Author Topic: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?  (Read 2411 times)

Offline Pon de Replay

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Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« on: August 24, 2019, 08:15:10 PM »
Professor Cunliffe is a proponent of the theory that the original Celts lived on the western edge of Europe: an ancient Atlantic people who occupied a curve that ran from Iberia up through the Breton portion of France, and into the British Isles.  This is against what used to be the commonly accepted theory, that the Celts were central European in origin and migrated to the Isles in waves.  Cunliffe has a lot of linguistic and DNA evidence on his side. 

The DNA of the people of the British Isles indicates that the Irish, Scots, Welsh, Manx, and Cornish are closer to the ancestral Celts, whereas the English are mongrel Celts, having mixed much with Franks, Angles, Saxons, and Vikings.  The Iberians would be mongrel Celts as well, what with the Moorish invasion.  Towards the end he talks about the survival of the Celtic languages, and how only in Wales does there seem to be the political will to keep the Welsh language alive.  In Ireland, he says, Irish Gaelic ranks fourth on the list of spoken languages—behind English, Polish, and Chinese.  Cornish is dead, and those who want to reconstruct it have to borrow words from Breton.

There is a technical issue in the beginning of the presentation where the slides he's speaking about aren't visible, but the problem gets rectified after several minutes.  An added caution: Cunliffe assumes an old earth.

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Offline mikemac

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2019, 09:09:52 PM »
There seems to be quite a few comments to the video that are disagreeing with Mr. Cunliffe.  Some even say that his material is outdated, particularly referring to DNA evidence.  The video is 5 years old.  The commentor dlwatib makes some good points here.

Quote
Didn't really answer the question: Who were the Celts? He seems to want to make them out to be the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic coast of Europe but that's obviously a quite unsatisfactory theory because Celtic is clearly an Indo-European language, which means that the Celts have to be connected somehow to the IE homeland in the Caucasus. I also don't think we can so easily dismiss the classical Greek and Roman writers who say that the Celts were their barbarian neighbors to the North. In the classical era the Celts must have been dispersed far wider than just along the Atlantic coast. To dismiss the classical writers as know-nothings is extremely arrogant on our part. After all, they were the ones who actually met their neighbors in battle. If they insist that they were all one ethnic people, then that must have been the truth.
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Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2019, 08:26:10 AM »
There seems to be quite a few comments to the video that are disagreeing with Mr. Cunliffe.  Some even say that his material is outdated, particularly referring to DNA evidence.  The video is 5 years old.  The commentor dlwatib makes some good points here.

Quote
Didn't really answer the question: Who were the Celts? He seems to want to make them out to be the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic coast of Europe but that's obviously a quite unsatisfactory theory because Celtic is clearly an Indo-European language, which means that the Celts have to be connected somehow to the IE homeland in the Caucasus. I also don't think we can so easily dismiss the classical Greek and Roman writers who say that the Celts were their barbarian neighbors to the North. In the classical era the Celts must have been dispersed far wider than just along the Atlantic coast. To dismiss the classical writers as know-nothings is extremely arrogant on our part. After all, they were the ones who actually met their neighbors in battle. If they insist that they were all one ethnic people, then that must have been the truth.

Those objections look somewhat weak to me.  No one denies that the Gaelic languages are Indo-European.  Clearly the Celts were a part of the human migration from the steppes into Europe (unless one believes in the obscure "Irish Iberian" theory, which posits them as originating in Sub-Saharan Africa and moving into Morocco, then Spain, and parts northward.  Typically this is embraced by people who take a low view of the Irish and the Spaniards.  The forum user Innocent Smith might hold to this theory). 

The question is whether the Celts settled primarily in central or western Europe.  Linguists posit the Gaelic languages as among the oldest of European languages, and the fact that Gaelic has its strongest attestations in the west suggests the Gaelic Celts were in the west very early on.  If the converse is true, then it would be the Irish and the Scots, not the English, who are the mongrel Celts, being a mixture of the central European Celts and the pre-Celtic people of the Isles.

Looking to classical sources is fine, but it's a double-edged sword.  Those writers have the advantage of being contemporaneous with the tribes of northern Europe, but they also have the prejudices that a disinterested historian wouldn't.  Imagine if Christianity had left no written record, and we got our impression of the early Christians strictly from pagan Roman sources of the time.  It would be a horribly inaccurate picture.  As Cunliffe says in the video, it's often difficult to tell where the classical writers weren't using "Celt" as a shorthand for any northern barbarian tribe.  It's like how "Latino" gets used today.  That term doesn't tell us anything about the difference between a Spanish Argentine or a mestizo Peruvian.
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
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Diamond Sutra,
XXXII
 
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Offline Fleur-de-Lys

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2019, 01:25:45 PM »
Somewhat related, here is a video exploring some strange similarities between Celtic and Semitic languages. Linguists are still debating whether these similarities arose independently, are the result of language contact, or point to an early Afro-Asiatic language being spoken in Europe and persisting as a substrate in some Indo-European languages.

