Galicia's disputed Celtic heritage

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AndrasBP

Senior Member
Hungarian
Hello,

The title of this thread is that of an article I've recently read. <<< LINK

In two of my books about European peoples and languages, and also in countless online articles and YouTube videos, Galicians are described as the "Celtic minority of Spain".
These sources emphasize the similarity of Galician and Irish/Scottish/Breton folk music, how the Galician language "has preserved many Celtic words", and you can find videos where Scottish musicians visiting Galicia tell us that they feel really at home because of the music, the landscape and the weather. :)

I'd like to focus on the language here: I've found a Wikipedia list of Galician words of Celtic origin, but most of these words seem to be shared by other Romance languages, including Spanish, Catalan, Occitan and French, so I'm not convinced that Galician is more Celtic than its sister languages.

Is Galicia's Celtic character supported by any linguistic or historical facts?
 
  • Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Take a look at any map of pre-Roman Iberia and you will see that Hispanic Celts occupied most of the western half of the Peninsula, the eastern half being occupied by Iberians, who most likely were not Indo-European. That is to say, inland central Castilians could perfectly claim being as Celtic by history.

    Bagpipes are to be found all over Europe and beyond. In Spain alone, you have several types of bagpipe. It is true that Galicians are Asturians use it more often in their folklore -I don't know for how long it's been like this, though- but you've got gaitas de boto in Aragon too, sac de gemecs (wails' sack) in Catalonia or xeremies in Majorca, and they're at the other end of the Peninsula.

    The Romance language in Spain less affected by Celts is probably Aragonese, grown on Basco-Iberian ground. All the others, and all Western Romance languages in general, have had their share of Celtic influence, whether Hispano-Celtic or Gaulish.
     

    S1m0n

    Senior Member
    English
    There is very little surviving even medieval influence in 'celtic' music; none, certainly, that would connect dark age Ireland to roman Galicia. What we think of as 'celtic music' - jigs and reels; set dances - was the popular music of 18th century Europe. Everyone who was anyone flocked to the Congress of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and from high society down to the common soldiers in their encampments, all were caught up in a new craze for dancing the Quadrille (aka dancing a set of quadrilles, aka set dancing, aka square dancing) When the congress broke up, the participants took the new steps back to their homes across the length and breadth of europe.
    This music clung on in Ireland, Scotland, Cape Breton, Galicia, etc, not because these were celts, but because they were poor, and poor peasant cultures are more culturally conservative. They didn't travel much and didn't have much chance of learning the new dances - waltzes, etc, that supplanted the dances and music we now think of as celtic in higher society.
    So I don't think the similarity of galician and Irish or scots music has much probative value in terms of kinship.
     

    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    A Galician here.

    The presence of a Britonic settlement in Galicia in the 6th-7th century is probably a well established fact. It is documented in the canons of the II Council of Braga [link], 572 CE, held at the petition of the Suevic king of Galicia Miro under the direction of a Pannonian, St. Martin of Braga. Among the attendant bishops there is a Mailoc (< Proto-Celtic *Magilākos, I think, showing a Britonic evolution of /ā/) “Mailoc Britonensis ecclesiae episcopus his gestis subscripsi”. The Suevic kingdom was annexed by the Visigoths in 585. From that moment a Bishops of Britonia or of the Britons is present in several Councils of Toledo. Known names include Sosa, Metopius, Bela, which as long as I know are happax.

    The second most important documentary evidence is another Suevic document preserved in several interpolated medieval copies, the Divisio Theodemiri or Parochiale Suevorum [link], dated in 569. It is an ecclesiastical (and probably also civil) restructuring of the kingdom which include the creation of new bishoprics; there the church of the Britons is described in a different terms to the rest:

    “Ad sedem Britonorum ecclesias que sunt intro Britones una cum monaterio Maximi et qui in Asturiis sunt”

    Whilst the rest of bishoprics are territorial (and their bishops has either Germanic or Latin names) the Britonic one is ethnic, and mentions a monastery Maximi. Given how particular the Celtic church was, and the almost certain impossibility for a local medieval forger to know that a Celtic bishops was also an abbot, this (and the Mailoc name) is hold as very strong evidence that this Britons of Galicia were actual Britons.

    Other further evidence include toponimy (there are several places called Bretoña or Bretonia in Galicia, and there were more in the past; there is also one Bretios < Bretenos).

