a reconsideration of the relationship between “Irish” and “Celtic”
This article appeared recently in the Washington Post with a different title (which is below), but I think that it would be more accurate to describe it as a reconsideration of the relationship between “Irish” and “Celtic”.
The remains of three humans, in fact, were found behind McCuaig’s Bar in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland [in 2006]. And though police were called, it was not, as it turned out, a crime scene.
Instead, what Currie has stumbled over was an ancient burial that, after a recent DNA analysis, challenges the traditional centuries-old account of Irish origins.
Yet the bones discovered behind McCuaig’s tell a different story of Irish origins, and it does not include the Celts.
“The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,” said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford who has written books on the origins of the people of Ireland.
"To be sure, some think that Celtic languages originated with the Celts on continental Europe and subsequently spread to Ireland, Wales and Scotland. This is the traditional view, and it dovetails with the idea that the Celts moved into Ireland during the Iron Age." "Some" is not accurate. It is the scientific consensus with multiple proofs and supported by thousands of researchers.
"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" How many is a growing number of scholars? From 2 to 3?
Ans so on. The article use the pop culture Celts as a straw-man.
The genetic findings are not a surprise, they are very similar to many migrations and invasions: "Arabs" from Northern Africa, "Hispanics" from Latin America, "Turkish" from Turkey. However, I think the linguistic information is too biased.
In which way do you think that the article’s linguistic information is too biased?
IIRC, Koch's main linguistic argument for Celts in Southern Iberia is entirely based on Tartessian being a Celtic language, which is not widely accepted. There is Celtiberian, but there's also Galatian, Lepontic, and Gaulish around the Continent, none of which are mentioned in the article. (Seems like cherry-picking to ignore the languages much more demonstrably related to the Insular Celtic ones, just because they're not from the Atlantic zone.)
In terms of the genetics, the heat map seems to go against the theories laid out by the article... The greatest genetic similarity outside the Celtic area to the bones from this dig is located in southern Germany (Hallstatt zone); the Tartessian area is as closely related to the find as the Swedish area is. But overall, why are the findings surprising? There was a population that pre-dated the traditional late-centuries-BC arrival of the Celts, and they are genetically similar to modern Irish, which suggests the two populations merged... right? It seems a pretty straightforward argument without having to (as Chilotin said) create straw men for it.
The thing I found most annoying was that the author "is a staff writer for The Washington Post handling projects in business, healthcare and health," and on St. Patrick's Day he somehow got deputized to also cover archaeology, linguistics, and genetics. o_O
As far as the timeline component is concerned, a language like Galatian wouldn’t be relevant to the article, since the eastbound Gauls/Celts/pick-your-demonym invaded Greece and Anatolia in the late 4th and early 3rd centuries BC, after the death of Alexander the Great. I think that the earliest attested inscriptions for Lepontic came from about 550 BC, around modern Lugano, and the earliest for Gaulish came from about 300 BC, around the Rhône. From my limited understanding of the matter, Koch’s argument for Tartessian is based on the linguistically-Celticky 700 BC inscriptions from southern Portugal, which is quite distant from the area of the contemporary Halstatt culture (Lugano was probably on the edge of that area).
The heat map in the article compares the DNA in the bones to the DNA of modern populations, so no, its findings shouldn’t be surprising — a lot can (and did) happen with populations over 4000 years. The deepest orange area in the heat map on the continent is not in southern Germany, but in Thuringia, in central Germany — outside of the Halstatt area, but on the edge of the La Tène area. Bradley’s quote within the article is worth repeating:
“The way to think about genetic variation in Europe is that it is more of a gradient than it is of sharp boundaries,” said Bradley, the DNA researcher. “Sometimes, cultural features like language and natural borders can coincide with genetics, but most times not. Genetics is fuzzy, and it doesn‘t follow political and cultural borders.”
I don’t know enough about the Washington Post to know if they’re willing to pay reporters to exclusively cover archaeology, linguistics, and genetics, so I’m not surprised that someone might be deputized to write an article which touches on each of them. The newer theories are less likely to be known by the general reader than the older theories are, so I’d expect the article to discuss the former more than the latter.
Tartessian isn't provably Celtic though, and anyway, Ogham shows up even later than Gaulish. Would Koch's argument be that Ireland just happened to develop writing after their countrymen (or their Spanish cousins) had invaded all the other Celtic areas of the Continent and developed it? It seems like he is throwing away Ockham's Razor for the sake of his hypothesis, and I'm not sure why.
(Actually, the article sheds some light on it: I assume he's trying to counter the "magic bag" of Celtic fascination, which I can respect. But you don't need elaborate theories that unnecessarily complicate the linguistic, genetic, and archaeological data, to do that; in fact, this theory probably fails to counter it at all.)
