What Made the Anglo-Saxons Capable of Conquering the Britons?

Mar 2015
1,428
Yorkshire
Phh! this article takes some understanding and is quite a bit beyond my primitive understanding of genetics but here goes:

The Black dots on the "A" map are those towns\areas which have been mentioned in written historical texts by such writers as Procopius or the Bede - figures are the dates that the first bubonic plague (Plague of Justinian, YPestis, ) occurred - starting with Pelusium, Egypt in AD541and recurring for 150 years throughout Europe.

Yellow dots (and purple) are those sites analysed and showing the presence of this plague. Map B is interesting because they tested a good number of sites in South Germany\Austria where no presence of the Plague was detected (Black triangles). If think this demonstates that it was possible to have Plague nearby in AD 550 to 700 and still be fortunate to evade it.

I picked out these comments regarding the A-S Edix Hill site.

"The British genome of EDI001, however, branches off one SNP ancestral to this polytomy (100% bootstrap support) and possesses one unique SNP. This is remarkable, since the British Isles are one of the most remote places where the First Pandemic was suspected of reaching in relation to its presumed starting point in Egypt.

and

Based on archaeological dating in combination with its rather basal position within the clade, this genome is likely related to the very first occurrence of plague in Britain suggested for 544 (SI Appendix), potentially introduced via sea communications with Brittany following the outbreak in central Gaul in 543"

Putting the first sentence into understandable English, my interpretation is:

In constructing a tree of the successive genetic mutation of YPestis over time the English strain is a very early branch but still basically groups with other European versions ( they show some differences to each other but are significantly different to Edix). BTW this is important as it shows genetic "grandmother to mother to daughter" eg monkey to ape to human and the development of the organism over time.

The genetic relationship can be seen in the second slide - all the green and blue colours (ED100.A is Edix Hill) - Red are the Second plague, the Black Death and the third (in black on the diagram) is the AD1890 YPestis plague which broke out in Asia, crossed to the South West of the USA and presently resides there in the black rat population ( you learn something every day!) but did not affect Europe.

1560008675147.png

Thus the Edix strain is early and hence the date of 544 AD.

I was bit surprised that the Authors plumped for Central Gaul as the source of the A-S Edix Hill outbreak, particularly as the reservoir for the black rat of the Justinian Plague is thought to be Spain and the Middle East. Would have thought these are likely to be source - but I am open to correction on any of the above.
 
Nov 2008
1,379
England
I was bit surprised that the Authors plumped for Central Gaul as the source of the A-S Edix Hill outbreak, particularly as the reservoir for the black rat of the Justinian Plague is thought to be Spain and the Middle East. Would have thought these are likely to be source - but I am open to correction on any of the above.
There were probably multi-entry points for the plague in Britain. British sites such as Tintagel, Kilibury, and Cadbury Congresbury were in trade contact with the Byzantine Empire. All became deserted at this time, suggesting a catastrophic event.
 
Mar 2015
1,428
Yorkshire
There were probably multi-entry points for the plague in Britain. British sites such as Tintagel, Kilibury, and Cadbury Congresbury were in trade contact with the Byzantine Empire. All became deserted at this time, suggesting a catastrophic event.
The authors of the report seem to have shown that the Edix Hill mutation was different to that which infected the German and French victims (and the Spanish one but he was a monk, death recorded much later than 543AD). Why then do they continue with the standard explanation of "it came from Gaul"?

Trade has got to be the answer but where did it orginate?

Of course its the rat flea (but also other mammal vectors can be involved eg the squirrel in the US) and not the rat itself which is responsible for the pan-demic. The Black Rat has a small range and does not venture far from his locality. To pass from one area to next the flea is carried on corn grain or cloth through human trade, then there is an incubation period as the flea builds up in numbers in the local rat population. The net result is that one small locality can be devastated and the next spared (so Geoffrey of Tours can claim that Saint X's intercession has saved Avignon while Arles suffers grievously). It is also clear from the historical writings that the reaction of the inhabitants, certainly in the case of the Justinian Plague was to flee, leaving major centres deserted.

