You Might Be A Pict If….

…if what Dr. Jim Wilson, announced via press release instead of the more standard academic publication, is true.

Pict Daughter

“A Young Daughter of the Picts” attributed to Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, circa 1585.

Dr. Wilson indicates that he, in conjunction with Scotland’s DNA, an ancestry testing company that he is affiliated with, a new SNP, S530 has been discovered and it is a Pict marker.  He says that this marker is evidence that the Picts are living among us today and can be identified genetically.  As proof, he offers that 10% of the 1000 Scottish men tested carry this marker, while it is found in only .8% of English men and about 3% of the men in Northern Ireland.  Dr. Wilson indicates that this marker is 10 times more prevalent in men with Scottish grandfathers than men with English grandfathers.  You can read the articles in “The Scotsman” and “The Telegraph and the press release by Scotland’s DNA here.”

The Picts were Scotland’s earliest known people.  It’s unknown what the Picts called themselves, but the Roman’s gave them the name Picts, meaning “painted ones.”  They were Celts, but their early history in the British Isles is unclear.  By the time they entered recorded history, they were in Scotland, north of the Forth and Clyde, beyond the stronghold of the Roman empire with whom they fought bitterly on their borders.  Their kingdoms in about 800 and 900 CE are shown on the map below.

pict map

Eventually, in about the 1100s, and rather gradually, the Picts disappeared from the records as a separate people, having assimilated as fully Gaelic Scots, their Pictish heritage forgotten, into the mainstream of the British Isles, along with other Celts, Angles, Saxons and Vikings.

Dr. Wilson says that S530, the newly discovered Pictish marker parallels the Pictish locations, in Fife, Perthshire, Tayside and the Northeast and around Moray Firth coastlands.

Normally, this kind of an announcement would be met with an extremely positive reaction in the genetic genealogy community, but in this case, not so much.  It seems that Dr. Wilson along with Britain’s DNA and Scotland’s DNA have been involved in some less than reputable actions recently, and one has to wonder if this is legitimate.

By legitimate, I mean whether, if provided with the same data and opportunities, another independent academic researcher could reproduce the same results and if unbiased, would come to the same conclusions.  This, of course, is part of the purpose of peer review during the academic publication process.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, either.  For more information about these companies, their issues, their scientific announcements via the media and resulting scuttlebutt, check the following links.

Be sure to read the comments by Debbie Kennett on the link above, and the article below, on Debbie’s blog.

I checked the Scotland’s DNA website, and fully expected to find a new “Pict” test, but it’s not there yet.  Unless I’m terribly off the mark, I’m betting it will be soon, which might have something to do with circumventing the academic publication process, aside from the minor details of peer review and accuracy.  Academic publication takes about 18 months to write the paper and shepherd it through the peer review process.  Not trivial, and there is no “big splash” so to speak about an academic paper appearing in a little known scientific journal.  Much bigger splash this way and one can offer a product immediately, no waiting.  The problem is that science isn’t a “trust me” type of field and this type of science-in-the-media announcement with no documentation flies against all of the safeguards built into the scientific publication process.

So, you just might be a Pict if Jim Wilson is correct and you carry S530….but until an academic paper is published, there is no way to know for sure unless of course, you’re into “trust me.”

However, if you’re dying to know, and can’t wait, I have a hint for you, this SNP was discovered earlier this year, at Family Tree DNA.  It’s also called SNP L1335, and is equivalent to S530.  Kind of sheds a different light on the big announcement doesn’t it.  If you need to know, and you’re a haplogroup R1b male, just order this SNP for $39 from Family Tree DNA and you’ll know if you carry this marker, or not.  However, until Dr. Wilson publishes a paper and makes his data available for review, you won’t know if you are a Pict or just another L1335 Scottish male.



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