(Telegraph) No one living in Britain ‘truly British’, scientists find as Stonehenge builders were replaced by European immigrants
No one living in Britain is truly British, scientists have said after finding that the builders of Stonehenge were nearly totally replaced by European immigrants.
DNA analysis conducted on hundreds of prehistoric skeletons suggests that virtually no-one living in Britain today is truly British.
Neolithic farmers, responsible for building Stonehenge and other stone monuments, were almost completely displaced by immigrants from mainland Europe known as the Beaker people.
Over a period of several hundred years, the newcomers took over the British Isles and stamped their genetic identity on the resident population.
Professor Ian Armit, from the University of Bradford – who took part in the research, said: “The analysis shows pretty conclusively that migration of the Beaker people into Britain was more intense and on a larger scale than anyone had previously thought.
“Britain essentially has a whole new population after that period. We still don’t know for sure what caused such a rapid genetic turnover – the available evidence doesn’t necessarily suggest a violent invasion.
“There might have been environmental problems which caused a population decline among the indigenous population, or the Beaker migrants could have brought new diseases with them.”
The Beaker people earned their name from the characteristic pottery they fashioned and left behind wherever they settled.
Between 4,400 and 4,700 years ago, the bell-shaped pots spread across western and central Europe. For more than a century, experts have argued over whether the pottery finds implied large-scale migration of people or merely the exchange of new ideas and culture.
The new study, looking at DNA data from 400 ancient skeletons from across Europe, shows that both theories are correct.
The scientists found that beaker-producing culture spread between Iberia and central Europe without significant movement of people. But it was quite a different story in the UK, where evidence suggests a massive influx of Beaker immigrants.
Stonehenge | Everything you need to know
Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most enigmatic pile of rocks. Some archaeologists think it was an observatory, others a place of healing.
According to Swiss author Erich von Däniken, the building techniques were passed on from aliens; medieval texts show it being constructed by Merlin.
However, according to Win Scutt, properties curator at English Heritage, “the landscape in which Stonehenge sits is far more interesting than the circle itself”. Despite this, he adds, few people explore the wider area.
That landscape has been poorly treated in past decades, with traffic on the A303 and A344 roaring right past the site. In 2013, the A344 and old car park were removed; now, the landscape has recovered, grass has regrown and Stonehenge has been reconnected with its ancient processional avenue.
The next step is to re-route the A303, which cuts through the World Heritage Site, compromising its integrity. The Government has committed to building a tunnel for the road; in May 2016, the International Council on Monuments and Sites and Unesco backed the scheme, although current proposals remain controversial.