London, April 23 : A new analysis of British DNA has led geneticists to suggest that Germanic invaders may not have ruled Britain by apartheid.
According to a report in New Scientist, earlier, the discovery of a strong Germanic signal in the Y-chromosome of British men had prompted geneticists at University College London to suggest that enslavement and apartheid imposed by Saxon invaders was responsible.
The argument in support of this theory was that from AD 430 to 730, the Germanic conquerors of Britain formed an elite, with a servant underclass of native Britons. Inter-marriage was restricted, and the invaders and their genes flourished.
But, according to John Pattison of the University of South Australia in Adelaide, it is just not necessary to assume an apartheid-like system. "The evidence is compatible with the idea of a much more integrated society," he said.
Pattison reviewed existing archaeological and genetic evidence, and conducted a new analysis of British DNA.
Then, starting in 2001 and working backwards to pre-Roman times, Pattison calculated for each generation the net population growth and the origins of immigrants.
He concluded that people with Germanic origins came to Britain well before and after the early Anglo-Saxon period, and this long period of immigration can explain a relatively strong Germanic genetic signal today.
He adds that about 60% of the current British population still has some native Briton DNA, arguing against the idea, put forward by Mark Thomas at University College London and colleagues that Saxon invaders ethnically purged the country.
According to Pattison, while the Anglo-Saxon King Ine of Wessex did formulate a code that imposed heavier taxes on native Britons than Saxons, for example, this might have been intended to encourage reluctant Britons to fully adopt the new Germanic culture and language, and to label themselves "Germanic", rather than to penalise an underclass.
Overall, the evidence suggests the picture of life in early Anglo-Saxon Britain was not as dismal as that portrayed by Thomas and his team, he said.
"It was still the Dark Ages. People were pretty brutal and there was a lot of fighting going on - but it wasn't necessarily as grim for the Britons as has been suggested," Pattison added.