DNA analysis on four ancient skeletons has proved that London has always been home to people from different ethnic backgrounds.
Scientists have tested the remains of four people and found that while one was a native Briton, another was from continental Europe and the other two originated from outside Europe altogether. The researchers now plan to carry out DNA tests on some more samples from the collection of 20,000 human remains which is kept at the Museum of London and date back 5,500 years.
The museum’s senior curator, Caroline McDonald, told BBC News: “Every first-generation Londoner was from somewhere else – whether it was somewhere else in Britain, somewhere else on the continent, somewhere else in the Mediterranean, somewhere else from Africa.”
London was created around 43 AD after the Romans invaded Britain. Staff at the Museum of London have worked with an ancient DNA lab at Canada’s McMaster University and scientists at Durham University.
The four sets of remains which were tested are each kept in their own cardboard boxes at the museums storehouse.
Ms McDonald said: “Their stories are written in their bones and these were stories we did not realise until we did this scientific analysis.”
One of the individuals was a 14-year-old girl who has been nicknamed “The Lant Street teenager”. DNA testing has revealed she grew up in North Africa and had sub-Saharan African ancestry although she had blue eyes.
Skeletons reveal surprising stories
A second person referred to as “The Mansell Street man” was found to be more than 45 years old and his mitochondrial DNA line originated in North Africa. He also had very dark brown hair and brown eyes.
But evidence from his teeth suggests that while he may have African origins, he actually grew up in London as he had a bone disease, which mostly affects white men living in the Western world.
The third individual is thought to have been a gladiator as his skull was discovered in a mass grave with 38 other men who had all suffered a violent death. This man was aged between 36 and 45 and his mother’s ancestral line was from Eastern Europe or the Middle East.
And finally, the remains of “The Harper Road woman” were found to belong to a native Briton. Despite coming from Britain, she was buried with Roman items suggesting she had quickly adopted their lifestyle after the invasion.
Unusually, her chromosomes show that although she had the physical appearance of a woman, she was actually genetically a male.
The skeletons and details of the research have now gone on display at the Museum of London.
Of course DNA tests can also solve modern-day mysteries. DNA testing is used by both the legal sector and members of the public to gather evidence about biological relationships.
AlphaBiolabs offers paternity tests and relationship DNA testing. And if you want to find out more about your own background, ancestry DNA testing could provide the answers you’re looking for.
The test can give you an estimated percentage of ancestry from the four major population groups – European, African, East Asian and Indigenous American.