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Celts from the Atlantic
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51WCMXOk9IL._SX382_BO1,204,203,200_A man’s discovery of bones under his pub could forever change what we know about the Irish:

But over the last decade, a growing number of scholars have argued that the first Celtic languages were spoken not by the Celts in the middle of Europe but by ancient people on Europe’s westernmost extremities, possibly in Portugal, Spain, Ireland or the other locales on the western edges of the British Isles.

Koch, the linguist at the University of Wales, for example, proposed in 2008 that “Celtic” languages were not imports to the region but instead were developed somewhere in the British Isles or the Iberian Peninsula — and then spread eastward into continental Europe.

Moreover, in recent years, some archaeologists have proposed that the traditional story of the Celts’ invasion was, in a sense, exactly wrong — the culture was not imported but exported — originating on the western edge of Europe much earlier than previously thought and spreading into the continent.

In a 2001 book, Cunliffe, the Oxford scholar, argued on the basis of archaeological evidence that the flow of Celtic culture was opposite that of the traditional view — it flowed from the western edge of Europe, what he calls “the Atlantic zone” — into the rest of the continent. In many places of the Atlantic zone, he notes, people were buried in passages aligned with the solstices, a sign that they shared a unified belief system.

“From about 5,000 B.C. onwards, complicated ideas of status, art, cosmology were being disseminated along the Atlantic seaways,” Cunliffe said, and that culture then spread eastward.

The paper they’re alluding to is Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Celts 
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  1. Lebor Gabála Érenn was right.

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    • Replies: @random observer
    I thought it had each successive invasion coming from the east or south.

    Good handle though. Does that mean you have some one-eyewitness perspective on those invasions?

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  2. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

    The genetic case for the population genetic makeup of modern Western Europe deriving from a post-Neolithic, early metal age mass migration/replacement/dilution event, whose source was ultimately derived from the Steppe or Caucasus or West Asian highlands is pretty overwhelming at this point.

    Moreover, there is solid evidence to link this transition, at least in substantial party, to the archaeological Bell Beaker phenomena.

    The linguistic case that Celtic is an Indo-European language and that the Indo-European languages ultimately arose in the general vicinity of the Steppe or the Caucasus or West Asian highlands (to emphasis the consensus, rather than the fine distinctions) sometime after the Neolithic revolution is likewise pretty overwhelming at this point.

    The case that the events that gave rise to the population genetics of modern Western Europe coincided with the Celtic linguistic spread in Western Europe is pretty shaky. There is good reason from archaeology and historical linguistic analysis to believe that Celtic languages were spread beginning around the time of Bronze Age collapse from central Europe in an event that produced a language shift with relatively moderate population genetic impact.

    The linguistic evidence on its own does not strongly favor a West to East migration of Celtic. And, if Celtic expanded separately from the population genetic shift, that the mixed genetic evidence that could suggest a West to East migration can’t be used to support this hypothesis.

    There is conflicting evidence on the question of whether the source for the population genetic shift took place from Central Europe to the West, or hopscotched to Iberia and then spread to the North and East from there. Archaeology and some of the genetic evidence tends to point to an Iberia to points north and east hypothesis. The distribution of Y-DNA R1b haplogroups within Europe compared to the phylogeny of Y-DNA R1b tends to support migration from Central Europe to the West hypothesis. But, of course, more complicated models that resolve the seemingly conflicting data are also possible.

    One from Ireland West to East trend that is fairly well supported historically, is that the Catholic conversion of Europe (or reconversion in many cases) after the fall of Roman Empire worked in this direction.

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    • Replies: @notanon
    One logical (not saying evidential) way of squaring that circle might be a boomerang event: east to west followed by west to east (and then possibly a second east to west with iron).
  3. I will wait and read what comes of this, but just reading what you said I am having a hard time understanding based on, as the previous comment said, the fact that “Celtic” (a modern usage of a word used in Latin sources to describe a specific tribe) languages are from the Indo-European family, and we have a lot of different kinds of evidence pointing to eastern origin for them. This does not mean it has to match the genetics, just that it would have to be a pretty convoluted story to get that to work as described.

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  4. @ohwilleke
    Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

    The genetic case for the population genetic makeup of modern Western Europe deriving from a post-Neolithic, early metal age mass migration/replacement/dilution event, whose source was ultimately derived from the Steppe or Caucasus or West Asian highlands is pretty overwhelming at this point.

    Moreover, there is solid evidence to link this transition, at least in substantial party, to the archaeological Bell Beaker phenomena.

    The linguistic case that Celtic is an Indo-European language and that the Indo-European languages ultimately arose in the general vicinity of the Steppe or the Caucasus or West Asian highlands (to emphasis the consensus, rather than the fine distinctions) sometime after the Neolithic revolution is likewise pretty overwhelming at this point.

    The case that the events that gave rise to the population genetics of modern Western Europe coincided with the Celtic linguistic spread in Western Europe is pretty shaky. There is good reason from archaeology and historical linguistic analysis to believe that Celtic languages were spread beginning around the time of Bronze Age collapse from central Europe in an event that produced a language shift with relatively moderate population genetic impact.

    The linguistic evidence on its own does not strongly favor a West to East migration of Celtic. And, if Celtic expanded separately from the population genetic shift, that the mixed genetic evidence that could suggest a West to East migration can't be used to support this hypothesis.

