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.