    Further reading: https://web.archive.org/web/20070806110332/http://www.britonia.fsnet.co.uk/

    Latter I'll add something, but as a suggested reading I left this link for now: e-Keltoi: https://dc.uwm.edu/ekeltoi/vol6/iss1/
     
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    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    * Material culture of Galicia at the Roman conquest (cultura Castrexa / Castro Culture): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castro_culture

    * Mention of Celtic peoples in Galicia by Classical authors and geographers (https://dc.uwm.edu/ekeltoi/vol6/iss1/10/):

    For example, Pomponius Mela, a geographer from Cádiz, in what is now Andalusia, writing 2000 years ago (De Chorographia):

    “the oceanfront here has a straight bank for a considerable distance [coast of North Portugal] and then protrudes a little bit where it takes a moderate bend. At that time, drawn back again and again [Rías Baixas region in southwestern Galicia] and lying in a straight line, the coast extends to the promontory we call Celtic Point [Punta Nariga / Cabo Vilán].​
    Celtic peoples – except for the Grovi from the Durius [Douro] to the bend [Rías Baixas] – cultivate the whole coast here, and the rivers Avo [Ave], Celadus [Cávado], Nebis [Neiva], Minius [Miño/Minho] and Limia [Limia/Lima] (also known as the Oblivion) flow through their territory. The bend itself includes the city of Lambriaca and receives the Laeron [Lérez < Lerice] and Ulla [Ulla] Rivers. The Praestamarci [Posmarcos] inhabit the section that juts out [peninsula of Barbanza], and through their territory run the Tamaris [Tambre < Tamare] and Sars [Sar] Rivers, which arise not far away – the Tamaris next to Port Ebora, the Sars beside the tower of Augustus, which have the famous inscription [which is a memorable monument? = titulo memorabilem]. The Supertamarici and the Neri, the last people on that stretch, inhabit the remainder. This is as far as its western shores reach.​
    From there the coast shifts northward with its entire flank from Celtic Point all the way to Scythian Point. The shoreline, uninterrupted except for moderate recesses and small promontories, is almost straight until it reaches the Cantabri [Cantabrians]. On that shore, first of all, are the Artabri (actually a people of Celtic ancestry) [etiamnum Celticae gentis = still a Celtic people], then the Astyres [Asturians]. In the territory of the Artabri a bay [Rías Altas region of Galicia, from Coruña do Ferrol] admits the sea through a narrow mouth, but encloses it with its not-so-narrow grasp; it rings the city of Adrobrica and the mouths of four rivers. Two mouths are little known even among locals; through the other two the Mearus [Mero] and the Iubia [Xubia] Rivers make their outlets. On the coast that belongs to the Astyres is the town of Noega […]”​

    So, essentially, and according to this author, all the people that dwelt by the coasts of Galicia, from more of less Vigo in the south till the Asturians in the east, were Celtic. Of the peoples he mentioned, the Pratestamaci, Supertamarci and Neri in particular are again explicitly called Celtic by Pliny, and the inscription of individual persons of the people of the Supertamarci also usually cite themselves as Celtici Supertamarci (inscriptions).

    More later.

     

    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    This music clung on in Ireland, Scotland, Cape Breton, Galicia, etc, not because these were celts, but because they were poor, and poor peasant cultures are more culturally conservative. They didn't travel much and didn't have much chance of learning the new dances - waltzes, etc, that supplanted the dances and music we now think of as celtic in higher society.
    So I don't think the similarity of galician and Irish or scots music has much probative value in terms of kinship.
    This, totally. Also sailors moved up and down all the time, probably reinforcing their Atlantic character (nautical Galician lexicon is full of Old French and Germanic loans, including fish). In Iberia, Galicia and Asturias have been, probably, the most culturally conservative places; lexically also, they preserve a trove of substrate words; many of them have an apt Celtic etymology (lets say, tona, “surface, peel”, camba “curved piece of a wheel”, cheda < *cleta “wall of a cart”, as examples), but most are debated / have not been investigated enough.

    More later.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Nobody doubts that Celtic languages were spoken in western Iberia before the arrival of the Roman Empire. But the same goes for a huge swathe of Europe. Those Celtic languages had an influence on subsequent languages of all these regions, especially on and through Latin and the Romance languages.
    List of Spanish words of Celtic origin - Wikipedia
    Celtic expansion in Europe.png

    Of course it is very fashionable to be a Celt - and I am spending lots of time, and having lots of fun, studying and immersing myself in Irish language and culture at the moment. But am I really any different from my neighbours in London because at least 40% of my ancestors spoke a Celtic language (Irish or Welsh) 200 years ago?
     
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    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    Ancient toponimy of Galicia suggested bibliography:

    * Leonard Curchin (2008) “The toponyms of the Roman Galicia: new study” in Cuadernos de estudios gallegos, v. 55, 111. His conclusions are that 41% of the Galician place names recorded in Roman/Greek sources was Celtic, some 36% was Indo-European but probably not Celtic, and 14% were Latin.