 
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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2019, 02:44:35 PM »
Somewhat related, here is a video exploring some strange similarities between Celtic and Semitic languages. Linguists are still debating whether these similarities arose independently, are the result of language contact, or point to an early Afro-Asiatic language being spoken in Europe and persisting as a substrate in some Indo-European languages.


http://drbo.org/chapter/01011.htm
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Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2019, 07:01:35 PM »
Linguists are still debating whether these similarities arose independently, are the result of language contact, or point to an early Afro-Asiatic language being spoken in Europe and persisting as a substrate in some Indo-European languages.

In that case, I overstated things when I said "no one denies that the Gaelic languages are Indo-European."  If they are Afro-Asiatic, then that could bolster the case that the earliest settlers of Iberia and Ireland were from the Middle East.  There was a DNA study that compared a Neolithic corpse from Northern Ireland and Bronze Age corpses from an Irish island between the mainland and the Hebrides.  The DNA from the older corpse most closely matched modern Spaniards, whereas the Bronze Age corpses more closely matched modern Irish and Scots.  (The Iberians, in this case, would be much less mongrel, since the Moorish invasion would've been a re-introduction of the Middle Eastern / North African DNA).

Although I don't know what those DNA results necessarily mean for language, if the origins of Gaelic are unclear.  It could still go either way.  But Basque, I believe, is a unique language and not Indo-European.  And Basques are believed to be both descended from the aboriginal Europeans, as well as related to the Irish and Welsh Celts.  This seems to help Prof. Cunliffe's contention of the Celts as a western people.

And if the earliest settlers of the Celtic lands were indeed Middle Eastern, then that would also bolster the fanciful theory of the "Celtic and Egyptian" connection.  It always intrigued me, though, that Irish Christianity had certain affinities with Egyptian Christianity, in particular the monastic traditions, what with the Desert Fathers and then the peregrinating Papar monks of Ireland.
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
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A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
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Diamond Sutra,
XXXII
 
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Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2019, 07:08:24 PM »
http://drbo.org/chapter/01011.htm

My apologies.  I should've worded the caution in the OP to say that this theory assumes not only an old earth, but a non-literal reading of  Genesis.
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
.

Diamond Sutra,
XXXII
 
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Offline mikemac

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2019, 09:27:23 PM »
...
The question is whether the Celts settled primarily in central or western Europe.  Linguists posit the Gaelic languages as among the oldest of European languages, and the fact that Gaelic has its strongest attestations in the west suggests the Gaelic Celts were in the west very early on.  If the converse is true, then it would be the Irish and the Scots, not the English, who are the mongrel Celts, being a mixture of the central European Celts and the pre-Celtic people of the Isles.
...

That doesn't make any sense when you consider the Celtic expansion map of Europe.  Both the central European Celts and the Celtic people of the Isles are both Celts.



Diachronic distribution of Celtic peoples, on the traditional view:
Yellow - Core Hallstatt territory, by the sixth century BC
Light green - Maximal Celtic expansion by 275 BC
Lighter green - Lusitanian area of Iberia where Celtic presence is uncertain
Dark green - Areas where Celtic languages remain widely spoken today
Source - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts

If there is any truth to the Milesians of the Lebor Gabála Érenn then the Milesians' journey to Ireland could be considered the same as the rest of the Celtic expansion map of Europe, seeing the last leg of the Milesians' journey was from Spain to Ireland.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milesians_(Irish)

I actually like the idea that there is a possible connection between the Gaelic and Semitic languages.  There are stories that both the Celts and Germans are descended from the Scythians.  The Scythians are descended from Noah's son Japheth (you know Gog and Magog).  If there is any truth to the Semitic language connection to Gaelic then that would mean the Celts are descended from Noah's son Sem, not Japheth.     

By the way I would consider the English as mongrel Germans, not mongrel Celts.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2019, 10:55:17 PM by mikemac »
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Offline Fleur-de-Lys

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2019, 10:05:00 PM »
In that case, I overstated things when I said "no one denies that the Gaelic languages are Indo-European." If they are Afro-Asiatic, […]

No, you were right. I don’t think anyone, even the proponents of an Afro-Asiatic substrate, would go so far as to classify the Celtic languages as Afro-Asiatic rather than Indo-European.

