A new study suggests that mass migrations from France to England, Wales and England around 3,000 years ago has replaced approximately half the Great Britain’s ancestry. 

An international team of researchers examined the DNA of 793 ancient individuals from Bronze Age Britain, which began around 2,000 BC and lasted for nearly 1,500 years. 

According to results, around half of all subsequent population’s genetic ancestry can be attributed towards people who moved into south Britain in the 1300 BC-800 BC period.  

These new migrants became thoroughly mixed in to the Southern British population in the period 1000 BC to 875 BC – likely a time of ‘intense and sustained contacts’ between many diverse communities, the researchers say, 

It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of the migrants’ exact origins, however it seems most likely that they came from France or France-based communities. 

Researchers based their findings on newly-discovered and already-discovered ancient remains from British towns including Amesbury in Wiltshire, Lechlade in Gloucestershire, Ditchling Road in Brighton and Ulva Cave in Scotland. 

DNA from these British samples were compared to ancient individuals recovered from parts of mainland Europe.  

Researchers based their findings on newly-discovered and already-discovered ancient remains from British towns including Amesbury in Wiltshire, Lechlade in Gloucestershire, Ditchling Road in Brighton and Ulva Cave in Scotland. The black dots are new samples of ancient remains; yellow dots are previously published samples. The dots represent sites rather than individuals (some sites have many individuals)

These findings were made possible by newly-discovered or previously discovered remains of ancient British cities such as Amesbury in Wiltshire and Lechlade in Gloucestershire. These are brand new ancient remains samples; the yellow dots were previously published. Since some sites may have multiple individuals, the dots signify sites and not people.

Researchers examined ancient DNA to trace the movement of people into southern Britain during the Bronze Age. Pictured is the disarticulated remains of an adult male, excavated from a large burial pit at Cliffs End Farm, Kent. His genetic profile suggests that he derived from a population outside Britain. Analysis of his strontium and oxygen isotopes suggest he may have originated from the Alpine regions of Central Europe

To trace people’s movements into Britain in the Bronze Age, researchers used ancient DNA. This is the picture of the disarticulated remains from an adult male that was found in Cliffs End Farm’s burial ground. It is possible that his genetic makeup suggests that he was a descendant of a British population. His strontium and other oxygen isotopes analysis suggests that he could have come from Central Europe’s Alpine region.

Researchers are unsure of the number and reasons for migration. 

The new study, published today in Nature, was conducted by a team of more than 200 international researchers, led by the University of York, Harvard Medical School and the University of Vienna. 


Bronze was used in the Bronze Age, which was between 2,000 BC and 700 BC. 

Flint was formed and used in Stone Age times as tools and weapons.

In the Bronze Age however, iron was slowly replaced with stone. 

Bronze is made from copper and tin, which are then mixed together. 

You could use the bronze to mold useful products. 

Source: surreycc.gov.uk  

‘We have long suspected, based on patterns of trade and shared ideologies, that the Middle to Late Bronze Age was a time of intense contacts between communities in Britain and Europe,’ said study author Professor Ian Armit at the University of York. 

“While it was once believed that long-distance mobility could only be achieved by a handful of individuals such as traders and small groups of warlords, DNA evidence now shows that large numbers of people are moving across all social classes. 

Professor Armit told MailOnline that the specific areas these migrants came from are unknown, although France is likely.

He said that it is possible to exclude migrants from Britain. But, the French sampling has shown large gaps.

“The nearest genetic relatives we can see come from the later Iron Age population around France’s periphery. France appears to be the likely origin area, taking in all the above and the links between archaeology and material culture.

According to the findings, the genetic structure of our island’s population changed through sustained contacts between mainland Britain and Europe over several centuries, such as the movement of traders, intermarriage, and small scale movements of family groups.

There was no sweeping ‘violent invasion’ or single migratory event that replaced the population of southern Britain. Instead, it was more peacefully called ‘homogenisation. 

‘There may very well be episodes of violence scattered within it, but it is certainly a process rather than an event,’ Professor Armit told MailOnline.

“We don’t also see any bias toward males in the new population, as might be expected in an invasion situation.”

During Bronze Age Britain, bronze tools, pots and weapons were brought over from continental Europe. Pictured are bronze age tools from the National Museums of Scotland

Bronze pots, tools and weapons, as well as bronze tools were imported from Europe during Bronze Age Britain. The National Museums of Scotland have shown bronze-age tools.

This photograph shows the skeleton of an elderly woman from the same burial pit at Cliffs End Farm, Kent

The skeleton shown in this photograph is from Cliffs End Farm Kent.


According to a 2020 study, Bronze Age people kept and preserved human remains and kept them for multiple generations.  

Radiocarbon dating was used by experts at University of Bristol to examine Bronze Age findings found in the UK back over 4500 years. 

There were many items found that had been carved out of human bone or from bones belonging to another person buried later. These items are likely preserved as relics.

Researchers have been able to paint a better picture of death customs from the past, with some that seem’seemingly bizarre’ to contemporary eyes. 

Continue reading: Bronze Age societies kept and preserved human remains as relics 

“People would have come in at least two centuries ago and most likely intermarried into local communities.

“The process could have been reversed, but the sample from the relevant regions of France is not yet available to prove this. 

“Essentially, what we’re likely to see is the homogenization of populations on either side of Channel.” 

This DNA evidence further supports the argument that Celtic languages existed in Britain during Bronze Age. 

Celtic languages were thought to be originated in central Europe. These languages spread throughout the continent, including across the British Isles. Slavic languages replaced them in large parts with Germanic, Romance, and Romance languages. 