    * Patrick Sims-Williams (2006) Ancient Celtic Place-Names in Europe and Asia Minor, page 235: “This area [NW Iberia] covers northern Portugal and north-west Spain. Its Celticity is clear from Maps 5.1-5.3, and is further borne out by the unlocatable names in the Barrington data which belongs in this general area”.

    * Xavier Delamarre (2012) Noms de lieux celtiques de l’Europe ancienne, passim.

    * E. R. Luján “Pueblos celtas y no celtas de la Galicia antigua”.

    Names of Gallaecian populi (of whatever origin): Albiones, Cileni, Nemetati, Querquerni, Coelerni, Copori, Artabri, Neri, Arrotrebas, Seurri, Tamacani, Lemavi, Limici, Grovi...

    Gallaecian / Galician Celtic place names attested in Latin authors / Roman inscriptions include for example Brigantia, Nemetobriga, Caladunum, Berisamo, Adrobrica, Arcobriga, Assegonia, Aviliobris, Abobrica, Louciocelo, Olca, Serante, Talabriga, Ocelum, Glandomirum, Durbede, Brevis, Cambetum, Coeliobriga, Miobri, Novium, Letiobri…

    More later.
     

    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    Of course it is very fashionable to be a Celt - and I am spending lots of time, and having lots of fun, studying and immersing myself in Irish language and culture at the moment. But am I really any different from my neighbours in London because at least 40% of my ancestors spoke a Celtic language (Irish or Welsh) 200 years ago?
    Agree. Essentialy Galician Celtism was as its peak in the 19th and 20th centuty, and it is still much fun. But AndrasBP is asking:
    Is Galicia's Celtic character supported by any linguistic or historical facts?
    So, yes. Absolutely. Are Galician still Celts? No, no more that Asturians or French or Piamontese or English people. The Galicians were Celts? Yes, but certainly not La Tene Celts, IMO.
     
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    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    Finally:

    * Autochthonous personal names attested in local Roman inscriptions / attributed to Gallaecians elsewhere (mostly showing the Latin nominative). Some are exclusive to Galicia, other are also found among Astures and/or Cantabri and/or Celtiberians; others a also rather found among Lusitanians:

    Abana/Apana, Acelinus, Adalus, Adronus, Aebura, Aeburina, Aetura, Aeturus, Aidius, Aitanius, Aius, Albura, Alecius, Allius, Alluquius, Alona, Ama, Amaca, Ambatus, Ambollus, Ana, Anceitus/Angetus, Andamionius, Andamus, Anderca, Andergus, Antiania, Apanicus, Apanus, Apilicus, Apilus, Apolta, Arius, Arcisus, Arcius, Ares, Arquius, Arro, Artius, Atia, Atius, Aucalus

    Balaesina, Balcaius, Balesinus, Bibalus, Blendea, Blentia, Bloena, Bobdaenus, Boelius, Bornus, Boualus, Boutia, Boutius, Bracarus

    Cacala, Cadroiolō, Caelenicus, Caeleo, Caesarus, Caelicus, Caenicienus, Calabus, Calutia, Camala, Camalus, Cambauius, Camilia, Cancus, Cantaber, Catura, Caturō, Celeius, Celea/Cilea, Celtiatis, Celtiatus, Ceraecius/Cerecius, Clodama, Cloranus, Cloutaius, Cloutius, Cloutus, Clutamus, Clutimo, Clutosius, Coamea/Coemia, Coedus, Coloticenus, Colupata, Condisa, Conia, Contarus, Coporicus, Coraecus, Coralus, Coria, Corocaudius, Corolla, Coronerus, Coropolla, Corotures, Corunius, Crocius, Cumelius, Cundena

    Doquirus, Doruscus, Douaius, Douaecia, Douilo, Ducria, Duerta, Durbidia, Dutia

    Elanicus, Eminus, Enuinus, Epeicius, Equales, Erbutus

    Goilius


    Laboena, Ladronus, Lagius, Laucia, Laucius, Lauius, Loueius/Loueus, Louesia, Louesius/Louessius, Louiana, Luaecus/Lubaecus

    Macilia, Macilō, Malceinus, Mantaus, Mearus, Mebdius, Medamus, Meducea, Meduenus, Meduttus, Meiduena, Melgaecus, Meluius
    ius, Nantia, Nantius, Nauiolus, Nelius, Niuius, Nobbius, Nusius

    Paugenda, Peicana, Pelistus, Pentamus, Pentus, Perurda, Pestera, Pictelancius, Pictelancea, Pinarea, Pintamus, Pitilius, Praenia, Pusinca, Pusincina

    Reburria, Reburrinus, Reburrius, Reburrus, Riburrinius, Rouinus, Ruana

    Sabalco
    , Secoilia, Seguia, Seneca, Senus, Seuiria, Soupus

    Tacanus
    /Taganus, Talabarus, Talauia, Talauia, Talauus, Tanginus, Tapila, Taurocus, Taurocutius, Temarus, Tillegus, Tridia/Tritia, Trites, Triteus, Trupeisius, Turobius

