By using the most advanced testing in the world to sample the DNA of the modern population of Wales, we can trace the story of an ancient people far beyond the limits of written records.
Cymru DNA Wales is a multi-media project with a big ambition – to answer that age-old question: where do we come from?
Using cutting-edge technology to sample the Welsh population today, we can follow the story way back beyond the reaches of written records.
After the showing of our launch programme on St David’s Day 2015, DNA Cymru returns to the screen with a series which delves deeper into the history and the science – and reveals the results of DNA tests taken by some of our best-known faces.
Three Welsh celebrities are among those who get the results of their ancestral DNA tests in the in the new series which starts on DNA Cymru on S4C on Sunday, 22 November. The series is part of the innovative project DNACymruWales – a project which has uncovered fascinating new information about the people who have lived here down the ages.
From the earliest days, the Welsh have asked major questions such as 'Who are we?' 'Where did we come from?' 'What connects us with the rest of the world's people?' 'What makes us different?'
In the first programme, entertainer Caryl Parry Jones, broadcaster Roy Noble and Wales and Scarlets hooker, Ken Owens hear that they belong to three different groups who came to Wales after the Ice Age – the earliest Hunter-Gatherers; the First Farmers; and the Beaker People These are the three pre-historic influxes mainly responsible for the genetic composition of the people of Europe today.
With his roots deep in Carmarthenshire, it wasn't a surprise perhaps that Ken Owens, the player who recently was in Warren Gatland's Rugby World Cup 2015 squad is Welsh through and through.
Learning that the genetic markings of both his mother and father's family lines were more common in Wales than anywhere in the rest of Britain pleased Ken. On his father's side, Ken belongs to the haplogroup R1b – S145 which is more common in Wales compared to the rest of Britain. Scientists believe that this haplogroup came to Wales with the Beaker People, the first people to work with metal, around 2000BC. The haplogroup R1b – S145 is part of a wider Group R1b who came to Europe from Western Asia towards the end of the Neolithic Age.
Roy Noble was delighted to discover he had an interesting link to the Neolithic period – the New Stone Age. Scientists working on the project discovered that Roy belongs to the haplogroup G2a which is uncommon in Wales and which dates back to the first people to bring farming to Wales from Europe and the Near East, six thousand years ago.
Roy shares his haplogroup with no less a figure than Ötzi the Iceman, the well-preserved mummy dating back to 3,300BC discovered on the border between Austria and Italy in 1991.
Scientists have discovered that Caryl Parry Jones can trace her mother's ancestry back to maternal predecessors belonging to the haplogroup U, women who were among the first hunters to live in Europe and Northern Asia in the Mesolithic period after the Ice Age.
"Any connection with any part of a person's history is worth the whole world because we're not here for very long, so any contact we have with where we've come from is really worthwhile," said Caryl.
"We're all aware of our roots going back two generations but beyond that we know next to nothing about our forefathers, so the idea of going back to pre-history is something I find very difficult to imagine."
Having heard that her predecessors might have been performers, Caryl said:"A Mesolithic Noson Lawen! Some would say the Noson Lawen is still Mesolithic!"
A year ago CymruDNAWales was launched by S4C, Media Wales, Green Bay Media and Scotland's DNA. It was to be a project with a big and important ambition - a new, people’s history of Wales, and one that would answer an age-old question: where do we come from?
Since then many Welsh men and women have had their ancestral DNA tested, and the results of this ground-breaking research form the basis of this series of four programmes to be broadcast at 8.00pm on Sunday nights on 22 November, 29 November, 6 December and 13 December. Many questions will be answered, many new questions asked.
Using some of the most advanced ancestral DNA testing, and a powerful combination of scientific analysis and history pioneered by Dr Jim Wilson and Alistair Moffat in their Scotland's DNA study, CymruDNAWales has attempted to shine light into the dark eras of prehistory. By sampling the DNA of the modern population of Wales we have traced the story of an ancient people far beyond written records, right back to the retreat of the ice and the coming of the first hunters and gatherers, the first to see the familiar landscape of the old land for more than 14,000 years.
This project not only has an epic purpose, it is a journey into largely unexplored territory. Until now, the ancestral DNA of Wales has not been well understood and such study as has been undertaken has tended to be sparse and superficial, or it formed part of a wider picture.
But what is absolutely certain is that our findings will apply to everyone who lives in Wales today, men women, and children. Because – by definition – this is a people’s story, one in which everyone has a part. Yes, we will hear about the kings, princes, queens, saints and bards whose names have echoed across the centuries. But this, above all, is the story of ordinary people, of the tramp of hunters, farmers, miners and workers of all kinds as they walked their lives under the big skies of Wales. They are the ones who have ultimately shaped the nation. The proof is in our DNA.