The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Dental evidence on the origins of the Irish


1Anthropology, State University of New York at Potsdam, 2Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University

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The origins of the people of Ireland have been a topic of intense scholarly debate. The modern population of the island is thought to derive from a founding event, known historic intrusions over the last 1200 years, and a series of presumed prehistoric migrations events. Previous research by Weets (2004, 2006) illustrated a strong trend for biological continuity prior to known historic intrusions, casting into doubt large-scale migrations by Iron Age Celtic, or earlier, populations. This leaves open the question of where the prehistoric population of Ireland originated. Using the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System, dental data were collected from 681 archaeological specimens dating from the Neolithic (c. 4000-1800 BC) to the Early Christian era (c. AD 400-1170). Morphometric traits of ancient Ireland were compared to 14 world regional populations available in Turner and Scott (1997). One hundred single Euclidean (nearest neighbor) hierarchical clustering trees of 13 dental traits were produced, incorporating bootstrapping techniques. Forty-five of the one hundred clustering trees portrayed the closest affinity between ancient Ireland and North Africa. Forty of the one hundred clustering trees portrayed the closest affinity between Western European populations and ancient Ireland. Based on these patterns, and previous research suggesting no large-scale prehistoric intrusions, a likely origin for the population of Ireland would be Mesolithic peoples migrating from Ice Age refugia in southwestern Europe.

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