    Uacceus, Uacisius, Uacus, Uaecius, Uagonius, Uanilo, Uaucanius, Uecius, Uerotius, Uerobius, Uesuclotus, Uilius, Uiriatus, Uisala, Ulacius, Ulcus, Urtienus, Urtinus

    * Local god names and number of dedications and dedications in other “provinces”:

    - Lug (Lugubo Arquienobo, plural dative dedication in a local tongue in an otherwise Latin inscription) – the pan-Celtic Lugus, although locally there is evidence that he was a trinity. 5 votive inscriptions in Galicia, 3 more in the Celtiberia.

    - Nauia/Nabia (Nabiae Elaesurranegae, Nauiae Sesmacae... x10 – Lusitania/N. Portugal x10)

    - Crougia (Crougiai Toudadigoe, Crugia Munniaego: x2 – Lusitania x2)

    - Cossue (dative form: Coso Oenaego, Coso Meobrigo, Coso Calaeunio, Coso Soaegoe, Coso Udauiniago… x10 – Asturia x8 – Lusitania x2)

    - Bandue (dative form: Bandue Aetiobrico, Bandue Veigebreaego, Bandue Verubrico… x6 – Lusitania x35)

    - Berobreo (local divinity)

    - Deo Vestio Alonieco (local)

    - Ariounis Mincosegaeigis (local)

    - Edouio (local)

    - Matrinus Gallaicis “The Galician mothers” (in Celtiberia)

    Well, etc. A lot more. A full repertory of autochthonous names of persons and gods from Hispania can be consulted in: J. M. Vallejo (2016) Onomástica paleohispánica.

    * Finally, contemporary toponymy (check List of Celtic place names in Galicia - Wikipedia); there are probably thousands of pre-Latin toponyms in Galicia, but the most characteristic ones are those derived from Celtic -brixs/-brigā ‘hill, hill-fort’, as most of this at these links: Toponimia galega, and Toponimia galega.

    * And Again: e-Keltoi: e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies | Vol 6 | Iss 1

    Happy weekend everybody.

    Edit: typos and grammar
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Wow, Cossue, that's quite a bit of research you've done there! So your username is a Celtic god too... :)

    I'm impressed, but I never actually intended to question whether Galicia was inhabited by Celts in ancient times.
    My point was that apart from Galicia (and sometimes Asturias) there are no other areas in Europe that identify as Celtic where an Insular Celtic (Goidelic or Brittonic) language hasn't recently been spoken.

    The main reason why I called the map showing British Celtic settlement in Galicia (#4) "dubious" is that I would have expected the Celtic language to survive much longer, see Brittany for comparison. I understand that Brittany is much closer to Britain and settlers in Galicia were probably less numerous, but still, I thought there should have been some more influence, a bit more than a few place names.

    I'm not a professional linguist or historian, though.
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    There's a lot of misunderstanding about the Celts, as I realised when I had to translate a book on Celtic art. (Venceslas Kruta, l'Art des Celtes, Paris, Phaidon, 2015. English title Celtic art). Originally they seem to have come from the Balkans in late classical times and their centre of population was Austria/Switzerland. From there the Celtic culture spread across most of France, southern Germany and the low countries, and then into eastern Spain and the British Isles. This was followed by many cross-boundary exchanges in later centuries.

    However, there is little evidence of a Celtic language, other than the names of gods and goddesses. What some people call Celtic languages today are the Brythonic and Goedelic languages of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, etc. If you find traces of those in Galician, good luck, but you'll find evidence of Celtic culture in Spain mainly in pottery and metalwork.
     

    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    Wow, Cossue, that's quite a bit of research you've done there!
    Ah...Yes. Maybe I overreacted; I had some pretty harsh debate on this some ten years ago, and had to bring not just bibliography and references but apparently every tiny bit of first hand materials... So, yes, I ended doing a very large research on the subject :-/

    On what happened with the language of the Britons, I guess that it had the same fate that the languages of the Visigoths, Suevi... Only Basque and Romance varieties survived the commotion that was the Arab invasion of 711 (which is stating a fact rather than giving an explanation).

    However, there is little evidence of a Celtic language, other than the names of gods and goddesses
    Well, Gaulish and Celtiberian are certainly well established Celtic languages, although their corpora are absolutely no way near as large as that of the other historically attested Celtic languages, off course. And then we have the proto-Celtic language that is being reconstructed from these languages, as an evolution of proto-indo-European. Well, this reconstructed language, the long and continued work of scholars all along the world, is essentially useful for understanding divine names, place names, personal names... of barely and brokenly attested languages as those that were spoken by, for example, the Gallaecians, 2000 years ago, and which have left a moderate number of words in modern languages, either as appellatives or as toponyms.