    There is conflicting evidence on the question of whether the source for the population genetic shift took place from Central Europe to the West, or hopscotched to Iberia and then spread to the North and East from there. Archaeology and some of the genetic evidence tends to point to an Iberia to points north and east hypothesis. The distribution of Y-DNA R1b haplogroups within Europe compared to the phylogeny of Y-DNA R1b tends to support migration from Central Europe to the West hypothesis. But, of course, more complicated models that resolve the seemingly conflicting data are also possible.

    One from Ireland West to East trend that is fairly well supported historically, is that the Catholic conversion of Europe (or reconversion in many cases) after the fall of Roman Empire worked in this direction.

    One logical (not saying evidential) way of squaring that circle might be a boomerang event: east to west followed by west to east (and then possibly a second east to west with iron).

    Read More
  5. Supposedly Bradley’s lab has a total of 30 aDNA samples (full genomes?) which cover every pre-historic period of Ireland’s history. The paper they published only covered first 4 or so (1 x Neolithic, 3 x Bronze age).

    It’s gonna be interesting to see what other papers they come out with over next year. In somewhat related news a fairly large Iron age cemetry from Yorkshire is been reported on in media. According to some articles they will be looking to get aDNA (as well as Isotope analysis). What’s interesting here is that we already have aDNA from Yorkshire (Iron age, Romano-British and AS period) so any aDNA retrieved from site can be compared with that (as well as Hinxton Iron age aDNA from further south)

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/mar/17/warrior-king-uncovered-yorkshire-iron-age-settlement

    It be interesting as the Arras culture in that part of England has long been regarded as potentially intrusive Iron age (La Tene material culture) one.

    Leaving that aside the old “The Irish were never Celts” meme is a common one in Ireland, often parroted by those who show bias against the Irish language, after all if Irish was an imported language imposed by tiny minority on a large “indigenous majority”, than so what if it becomes extinct etc. (that’s about as logical as argument goes)

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  6. Well as someone who is positively biased toward Gaeilge, Paul, I am quite happy with the statment “The Irish were never Celts”. It is not a term that ever occours in Gaelic literature. Not once. You think they of all people would mention it! Anything that strips away the Anglo-French seafóid that is ‘Celtic’ is a good thing, especially if its makes us here in Ireland have more knowledge and respect for our very actual Gaelic heritage – it is some we should cherish as no one else in the world has our claim upon it. Otherwise we might as well go back to the dúirt bean liom, dúirt bean léi approach (why is it alway ‘bean’, never ‘fir’?)

    And I have yet to met anyone who uses it as a “bias against the Irish language” – only the many stereotypes it suffers. Barra Ó Donnabháin is a Gaeilgeoir yet he is a Celtoskeptic.

    Razib, Cunliffe and Koch’s “Celtic from the West” theory has not met with widespread support and has some evidental problems. Read John Collis’s work and his review of their “Celtic from the West” volumes (there are critiques by others). You might also want to read Peter Peter Schrijver’s “Pruners and trainers of the Celtic family tree: the rise and development of Celtic in the light of language contact” for perhaps the best reason of all for NOT calling the Irish Celts. The linguistic definition of the Irish as Celtic-speakers never bothered me; applying it in an ethnic sense, with all its dumb English stereotypes, most certainly does.

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  7. @Balor
    Lebor Gabála Érenn was right.

    I thought it had each successive invasion coming from the east or south.

    Good handle though. Does that mean you have some one-eyewitness perspective on those invasions?

    Read More
    • Replies: @notanon

    I thought it had each successive invasion coming from the east or south.
     
    From Ireland's pov an invasion from the stretch of Atlantic coast from say Galicia through the Basque country to Brittany up to say the mouth of the Rhine would still be from the east/south.

    From a continental pov it would be the west.

    I've always wondered about it myself from Caesar saying the Gauls believed their religion came from the west.

    (although personally if the idea was correct i'd assume the ppl came west by sea first and then expanded from there cos tin-bronze and then retreated again cos iron)
  8. I think Celts comes from Keltoi, which is a Greek name for a tribe, though I do not know if it is a name derived from whatever they called themselves, like the Roman word for them, Gauls, most certainly was. So the word ‘Celtic’ will never appear in Gaelic literature. It’s like the word ‘Greek’ will never appear in Greek literature, the ‘Greek’ in Greek is Hellene, and the word Greek comes from the name of the town Greia, which was a town close to Rome founded by people who called themselves Hellenes, so the Romans called the people who call themselves Hellenes Graecia, as now everyone does, except actual Greeks, who still call themselves Hellenes.

    I guess per the language, modern English, being a German/French hybrid, wouldn’t have a French part if it weren’t for Normans, and I guess the Norman genetic footprint is so small to be undetectable, so the Gaelic linguistic footprint might dwarf the genetic footprint. I alway kind of thought Irish were sort of Euromutts anyway.

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  9. @random observer
    I thought it had each successive invasion coming from the east or south.

    Good handle though. Does that mean you have some one-eyewitness perspective on those invasions?

    I thought it had each successive invasion coming from the east or south.

    From Ireland’s pov an invasion from the stretch of Atlantic coast from say Galicia through the Basque country to Brittany up to say the mouth of the Rhine would still be from the east/south.

    From a continental pov it would be the west.

    I’ve always wondered about it myself from Caesar saying the Gauls believed their religion came from the west.

    (although personally if the idea was correct i’d assume the ppl came west by sea first and then expanded from there cos tin-bronze and then retreated again cos iron)

    Read More

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