This article reviews scientific publications that have attempted to use genetic and genomic data in order to investigate European migrations between the fourth and ninth centuries. It considers early single-locus studies that used mtDNA and y-chromosome data. These studies were successful in formulating hypotheses concerning migration and heterogeneity, primarily between the Continent and the British Isles and Iceland, but could only examine a small portion of the entire genetic inheritance. The article continues with a presentation of more recent genome-wide studies. In particular, it evaluates the problems of using modern genomic data to understand past migratory processes, arguing that modern DNA is a problematic source for understanding population histories of the past fifteen hundred years and urges the sequencing and analysis of ancient DNA. It also presents some of the problems of research teams that did not include archaeologists and historians as integral participants in the planning, collection, and evaluation of data. It concludes with a brief outline of the authors’ current project that examines migration between Pannonia and Italy in the sixth century. ... This work is necessarily interdisciplinary, something notably lacking in the majority of genetic studies. The Ralph and Coop study, while highly rigorous at the level of the population genetic analysis, included no historians or archaeologists, and the only historical literature cited, presumably to »identify« the Hunnic contribution to European population, was a general history of Europe,  a survey of Slavic history,  and two articles in the New Cambridge Medieval History.  The Busby et al. study also included no historians or archaeologists on its team, and the only historical literature cited was a Penguin History of the World, Peter Heather’s survey of the Early Middle Ages, and a survey of Muslims in Italy.  Unlike these studies, designed and executed exclusively by geneticists who then look through a few general historical handbooks to try to find stories that might explain their data, historians and archaeologists are integrated from the start in our project.Patrick J. Geary and Krishna Veeramah, Mapping European Population Movement through Genomic Research [PDF download], Medieval Worlds, No. 4, 201, 65-78
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Do it right or don't do it at all
At least a couple of academic teams working on the population history of Europe need to read this PDF and take it to heart.