    So, when we have a votive Roman inscription reading CROUGAI TOUDADIGOE we can suspect that it represent a evolved form from a proto-Celtic *krowkāi (dative singular, a derivative of *krowko- "heap, hill", Matasovic 2009:226) *toutatikūi (dative singular, a derivative of *towta "tribe, people", compare Gaulish Teutates, Matasovic 2009:386). Or if you have an ancient place name BRIGANTIA (< PC *brigantî- "the high one", Matasovic 2009:78), or NEMETOBRIGA (< PC *nemeto- "santuary" and "noble, privileged", Matasovic 2009:288, + brigā "hill-fort", Matasovic 2009:78) or AVILIOBRIS ( < PC *awelio- "wind" and *brixs "hill", Matasovic 2009:47 and 77); and then ancient personal names as NANTIUS, NANTIA ( < PC *nanti- "fight, battle", Matasovic 2009:386), CLOUTIUS, VESUCLOTI (< *wesu- "excellent", *klut- "fame", Matasovic 2009:418 and 210); and current places as Canzobre ( < Carançoure < *Carantiobre: PC *karant- "friend, family" + -bre < -brixs "hill(-fort)", Matasovic 2009:190), or current river names as Dubra ( < Dubria < PC *Dubro- "dark > water", Matasovic 2009:107), Nantón ( < PC *nantu- "stream, valley" Matasovic 2009:283), Deva ( < PC *dêwo- "god", Matasovic 2009:96). Etcetera. This, multiplied by some hundreds just in Galicia. I can go on for days. There are tens on books and pappers of local scholars reseaching this material.

    And then you have tens? of scholars doing this synergic things all along Europe, and finding reasonable etymologies for thousand of words whose meaning have been lost for near a pair of millennia... Again, recommended readings: e-Keltoi, Matasovic's Proto-Celtic Dictionary, Xavier Delamarre's works, Patrick Sims-Williams' works, Falileyev's works, Jürgen Untermann's works, etc...
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    This thread should interest @Margrave if he's around.

    I can only speak as a professional 1st language user and teacher-editor-translator of a Celtic language (Cymraeg/Welsh) with an MA in Celtic Studies from the University of Wales, that much of what I have seen written by birdguts to be a complete departure from the receivedideas of Celtic, both in language and culture.

    The accepted version would state that Celtic origins as a distinct people are in Central Europe around the 8th century BCE. Witness the evidence of Halstadt in modern day Austria and later in La Tene in Switzerland with their eponymous cultures. These peoples, known to the Greeks as Keltoi then subsequently spread over much of Europe, but obviously not all, arriving in the British Isles (the Pretanik Islands as Pytheas of Massila refers to them some time before the late 4th century BCE). The very name 'Pretaniki' would indicate a P Celtic term (cf Mod. Welsh 'Prydain) from whence Latinised to 'Britannia' and subsequently, 'Britain'. The split into what are now known as P Celtic/Brythonic languages on the one hand (extant: Welsh, Breton, Cornish) and the Q Celtic/Goidelic languages (Extant: Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic) is unknown, nor the reason(s) for such a 'split'.

    Now, latterly, a theory postulated by John Koch (which has some qualified support by colleagues) postulates the Celtic homeland to be Iberia and the peoples moved eastwards therefrom to cover much of Europe is doing the rounds. There is no denying Koch's academic credentials, but his viewpoint is very much (at present) a minority one.

    Such a load of nonsense has been written about the Celts, their languages and cultures over the centuries - more often than not by their literate (Classical and Imperial) enemies and then subsequently by 'New Agers' who align themselves with esoteric symbolism and crackpot ideas, that it is sometimes difficult for us Celts to get in a proper word to dismiss such stupidities. The more so, as is often the case that those who produce outlandish and bogus information, not only have their own axes to grind but they rarely have any mastery of any Celtic language nor how they work.

    Celtic toponyms appear all over the continent of Europe - how could they not, but to all intents and purposes are now defunct therein as living languages. And that goes for Breton too - it is in fact an insular (British if you like - in all senses of the term) which was re-planted on the north western coast of what is now France (Armorica) and is not some natural development of the Gaulish of Asterix and Obelix nor indeed Galician or other Iberians who made the journey to Roazhon (Rennes) and Nantes (Naoned).

    I remain in solidarity for those of this thread who value and appreciate true, academic research as opposed to those who would seek to label myself and others as 'Semitic' and that we have 'received' a Celtic veneer thanks to migratory Iberians. And that we owe much of our Celtic culture thanks to those who left Galicia at various times (notice the conflating of timescales: everything from periods BCE to the introduction of the potato) to teach us our own language.

