The Bronze Age Copper Mines of North Wales: searching for genetic evidence of the prehistoric settlement of the British Isles

ContextNorth Wales coast

About 4000 years ago, during the Bronze Age, copper ore was mined on a large scale at the Great Orme (near Llandudno) and Parys Mountain (Anglesey), North Wales. Archaeological excavations have revealed surface mining and extensive and deep networks of underground workings. There is much less information about the communities who were responsible for the mines. One tantalising piece of genetic research raised the possibility that an immigrant group arrived in North Wales from Spain or the Balkans at around the time that mining began at the Great Orme.

Project aim

The aim of this project is to investigate the possibility that 4000 years ago the Bronze Age copper miners at the Great Orme and Parys Mountain in North Wales were incomers from as far afield as the Balkans and Spain. We have reason to suspect this because a previous investigation in North Wales reported a much higher than average presence of a DNA marker that is commonly found in people from the Balkans and Spain.

Can you help?

We would like to hear from men from North Wales who are prepared to help with this research. Because we are looking for people with family histories in the same geographical area, it is important that those taking part have come from the same area as their paternal grandfather (their father´s father). Participants will need to provide a cheek swab sample so that we can analyse their DNA using genetic analysis. This will involve wiping the inside of the mouth with a sterile cotton bud and sending this back to our laboratory. The samples will be anonymised.

Should you wish to take part in this research project or would like further information please contact us at northwalesdna@sheffield.ac.uk.

email : northwalesdna@sheffield.ac.uk

Additional information about the methodology

We will extract DNA from anonymised cheek swab samples, and use PCR to amplify a panel of Y chromosome polymorphic markers. These markers are selected to enable identification of the Y chromosome haplogroup of each sample. We will then compare the haplogroup frequencies found in the North Wales population with previously published populations from the British Isles. We are specifically interested in identifying individuals whose haplogroup is common in the Balkans/Mediterranean, but rare in the British Isles.