My own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that Semitic and Indo-European languages are more closely related than our current model suggests. But whether that is due to language contact or a distant common ancestry is very difficult to say.
 
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Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2019, 11:08:40 AM »
Both the central European Celts and the Celtic people of the Isles are both Celts.

Broadly speaking, no question.  But the contention is over where the Celts originated.  If they originated in central Europe, then the Irish are not very much Celtic by blood, because Irish DNA isn't much greatly changed from prior to the (alleged) Celtic migrations there.  Irish DNA has nearly a 90% affinity with the Bronze age inhabitants of the Isles, compared to 70% for the English.  The migrants who had the greatest impact on the Irish were the earliest Indo-Europeans (the Bronze Age corpses exhumed in North Ireland were essentially modern Irish).  These early Indo-Europeans who moved into the Atlantic edge of Europe, according to Cunliffe, gave rise to the original Celts.

Another thing that complicates the late western migration theory is the language.  The oldest attestations to Celtic language in terms of place names are in much the same areas where Celtic languages still persist—western Europe, not central.  Adding to this problem is the presence of Celtic languages in Spain, but without the La Tène culture that is generally associated with the Celts.  It makes more sense when reverse-engineered: if the Celts were originally in Spain, Breton, and the Isles, and moved eastwards.  The migration of the language has no snag in that scheme, and the La Tène culture would've come up into the Isles via the trade routes of the French rivers.

Celtic language in Iberia might've been even earlier than is already supposed.  Some scholars are proposing that the Tartessian language on some inscriptions may've been a Celtic language written in a Phoenician script.  Sort of like how the Jesuits scripted Vietnamese in a modified Latin alphabet.  If true, it would be a very early attestation for Celtic language.

The difficult question is: what makes a Celt?  Is it blood?  Language?  Culture?  If you try to make it all three, it runs into all sorts of problems.


« Last Edit: August 26, 2019, 11:18:58 AM by Pon de Replay »
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
.

Diamond Sutra,
XXXII
 

Offline mikemac

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2019, 01:10:03 PM »
I find these Celtic place names interesting Pon de Replay.  To determine whether the Celts migrated east from the Atlantic or west from Anatolia around where Noah's arch rested then a way to prove it is by determining what Celtic place names came first.  For instance were the regions of Galicia in northwest Spain given a Celtic name before Galicia in central-eastern Europe (straddling between Poland and Ukraine) or even the city and county of Galați in Romania.  I have also seen on an old map that at one time there was a region called Galacia around the present countries of Georgia and Armenia.  I'll see if I can find it.

https://www.eupedia.com/europe/celtic_trivia.shtml

Quote
Interesting facts about the ancient Celts
Deutsche Fassung

...
Tribes & Place names

    Many ancient Celtic tribes gave their names to modern places. For example, Bohemia was named after the Boii, and Belgium after the Belgae. The ancient name of Switzerland, still occasionally used nowadays, was Helvetia, from the Celtic Helvetii tribe. In France, Paris itself was named after the Parisi tribe, and Lyon is a corruption of Celtic name Lugdunon, meaning the "hill fort of Lugh" (one of the most important Celtic deity). There are numerous cities and regions in France named after Gaulish or Belgic tribes. For example :

French cities & towns named after Celtic tribes

Place names are listed by region, roughly from north to south.