    Are we Celts ultimately a Jewish diaspora via A Coruna? I think not.

    [The above post was, for the most part, a measured response to previous postings by birdguts which have now been deleted. They are not to refute the accepted ideas of others who make the claim for some form of Celtic languages in Iberia before and after the Roman period. However, no extant, living Celtic language exists as we so define them on the Iberian Peninsula, today, unless, there are individuals or groups within Indo-European faculties learning, Cymraeg/Welsh, say, for their own purposes.]
     
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    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    Yeah, I very much agree. New Age (etc, etc) stories on the Celts are so, so tiresome (but also so old): all day is flat Earth's day.

    On John Koch's theory, maybe I've read it differently, but I understand that he postulates the origin of Celtic language(s) at the the Western fringes of Europe, from the British Islands to Portugal, as the language of the elites of the Atlantic Bronze Age. I don't really think that he proposes an Iberian origin to the Celtic languages in this cultural complex, rather around Brittany, which was its center. What he proposes (and most don't agree - me, as an informed amateur neither, and I've read most of what he has written on the subject) is that Tartessian is the oldest attested Celtic language (what most scholars appear to agree is that there are Celtic personal names recorded in 2500 yo Tartessian inscriptions).
     

    Margrave

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Hi @Welsh_Sion I am back after hibernating (in summer) into my cave together with a couple of papers to be published soon. I hope you are well. You are absolutely right about the tons of nonsense published about the Celts. I find the propositions by Koch interesting, he says that the Celtic culture originated somewhere where it is now the Northern Atlantic coast of Portugal, which was the Gallaecia and part of the Galician kingdom until 1148 (Treaty of Zamora, independence of Portugal). Adding complexity to the subject, as @Cossue mentioned, academics like Leonard Churchin seem to have found traces of Indo-European toponymy in Northwest Iberian peninsula that seem not to be Celtic. It is accepted the Iberian peoples were not Indo-Europeans, this means that there was probably another migration layer from an Indo-European people, non-Celtic, before the Celts "came in" into the scenario in the Iberian peninsula. Who were those non-Celtic Indo-Europeans?
    ---
    The New Age thing is really a disgrace for its fake approach to ancient spirituality. They mix every possible symbology and concepts into the same cauldron.

    The Celts had their share of spirituality and beliefs that for sure impacted on the evolution of their vocabulary. Words represent human experiences and if humans are spiritual, their vocabulary is impacted by it. I take only one word as an example: PC *abanko which means castor but derived to Irish afanc, which means a malign kind of leprechaun that lived underwater in pools and rivers. The afanc used to come out of their wet homes to do evil things to humans during the evenings. Here we have a rational, real experience (the castor, an animal) which became synonym of an spiritual experience (the evil afanc).

    While today we are able to discern between those two experiences, one is rational, real and the other is spiritual, intangible, it may be that in Celtic culture those two experiences were intertwined. In Galicia, there was the belief that the serpes (snakes) took with them to the Sán Andrés de Teixido sanctuary the souls of the deceased Christians that could not go there in peregrination at least once in life, hence the Galician saying "A San Andrés de Teixido vai de morto o que non foi de vivo." (To San Andrés de Teixido one goes dead even if he has not gone there alive - sorry for my bad translation). The Galician serpes were believed then to be spiritual carriers and perhaps this is a trace from ancient rites, which could have originated the name of that land: Ophiussa in Ora Maritima: "...much later the serpent chased away the inhabitants and gave the now empty land its name." Therefore, when an early Medieval Galician (and probably his/her ancestors the Galaican Celts) looked to a serpe, a snake or serpent, they not only saw it as an animal but as a spiritual carrier of souls to their afterlife. I believe that once we understand a bit more this spirituality, we can better interpret etymology.
     

    Margrave

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    @Keith Bradford it seems to me that the traces of Celtic radicals, most probably from Galaican Celtic, are present more than expected in the Galician (and Northern Portuguese) toponymy and languages, not only in names of gods and goddesses.
     

    Margrave

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    @se16teddy there is the old hypothesis that when the Saxons, Jutes and Angles settled and later invaded the Pritain island, they exterminated all the native Celts. This is not true.

    In Germany, some say the same about the numerous Slavic principalities that existed between the rivers Oder and Neisse, this later at the border with Poland. During the Northern Crusades the Christian Saxons invaded and exterminated all the native pagan Slavs in that huge region, pushing the German border to the East. However, recent DNA studies show that around 30% of the "Germans" living in that region, that roughly corresponds to the former Eastern Germany, have Slavic DNA. Around the same percentage (30%) have Slavic surnames. Therefore, the minority Saxon invaders did not exterminated the Slavs there bak in 900-1100AC, the Slavs are still there but were germanised to the point of forgetting their Slav ancestry.