The low density of population in the British Isles would mitigate against its spread but where we have larger communities for example monasteries it could be devastating. On the surface, Edix Hill does not seem to have suffered a real catastophe - there are some double burials but not a lot and half of the victims (in the sample) are buried in single graves (my rough guess is between 10 and 20% of the 50/60 inhabitants succumbed to the disease).
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
Tintagel is usually cited as the point of entry because sherds of amphorae have been found there showing traces of oils. The same type of pottery, made from the same clays, are found in Anatolia. These type IVB amphorae are typical of the early to mid 500s. Whilst this trade could explain outbreaks in Ireland and Wales, it is hard to see how it would reach Cambridgshire.

The remains they tested number 122 from 20 sites, the Edix Hill however are different and they have had to evaluate them in a different way. Hence they use the term, putatively Y. pestis-positive samples. Apparantly, Trier and Reims are mentioned in the sources as being spared the plague, due to saints performing miracles from the grave, according to Gregory. I think Rosen's account of the Bishop of Sion (Justinian's Flea) is probably more likely:

"When Bishop Nicholas of Sion banned farmers from entering his town on market days in order to limit the poorly-understood spread of the disease, he was nearly arrested by the municipal authorities who believed he was manufacturing a famine in order to drive up prices."
 
Mar 2015
1,428
Yorkshire
Tintagel is usually cited as the point of entry because sherds of amphorae have been found there showing traces of oils. The same type of pottery, made from the same clays, are found in Anatolia. These type IVB amphorae are typical of the early to mid 500s. Whilst this trade could explain outbreaks in Ireland and Wales, it is hard to see how it would reach Cambridgshire.

The remains they tested number 122 from 20 sites, the Edix Hill however are different and they have had to evaluate them in a different way. Hence they use the term, putatively Y. pestis-positive samples. Apparantly, Trier and Reims are mentioned in the sources as being spared the plague, due to saints performing miracles from the grave, according to Gregory. I think Rosen's account of the Bishop of Sion (Justinian's Flea) is probably more likely:

"When Bishop Nicholas of Sion banned farmers from entering his town on market days in order to limit the poorly-understood spread of the disease, he was nearly arrested by the municipal authorities who believed he was manufacturing a famine in order to drive up prices."
My understanding is that in the case of the A-S samples (but not the otheres) they have only managed to obtain lots of bits of the YPestis Plasmid DNA - and like reassembling the pieces in a jigsaw set, have used various computer techniques to fit the bits back together - hence the 77 confidence (bootstrap) that they assign to the A-S sample being different to the other group - reasonable but not brilliant confidence. On the other hand, they are 100% sure they have got YPestis (polytomy, BTW, simply means that they do not have enough evidence to decide who is the mother and who is the daughter).

This caused me to read the Appendix in more depth and I think it is quite interesting - I reproduce the "historical" comments below:


Phylogeographic Analyses

The new genomes and radiocarbon dates combined suggest an association of the British genome as well as the polytomy giving rise to the four lineages (ie the French and German and Spanish samples) with the early phase of the First Pandemic or even the Justinianic Plague itself (541–544).

The accumulation of one Edix Hill or two (Altenerding cluster) SNPs from the basal node of all genomes could have happened on the way from Egypt to western Europe .

The fact that the pandemic reportedly spread from Pelusium along the Mediterranean coastline in two independent waves, one heading west to Alexandria and the other east to Palestine, could explain the early branching event (11)…..

The lineages found in Bavaria could have spread there by a ‘western route’ from Gaul, by a ‘southern route’ from Italy or by an ‘eastern route’ from Illyricum, which were all affected by plague in or around 543.

The presence of plague in the British Isles even suggests a fourth ‘northern route’ upstream along the Rhine river.

The ‘western’ and ‘southern route’ would have necessitated overland transport via the Roman road network that connected all of the relevant sites with the Mediterranean coastlines and was still functional in the 6thcentury. The ‘southern route’ would have required crossing the Alps via different passes that had been used since Antiquity (14).

