Friday, May 29, 2015

Basque - Icelandic Feud Finally Over Four Hundred Years Later

A memorial dedicated to the 32 Basque whalers who were killed in the West Fjords in 1615 in what’s known as Iceland’s only mass murder was unveiled in Hólmavík, the West Fjords, on April 22, the last day of winter. At the occasion, West Fjords district commissioner Jónas Guðmundsson revoked the order that Basques could be killed on sight in the region. . . .

President of Gipuzkoa Martin Garitano spoke at the ceremony, as did Icelandic Minister of Education and Culture Illugi Gunnarsson, strandabyggd.is reports. The speeches were followed by musical performances and a moment of prayer.

The program included Xabier Irujo, descendant of one of the murdered Basque whale hunters, and Magnús Rafnsson, descendant of one of the murderers, taking part in a symbolic reconciliation, as it says on etxepare.eus. . . .

The massacre, known as the Spanish Killings or Slaying of the Spaniards, took place in October 1615 at the order of the then West Fjords district commissioner Ari Magnússon of Ögur in Ísafjarðardjúp.

Basque whalers had set up a whaling station in Iceland in the early 17th century. The year 1615 was a difficult with ice up to shores until late summer and considerable loss of livestock, as written on Wikipedia.

In mid-summer 1615, three Basque whaling vessels entered Reykjarfjörður. Icelanders and the Basques had a mutual agreement at the beginning as they had both benefited from the enterprise.

When the ships were ready for departure in late September a gale drove them onto rocks and crushed them. Most of the crew members (around 80) survived and were able to leave for Spain.

The following month, following a conflict with the locals, the remaining whalers were killed at Ari’s order at Æðey island in Ísafjarðardjúp and on Fjallaskagi. Only one person managed to escape.
From here via Marginal Revolution.

The fact that both communities have genealogies up to the task of tracking descendants of both sides of this historical event, four hundred years later, and that this event was accurately documented historically that long ago, on the very fringe of Europe, at the time, is remarkable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

There Was An English Colony Called "New England" In Crimea During The Crusade Era

A blog post by Caitlin Green on the topic appears here.  It was established shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and persisted until sometime in the 1200s, around the time that the Crusader states were also falling apart. Allegedly, it was founded by Anglo-Saxon exiles from the Norman Conquest who went first to Constantinople, the capitol of the much diminished (post-Islamic expansion) Byzantine Empire.

According to these sources, what seems to have occurred is that, in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a group of English lords who hated William the Conqueror's rule but had lost all hope of overthrowing it decided to sell up their land and leave England forever. Led by an 'earl of Gloucester' named Sigurðr (Stanardus in the Chronicon Laudunensis), they set out with 350 ships—235 in the CL—for the Mediterranean via the Straits of Gibraltar. Once there, they voyaged around raiding and adventuring for a period, before learning that Constantinople was being besieged (either whilst they were in Sicily, according to the Edwardsaga, or in Sardinia, as the CL). Hearing this, they decided to set sail for Constantinople to assist the Byzantine emperor. When they reached there, they fought victoriously for the emperor and so earned his gratitude, with the result that they were offered a place of honour in his Varangian Guard.

This sequence of events appears to underlie all four of the sources mentioned above and is moreover supported by contemporary Byzantine sources too[.]
The probably left in 1075 CE.

New Study Sorts Y-DNA Lineages Of Europe By Age Of Expansion

Some of the major Y-DNA lineages in Europe are traceable to the early Neolithic era or are even older, while three others (specific subsets of I2, R1a and R1b) expanded at a breathtaking pace more of less simultaneously around the late Neolithic/Enolithic/Copper Age/early Bronze Age era.  Once this major expansion was complete, the population genetic of Europe have mostly been fairly stable, with a few exceptions that prove the rule due to well documented historical events.

A new study provides a detailed analysis based mostly upon the diversity of modern Y-DNA lineages in Europe and their phylogeny, clearly sorts the two, while also providing useful corroboration from a nearly complete index of ancient Y-DNA finds, by haplogroup, in Europe in the relevant time frames.

The ancient DNA classified by the archaeological context of the finds, also provides strong circumstantial evidence regarding which Y-DNA lineages were associated with the pre-Neolithic hunter-gather populations of Europe.  In sum, hunter-gatherer men appear to have been predominantly Y-DNA I1 in most of Europe and Y-DNA R1b and R1a on the Northern and Southern part, respectively, of the Russian steppe.

The remaining major European clades appear to have arrived with the wave of mass migration that drove the Neolithic revolution (i.e. the introduction of the farming and herding of domesticated plants and animals), although a very late Upper Paleolithic arrival (i.e. "Epipaleolithic" a.k.a. "Mesolithic") cannot be ruled out in most cases, and is established by ancient Y-DNA in others.