    The same with the English. The Saxons, Angles and Jutes and alter the Vikings and Normans were minority. They conquered the land but their numerous subjects were Celts which were anglicised (germanized) to the point of forgetting their Celt ancestry. This is to get to your question of what you have in common with the English living in London. Probably they bear a huge Celtic Brittonic DNA while yours, if I understood well, is Irish and Welsh Celt. You remember your Celtic ancestry, they have completely forgotten theirs. They think they are English but they are Celts too.
     

    Margrave

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Note to my friend @Margrave - afanc 'castor'/'beaver' is Welsh not Irish. (See GPC.)
    Hi @Welsh_Sion you are right. Thank you for pointing this out. Edit: for the sake of correction, MW afanc "beaver, water demon, dwarf", MI abac "beaver, dwarf". Here we see how a real creature, the castor, was seen also a something mystic, the water demon.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    there is the old hypothesis that when the Saxons, Jutes and Angles settled and later invaded the Pritain island, they exterminated all the native Celts. This is not true.
    I think it is safer to say: "This may not be true" and would add that the hypothesis is rather that they exterminated all the native Celts and/or drove them westwards or to what is now Brittany. The main reasons for the idea were/are because (a) Bede and other historians said so (b) the English language appears to show little or no Celtic influence (c) the Brythonic language became restricted to the western extremities of mainland Britain. Archaeological and genetic investigations began to throw doubt on the idea. However, the evidence is far from conclusive. No one knows for sure exactly what went on. The Anglo-Saxon settlement took place over a long period and may have taken different forms in different places.

    There was a time when it was thought that race could be defined by describing the way people look. Race is though is a very slippery concept which when looked at means something, but not very much. Genetics may be more sophisticated than going by skin colour, shape and colour of the eyes and whether your hair is straight, wavy or curly, but is no more reliable in determining race and certainly not the equally slippery concept of ethnicity. The Celts got about a lot. It is probable that some of the invaders described as Germanic had Celtic DNA. So, if an "Anglo-Saxon" burial ground in the east of England shows, say, that 50% of the occupants have Celtic DNA, it does not necessarily follow that 50% of the population in the area were descended from people who were in Britain before the Anglo-Saxon settlement began.

    It is interesting to note that whereas as at one time the apparent lack of Celtic influence on the English language was taken as suggesting that in most of England the Celts were replaced wholesale by the Anglo-Saxons, the genetic evidence is now taken by some as indicating that there must be a Celtic substrate to English if only we look hard enough.

    No one discipline is going to produce a clear answer. Increasing specialisation has led to an absence of polymaths and forming a coherent hypothesis is not going to be easy. The conclusions reached by experts based on scant evidence often surprise me.

    The same with the English. The Saxons, Angles and Jutes and alter the Vikings and Normans were minority. They conquered the land but their numerous subjects were Celts which were anglicised (germanized) to the point of forgetting their Celt ancestry. This is to get to your question of what you have in common with the English living in London. Probably they bear a huge Celtic Brittonic DNA while yours, if I understood well, is Irish and Welsh Celt. You remember your Celtic ancestry, they have completely forgotten theirs. They think they are English but they are Celts too.
    We cannot be sure that the Saxons, Angles and Jutes were a minority. The best that DNA can tell you is that at some time in the past (and it may be a very long time in the past) individuals have a common ancestor. DNA cannot tell you anything about a person's ethnicity which is really what "Celt" and "English" are about today. What do Irish speakers living in the Gaeltacht have in common with the Galatians living in Asia Minor to whom St Paul sent an epistle? A Cockney is not a Celt simply because he does not self-identify as a Celt.

    As suggested above, much of what is considered Celtic today is of comparatively recent origin and invented partly by the Romantics with fanciful notions of the western fringes of Europe as a zone of mists and magic and partly by nationalists intent on forging an identity distinct from their neighbours.
     
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    jimquk

    Member
    English
    " It is probable that some of the invaders described as Germanic had Celtic DNA."

    I would add that it is quiet possible that the Brythonic population already included "Germanic" DNA in pre-Roman times, and that the genetic East-West gradient may in part reflect an original peopling of the islands from both Atlantic and North Sea coastlines.
     

    Margrave

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Hello @Hulalessar, thank you for your post with interesting information.

    The Anglo-Saxon settlement took place over a long period
    The Roman Empire recalled their legions back into the Continent in 410AC. Seems like the Saxon, Anglo and Jute settlement happened between around the year 450AC and lasted 150 years until the first half of the 7th Century. 150 years is a short time.