The study does not show evidence of large-scale migrations of British citizens into Britain in the Iron Age. This period was previously thought to have been the time when Celtic languages might have spread.

Professor David Reich from Harvard Medical School said that these findings did not answer the question as to the origins of Celtic languages in Britain.

“However, every reasonable scholar must adjust their best guesses regarding what happened based upon these findings.

‘Our results militate against an Iron Age spread of Celtic languages into Britain – the popular “Celtic from the East” hypothesis – and increase the likelihood of a Late Bronze Age arrival from France, a rarely discussed scenario called “Celtic from the Centre”.’

This image shows an overview of the Cliffs End Farm burial pit showing both the already pictured adult male and adult female along with a further two; a teenage girl and female child. DNA analysis has been conducted on all four as part of the present study

The Cliffs End Farm Burial Pit is shown in this image. It shows the adult male and female, as well as two additional children, a teenage girl or a child. As part of this study, DNA testing was done on each one.


Recent research has shown that milk was the main fuel for migration during Bronze Age.

Research suggests that immigrants from Russia may have brought with them the ability to tolerate lactose into Europe.

During the most recent Ice Age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because – unlike children – they could not produce the enzyme required to break down lactose.

Around 11,000 years ago farming replaced hunting and gathering in Middle East. Cattle herders learned how to lower lactose levels through fermentation of milk to produce cheese or yogurt.

Continue reading: Milk was the fuel for Great Bronze Age Migration 

As part of the analysis of the ancient remains, the researchers also found that the ability to digest cow’s milk dramatically increased in Britain from 1200 to 200 BC, about a millennium earlier than it did in central Europe. 

The researchers found that there was a significant increase in the number of alleles (a variation of a gene) responsible for lactase persistence, which is the ability of adults in Britain to consume lactose from milk in Bronze Age peoples. 

An increase in milk tolerance could have been a major advantage, leading to higher survival rates for children born to people with this genetic mutation.      

One of the individuals analysed, nicknamed the Amesbury Archer, was buried around the year 2300 BC in Amesbury, Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge.

An analysis of the oxygen levels in his enamel that formed during childhood suggests that he was from central Europe’s Alps. 

The Archer’s genome is from the end of the Neolithic period (3950–2450 BC), when individuals in Britain uniformly had what the authors call majority ‘early European farmer’ (EEF) ancestry.

‘This ancestry was carried to Europe thousands of years earlier by agriculturists from Anatolia, in what is now Turkey,’ Daniel G. Bradley, a professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, explains in an accompanying editorial also in Nature. 

Researchers found that a high number of Kentans had EEF ancestry. This is comparable to France. 

This indicates the existence of migratory flows across the Strait of Dover. They would have been involved with trading and commerce during the Late Bronze Age according to Professor Bradley. 

The Amesbury Archer. An early Bronze Age man whose grave was discovered during excavations at the site of a new housing development in Amesbury near Stonehenge. Now on display in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

The Amesbury Archer. A Bronze Age man from the early Bronze Age whose remains were discovered in excavations near Stonehenge’s new Amesbury housing development. It is now on display at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

The contribution of early European farmer ancestry to individuals in ancient Britain. Researchers assessed the genomes of ancient individuals living in Britain and in continental Europe between about 4000 BC and AD 43, including the genome of a man nicknamed the Amesbury Archer. After a rapid decline in early European farmer (EEF) ancestry in southern Britain at around 2450 BC,the proportion of EEF ancestry fluctuated for about a millennium

Contribution of the early European farmer ancestry in individuals from ancient Britain. Researchers compared the genomes from ancient people living in Britain and continental Europe during the period between approximately 4000 BC and AD43. They also included the DNA of the Amesbury Archer. At around 2450 BC there was a dramatic decline in the number of early European farmers (EEF) and their ancestry. The percentage that EEF ancestry remained constant for approximately a century.

The Middle-to-Late Bronze Age (1500 BC-800 BC) saw the expansion of settled farming communities across southern Britain’s landscapes.

There are many trade routes that allow for movement of metal ore for production of bronze, which is used to make tools, pots, and weapons.

As can be seen in the spreading of bronze objects, these new networks connected wide-ranging European regions. 

‘This study increases the amount of ancient DNA data we have from the Late Bronze and Iron Age in Britain by twelvefold, and Western and Central Europe by 3.5-fold,’ said author Professor Ron Pinhasi, a physical anthropologist and ancient DNA specialist from the University of Vienna. 

“With the massive amounts of data we now have, it is possible to study adaptation in sufficient detail in time and space for us to see that natural selection took place in different places in Europe. 


Britain’s Bronze Age was established around 2000 BC. It lasted almost 1,500 year.

This was the time that sophisticated bronze pots, tools and weapons from Europe were imported.

These skulls are very different to Stone Age skulls. It is possible that these skulls were discovered during a time of immigration. 

Bronze is composed of 10 percent tin, and 90% copper.

Crete is a hub of bronze trade expansion in Europe. The first weapons arrived from Russia’s Mycenaeans.

It is widely believed bronze first came to Britain with the Beaker people who lived about 4,500 years ago in the temperate zones of Europe.

The distinctive shape of their bell-shaped beakers gave them their names. Horizontal zones were created by finely toothed stamps.

These decorated pots can be found almost everywhere in Europe and were used for drinking or as ceremonial urns.

Beaker folk are thought to originate from Spain. However, they soon spread throughout central and Western Europe in search of metals.

At the same time, textile production was underway. The people of that time wore tunics, wrap-around skirts and cloaks. Men were usually clean-shaven, and their hair was long.

Cremation or burial of the dead was done in small cemeteries located near settlements.

The Iron Age, which began in 650 BC and ended at 43 AD, followed.