subset of the UK10k project, which was hardly rigorously sampled, as can be seen here:

    A significant percentage of the 13% who harboured 40% of the SSA variants will surely be whites of non-British heritage. Moreover, one of the two sources for this UK10k subset was a project sampling people from the Bristol area, which is surely unrepresentative of Britons in regard to SSA ancestry. This 13%, then, would be people of recent Southern European ancestry and some people from the Bristol area. This, combined with a flawed model that underestimated the expected SSA sharing, led to this ridiculous paper.

  26. Mike says:

    The Beachy Head Lady was a women of sub-Saharan African extraction in Roman York. So yes there has been at least one black person who was found to live in Roman Britain.

    Getting worked up over an extremely small amount of back people in Roman Britain seems silly though. I mean one black person in all of Britain? That really constitutes diversity?

    It’s possible that the Beachy Head Lady has some descendants alive in modern Britain. But even if she does the DNA she contributed would be infintesily small. Assuming a generation time length of 25 years, a newborn baby with a full-blooded black ancestor just 175 years ago will be less than 1% black. A full blooded black ancestor just 250 years ago makes a person 0.1% black. This breeds out faster than people realize. A black ancestor in Roman times would be so long ago that I would be shocked if a DNA test could detect that DNA, even at the <0.1% level.

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