Navigation along the Danube could have facilitated the ‘eastern route’. The importance of rivers for the spread of plague has already been shown exemplarily for the Rhône during the First Pandemic(15)and for the Black Death (16).

The site of Petting is geographically situated only 100 km southeast of Aschheim and Altenerding(SI Appendix, Fig. S9). However, it was located in the Roman province Noricum Ripense whereas the sites with the distinct uniform lineage were situated in Raetia secunda (Aschheim, Altenerding, Unterthürheim) or close by (Dittenheim). Although the administrative system of the Western Roman Empire had broken down by the mid-6thcentury, its political borders continued to be influential, not least because of the ecclesiastical system of dioceses that followed them. It is possible that these ancient boundaries influenced the spread of the two epidemic outbreaks in modern-day Bavaria. Since the river Inn separated Raetia Secunda and Noricum Ripense, this might suggest that rivers could serve as physical barriers to the spread of plague where river transport was negligible. This in turn would rather suggest the ‘eastern route’ or the ‘southern route’ for Petting as described above. Complementing the previous results from Aschheim and Altenerding, our new data from Unterthürheim and Dittenheim underline the epidemic extent of this plague outbreak in early medieval Bavaria, totalling 16 individuals with genomic evidence for Y. pestis and an additional five PCR-positive individuals in Aschheim
Far from the urban centres of the time and any recorded outbreak of plague, the new molecular evidence stands in strong contrast to Durliat’s claim that the Justinianic Plague was merely an urban phenomenon. Instead, we view this data as being in line with ancient statements by Procopius, John of Ephesos and Paul the Deacon who reported that the countryside of the Levant and Italy were severely impacted.

Of course we need more information from other locations to make sense of all this - would be nice if we got some data from Cornwall, Wales and Ireland.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
Of course we need more information from other locations to make sense of all this - would be nice if we got some data from Cornwall, Wales and Ireland.
It's the same old problem though, where are the graves? There are no skeletons to test.

At least we have a known trade route and a connection with the mediterranean world. Cambridgeshire is somewhat different though. Does it need to be a trade route? Stopping farmers bringing their products into the town markets may have worked on the continent but we don't have towns in the anglo saon parts of england in the mid 6th cent. Moreover, they are not trading with the continent. If it has come in from the continent, it would probably have been via something else.

This a Sam Newton's proposed map of the kingdom of the Wuffings. The old roads are blocked by dykes and forest keeps the kingdom enclosed. I can imagine south gyrwa, or willa or wixna or whatever kingdom it was, had similar boundaries.




What would come from the Continent that would bring the disease in bearing in mind the early date? There is no trade in goods that we know of and it is too early for christian missions.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
The lineages found in Bavaria could have spread there by a ‘western route’ from Gaul, by a ‘southern route’ from Italy or by an ‘eastern route’ from Illyricum, which were all affected by plague in or around 543.
That part of Bavaria was still in contact with Italy, via the Via Raetia. It's one of the easiest passes from northern Italy through the Brenner to Innsbruck and then flat all the way. From the 2nd cent. it was open to wheeled traffic. The roman road was still in use in the middle ages. This paper may thrown some light on it, though I haven't read it properly:

Living at the Outskirts of the Roman Empire after the Fall. A Study of 5th Century Bavarian Burials
 

Haesten

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,918
Webster & Backhouse 1991
"The thirty-seven coins in the Sutton Hoo purse are all Frankish, and are the only large deposit of coins from the Anglo-Saxon period before the introduction of an English coinage. The lack of duplication in the group is not remarkable given the huge number of Merovingian mints and moneyers and the wide date range, c.572 - c.625, of the pieces represented. It does however suggest that they were not withdrawn from active circulation but were taken from a treasure store, apparently containing a limited number of coins as the total required to pay the forty oarsmen and helmsman of the burial ship had to be made up in blanks and bullion."

They must have had duplicate coins to make up the number, the 37 denoting their trade connections is more likely.