    We cannot be sure that the Saxons, Angles and Jutes were a minority.
    Most probably the Germanic invaders were minority. There is an increasing awareness by the academic community that the invaders actually were in small numbers, while the Britonnic population was estimated between 2-6 million. The logistics of migration and settlement into an island were an obstacle much harder to overcome that if the migration had happened in the Continent. The Germanic settlers were over 2 million? Hardly so, not to say this did not happen. They were 100 thousand? 300 thousand? Even so, in face of minimum 2 million Brittonics, they were undoubtedly a minority.

    invented partly by the Romantics with fanciful notions of the western fringes of Europe as a zone of mists and magic and partly by nationalists intent on forging an identity distinct from their neighbours.
    The source of the above information is Dr. Catherine Hills, Senior Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

    there must be a Celtic substrate to English if only we look hard enough.
    I agree. The thing is that many until the early 20th Century explained English words linking to their correct or supposedly correct Germanic etymology. Germanic was the language of the conqueror, it had prestige. Celtic was the language of the loosers, nobody wanted to be a looser. This happens also in Romance languages. I remember one funny case where the etymology proposed for the city of Tobar (Burgos, Spain) was linked to the Latin word "tofu" which means "stone". It elaborated about how the place was rocky and had quarries and so on. However, the word *to-bar, bar being a pre-celtic word imported into proto-celtic, means "at the river", which is exactly where Tobar is, at the banks of the Hormenzuela river. There is a general effacement of the Celtic roots in many places, including in England. Fortunately, this prejudice against anything Celtic is going away with every new scientific research.

    There was no such a thing as a "Celtic DNA". The description of the Celts in ancient books range from blonde, white while others described them as having black hair. That is why I mentioned "Celtic Britonnic" DNA. Recent DNA studies in remains of individual Brittonic are pointing to very close genetic links to the Welsh people.
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Even so, in face of minimum 2 million Brittonics, they were undoubtedly a minority.
    That, however, would have a proportional impact only if the latter weren't put into much more unfavorable conditions for reproduction (forced from the best lands, to begin with - with many being doomed to starvation as a result), which might have been a long lasting Anglo-Saxon ethnic policy. The historical narrative tells us about a direct genocide. While it's most likely a big exaggeration, some genetic evidence seems to partly support the idea. For example, one of the R1b subclades which may constitute up to 30% of the local Y-haplogroups in England is represented almost exclusively in England and Southern Scotland but not in the Scottish Highlands, Ireland or, most notably, Wales, while in the continental Europe it's most frequent in Low Germany and Denmark (i.e. exactly the historical Urheimat of Saxons and Angles). Of course, the situation may be related to preceding migrations and/or be partly caused by other factors, but still it's a suspicious coincidence, which, if truly related to the Anglo-Saxon conquest, may mean that at least about one half of the original population was ultimately replaced by patrilineal descendants of the migrants, one way or another (more in the eastern areas, less in more remote ones).
     
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    Margrave

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    @Awwal12 the insertion of a invader DNA into existing populations is complex. I generally agree with what you say concerning the R1b subclades. There is an interesting study - the most complete up to now - about how there was a break in DNA continuity in the Iberian peninsula 4.000 years ago (around 2.000BC) La migración masiva que reemplazó a todos los hombres ibéricos y cambió el ADN de España you can find the English version easily. This interruption was only on the patrilineal side while the matrilineal DNA stayed on. Some consider there was a great replacement of native men by the invading males, who intermarried with the native women. This may have happened in Germany too, between the Oder and Neisse rivers when the Saxons invaded there. However, the existence of around 30% of Slavic surnames in that region means that the Slavic men survived to pass their surnames along. And I do not mean the surnames that could be adopted from local toponimy but ones like Nowotny and similar that are antroponyms. The same in England, there is a huge number of Brittonic surnames at present. Some may have been adopted from Brittonic toponimy. Other, may have survived long enough to be transformed from Brittonic forenames into surnames during the years 800AC-1200AC when it is generally accepted this transformation took place in Europe (it varies according to each country).

    at least about one half of the original population was ultimately replaced by patrilineal descendants of the migrants, one way or another (more in the eastern areas, less in more remote ones).
    This may be true or partially true There are other ways of DNA insertion less than a male population replacement. There was the (still debated) droit du seigneur and even if it did not exist, non-consensual sex where the lords imposed over native women was surely widespread since the times of Gilgamesh, where there is a first mention to it. Large scale looting, pillaging and the unforgivable abuse of defenseless women was common in war as recently as 1945. This may mean that the DNA was inserted into the population without exterminating/replacing the native men population. Still, the 30% R1b subclade is a minority. What about the remaining majority 70%?
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I cannot argue on any detail since I do not have the expertise. What I do know is that experts in the field have produced raw data but have come to differing conclusions. It is another "who was where when?" question which is likely to remain unanswered and practically guaranteed to remain contested.
     
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