        the Suessiones gave their name to Soissons, Picardy

        the Bellovaci to Beauvais, Picardy

        the Remi to Reims, Champagne

        the Lingones to Langres, Champagne

        the Meldi to Meaux, Île-de-France

        the Senones to Sens, Burgundy

        the Abrincates to Avranches, Normandy

        the Lexovii to Lisieux, Normandy

        the Cenomani to Rennes, Brittany

        the Veneti to Vannes, Brittany

        the Coriosoliti to Corseul, Brittany

        the Redones to Le Mans, Pays de la Loire

        The Namnetes to Nantes, Pays de la Loire

        the Andecavi to Angers, Pays de la Loire

        the Turoni to Tours, Pays de la Loire

        the Diablintes to Jublains, Pays de la Loire

        the Carnutes to Chartres, Centre

        the Bituriges to Bourges, Centre

        the Pictones to Poitiers, Poitou

        the Santones to the Saintes, Saintonge

        the Lemovices to Limoges, Limousin

        the Petrocori to Périgueux, Périgord

        the Cadurci to Cahors, Quercy

        the Elusates to Eauze, Gascony

        the Auscii to Auch, Gascony

French regions named after Celtic tribes

        the Viromandui gave their name to the Vermandois region

        the Veliocassi to the Vexin region

        the Pictones to the Poitou region

        the Santones to the Saintonge region

        the Lemovices to the Limousin region

        the Cadurci to the Quercy region

        the Petrocori to the Périgord region

        the Arverni to the Auvergne region

        the Vellavi to the Velay region

        the Gabales to the Gévaudan region

    A Cisalpine branch of the above-mentioned Veneti tribe gave their name to Venice and the Veneto region in Italy. The Italian cities of Belluno, Bergamo, Bologna, Brescia, Brianza, Genova and Milano all have Celtic roots.

    In Germany Trier (Trèves in French) was named after the Treveri tribe. The German cities or towns of Ansbach, Bonn, Boppard, Düren, Kempten, Mainz, Remagen and Tübingen all have a Celtic etymology.

    A few Belgian towns are named after Belgic tribes, such as Tongeren (Tongres) named after the Tungri, Menen named after the Menapi, or Virton named after the Viromandui. The name of the villages of Avendoren (Tienen) and Avernas (Hannut) may derive from the Eburones tribe. Additionally, the Condroz and Famenne regions of Wallonia owe their name to the Belgic Condrusi and Paemani tribes.

    The Swiss towns/cities of Solothurn, Thun, Winterthur, Yverdon-les-Bains and Zürich have Celtic etymologies, as do Bregenz and Vienna in Austria.

    The name 'Portugal' comes Latin Portus Cale (Port of Cale). Cale or Cailleah was the mother goddess of the Celtic people. Many Portuguese towns anc cities have Celtic names including Beira, Braga, Bragança, Coimbra, Évora, as well as the ancient Roman cities of Conímbriga and Lacobriga.

    The regions of Galicia in northwest Spain, Galicia in central-eastern Europe (straddling between Poland and Ukraine), as well as the city and county of Galați in Romania all derive their name from the Galatians.

    Many European rivers have Celtic names. The Celtic word Danu, meaning "to flow", is the root of some of the longest European rivers, like the Danube, Don, Dnieper and Dniester.

    Other river names with a Celtic origin include the Douro in Iberia, the Dordogne, Loire, Meuse, Rhône and Seine in France, the Main and Neckar in Germany, or the Avon, Thames and Trent in Britain. => see Origins of the names of European rivers
« Last Edit: August 26, 2019, 01:23:46 PM by mikemac »
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Offline mikemac

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2019, 01:20:09 PM »
Pon de Replay you do know about the Migration Period, don't you?  To me this seems more so a push by Germanic forces on the Celtic world to the west.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migration_Period

Quote
Migration Period



The Migration Period was a period that lasted from 375 AD (possibly as early as 300 AD) to 538 AD, during which there were widespread invasions of peoples within or into Europe, during and after the decline of the Western Roman Empire, mostly into Roman territory, notably the Germanic tribes and the Huns. This period has also been termed in English by the German loanword Völkerwanderung[note 1] and—from the Roman and Greek perspective—the Barbarian Invasions.[2] Many of the migrations were movements of Germanic, Hunnic, Slavic and other peoples into the territory of the then declining Roman Empire, with or without accompanying invasions or war.
...
The migrants comprised war bands or tribes of 10,000 to 20,000 people ...  The first migrations of peoples were made by Germanic tribes such as the Goths (including the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths), the Vandals, the Anglo-Saxons, the Lombards, the Suebi, the Frisii, the Jutes, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, the Scirii and the Franks; they were later pushed westward by the Huns, the Avars, the Slavs and the Bulgars.[9]

Later invasions—such as the Viking, the Norman, the Varangian, the Hungarian, the Moorish, the Turkic and the Mongol—also had significant effects (especially in North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Anatolia and Central and Eastern Europe); however, they are usually considered outside the scope of the Migration Period.

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Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2019, 01:44:10 PM »
To determine whether the Celts migrated east from the Atlantic or west from Anatolia around where Noah's arch rested then a way to prove it is by determining what Celtic place names came first.  For instance were the regions of Galicia in northwest Spain given a Celtic name before Galicia in central-eastern Europe (straddling between Poland and Ukraine) or even the city and county of Galați in Romania.

Indeed, Mike, that would be a good way to determine it, but as I understand things, the difficulty there is that Celtic was rarely a written language before Roman times.  Somewhere in the Cunliffe video in the OP, he has a map showing either the frequency or concentration of Celtic attested to by place names, and the color indicator is darkest in western Europe.  Naturally it doesn't prove conclusively that these were chronologically the first, but the greater concentration aligns with the western origin hypothesis.

