Picts DNA sheds light on Scotland’s history

A GENETIC study of the Picts has shed fresh light on one of Scotland’s most mysterious peoples.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and Liverpool John Moores University studied genes from Pictish-era cemeteries at Lundin Links in Fife and Balintore in Easter Ross.

Dr Linus Girdland Flink, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Among the peoples present during the first millennium common era in Britain, the Picts are one of the most enigmatic.

“Their unique cultural features such as Pictish symbols and the scarcity of contemporary literary and archaeological sources resulted in many diverse hypotheses about their origin, lifestyle and culture, part of the so-called ‘Pictish problem’.

“We aimed to determine the genetic relationships between the Picts and neighbouring modern-day and ancient populations.

“Using DNA analysis, we have been able to fill a gap in an understudied area of Scotland’s past.

“Our results show that individuals from western Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Northumbria display a higher degree of identity-by-descent (IBD) sharing with the Pictish genomes, meaning they are genetically most similar among modern populations.”

Dr Adeline Morez from Liverpool John Moores University, lead corresponding author of the study, adds: “Our findings also support the idea of regional continuity between the Late Iron Age and early medieval periods and indicates that the Picts were local to the British Isles in their origin, as their gene pool is drawn from the older Iron Age, and not from large-scale migration, from exotic locations far to the east.

“However, by comparing the samples between southern and northern Pictland we can also see that they were not one homogenous group and that there are some distinct differences, which point to patterns of migration and life-time mobility that require further study.”

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Plus, don’t miss author Alexander McCall Smith’s column in the May issue of Scottish Field magazine.