Pon de Replay you do know about the Migration Period, don't you?  To me this seems more so a push by Germanic forces on the Celtic world to the west.

That's why I would say that the English are mongrel Celts, not mongrel Germans.  DNA-wise (and there's a list in the Cunliffe video), the Irish are 90% commensurate with the indigenous of the Isles going back to the Bronze Age, while the English are 70%.  Still, 70% is a decisive majority.  I think the English were compromised during these later migrations and invasions.  But originally, I see the British Isles as being all Celt.  (I am, however, grateful for the influx and for the fact that I speak a Germanic language).

On the other hand, if the Celts came to Ireland from central Europe before Roman times, then genetically speaking they didn't have much impact on the Irish.  It seems they had more impact on the English blood, comparing things against indigenous DNA.
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
.

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XXXII
 

Offline mikemac

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2019, 11:04:37 PM »
I find these Celtic place names interesting Pon de Replay.  To determine whether the Celts migrated east from the Atlantic or west from Anatolia around where Noah's arch rested then a way to prove it is by determining what Celtic place names came first.  For instance were the regions of Galicia in northwest Spain given a Celtic name before Galicia in central-eastern Europe (straddling between Poland and Ukraine) or even the city and county of Galați in Romania.  I have also seen on an old map that at one time there was a region called Galacia around the present countries of Georgia and Armenia.  I'll see if I can find it.

https://www.eupedia.com/europe/celtic_trivia.shtml

There was also Galatia where the Galatians from the Bible lived, who were Celts.  Galatia was the part of Anatolia which is roughly the provinces of Ankara, Çorum, and Yozgat, in modern Turkey.  Though the Celts had, to a large extent, integrated into Hellenistic Asia Minor, they preserved their linguistic and ethnic identity.

I was mistaken.  It wasn't Galacia that I seen on an old map around the present countries of Georgia and Armenia.  It was Iberia, from this 4th century map of Armenia, 299-387 AD.  Interesting there was an Iberia in the Caucasus Mountains as well as the Iberian peninsula of Spain and Portugal.

« Last Edit: August 26, 2019, 11:11:24 PM by mikemac »
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Offline Optatus

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Re: Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2019, 07:29:08 PM »
This was my field of study and I'm quite familiar with Cunliffe and Koch's "Out of the West" theory.

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The commentor dlwatib makes some good points here.
Mike, the commentor ought to read Cunliffe's "The Celts". His theory essentially stipulates that: (1) Proto-Celtic is far, far older than previously believed based on the current phylogenetic data; (2) That as an Indo-European language, its ancestral language must have come from the east (he explores both the Kurgan and Anatolian hypotheses without favouring one or another; however (3) Proto-Celtic itself originates on the Atlantic facade of Europe and subsequently spread EASTWARDS through acculturation rather than WESTWARDS from Hallstatt C.

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The question is whether the Celts settled primarily in central or western Europe.
Pon, this isn't what Cunliffe argues. He posits that the genesis of Proto-Celtic occurred in situ in Atlantic Europe and appears to be closely bound up with Beaker culture. The Yamnaya are those that settled much of Europe and seem to be the ones who spread Indo-European language(s), but Proto-Celtic itself developed specifically in the west according to Cunliffe's theory.

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Linguists posit the Gaelic languages as among the oldest of European languages
Not to nitpick, but just to let you know: Gaelic and Celtic are not synonymous. Goidelic (from which come Irish, Scottish and Manx) is merely a sub-group of a broader Celtic language family, which also includes modern Brythonic languages (Cornish, Welsh and Breton). Modern Goidelic languages are actually relatively young. The earliest example of a written Celtic language we have according to Koch's analysis is Tartessian, which was probably a Q-Celtic language and thus more closely related to Irish than, say, Welsh or Gaulish (these are P-Celtic languages).

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Both the central European Celts and the Celtic people of the Isles are both Celts.
Mike, the identification of Hallstatt C as the genesis of Celtic culture goes back to the 19th century when archeology and linguistics were still in their infancy and when genetics did not exist at all. It has been steadily falling out of vogue since the 1960s. If Tartessian is a Celtic language (see Koch's work on this subject), and it most likely is, then the earliest example of written Celtic dates to the 9th century BC. How, then, could Hallstatt C, which is junior to this period, be the genesis of Proto-Celtic?
« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 07:31:05 PM by Optatus »
 
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