Hallstatt or La Tène, both are quite far away from Andalucia, is my point. :) But yea, the Bradley quote does a good job putting the brakes on (to the whole article, really), although it raises the question, why did they even include the heatmap in the first place? I guess it's flashy and attractive...?
My suspicion is that WaPo leadership said, "Cripes, we need some kind of distinctive Celtic-y clickbait for St. Patrick's Day!" and just pushed it out to whoever was free. Yes, it's unlikely they have someone who's a resident expert in these fields (much as I wish they did), but the problem is that someone who's completely unversed in the topics won't raise questions or add grains of salt to the reporting. And then it gets presented to the public as fact (or at least strongly-vetted possibility). And the comments section. Oh, the comments section...
I was only introduced to Koch through this article, so I don’t know what his arguments would be regarding the development of Ogham. Marseilles was founded by Greeks around 600 BC, so it’s possible that the idea for writing Gaulish was inspired by exposure to written Greek.
There is an older and very clever paper here
which points to the same conclusion - though the Celtic language and culture spread to Ireland, the Celts left little genetic imprint, the people are closer to Basques.
Skimming it quickly, it is a bit hard to follow. It seems to say that there are genetic differences in Y chromosomes between the east and west of Ireland, but not in mtDNA, and that there are correlations from the north of the British isles in Y chromosome in Atlantic Europe... I think.
It sounds like there are mostly male genetic immigration effects.
It seems to argue for Atlantic coast relationships, from the north of Scotland around to the Spanish & Portuguese coasts, rather than relationships with inland Europe.
Also, I think it argues that the mtDNA suggests a continuous presence since the last Ice Age, in Ireland.
I wouldn't mind someone else reading it carefully and posting a nice English summary.
This recent link on the Irish Duolingo Learners page is related: https://youtu.be/G8FM9nMFbfI.
[The following is just my amateurish and very quick--gotta run to class--amalgamation of the linked lecture and a few internet articles. So take it with a grain of salt.]
The link is a lecture from a few years ago where Barry Cunliffe (an Oxford Professor specializing in Celtic anthropology) lays out various evidence against the doctrine that the people and language of Ireland are a product of immigration influx by the "Celts" of central Europe. He proposes this same Atlantic Coast cultural/language relationship between historical groups of Ireland, Britain, Brittany, Spain, and Portugal. He suggests that "Keltoi" in its various incarnations may have been a term used by Greek writer Herodotus in antiquity to describe various tribes of unrelated barbarians.
I'm not sure if Cunliffe covers this in the linked lecture. But, as a sidebar, Cunliffe's point is interesting when taken together with Stephen Oppenheimer's argument that Herodotus thought the Danube originated in the Pyrenees. So, when he said there were Celts living at the source of the Danube, he may have been talking about barbarians in Southern France or Iberia and not about the people later identified with the Hallstatt culture of Central Europe. Oppenheimer says this is the only written record that ever placed the Celts in the Hallstatt/La Tène geographic area. Backing up this idea were later Greek writers, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo, who also locate the homeland of the "Celts" in Southern France.
Cunliffe then goes on to detail cultural and linguistic ties as well as anthropological evidence that connects the Atlantic coastal groups. This is contrasted against the lack of such connections between these same Atlantic coastal groups and the central European "Celts" of Hallstatt origin. At the end of Cunliffe's lecture, it seemed to me not so much that he was saying the Irish weren't Celts. It seemed like he was saying the Celts were a group of connected people in Atlantic coastal areas of Ireland, Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal. In contrast, the people called "Celts" in Central Europe were only mistakenly given that label through misinterpretation of the words of early Greek writers and were either unrelated or the result of immigration from the coastal Atlantic areas into Central Europe.
As I understand it; the genetic evidence is that the last substantial migration into Ireland happened at the end of the last ice age, the Celtic culture of Ireland is linked to cultural diffusion rather than a large movement of people; this idea is backed up by the archaeological record. The Y-chromosome is more variable across Ireland than mtDNA because women were more mobile.
"The Y-chromosome is more variable across Ireland than mtDNA because women were more mobile."
Should this be reversed since the Y-chromosome is paternally inherited and mtDNA is maternal? Or am I just not understanding what you were saying? Ireland is something like 81-85% R1b Y-DNA right?
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Y-chromosome_DNA_haplogroup; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_DNA; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1b; http://www.eupedia.com/genetics/britain_ireland_dna.shtml#mtdna)
How come when they dig up ONE THING in Europe it is somehow evidence that things are exactly the opposite of what we thought? Like how they found that pit full of dogs, horses, and ox, and suddenly "Irish Druids ate dog meat possibly as part of trance rituals", or when they dug up a complex in Norway with multiple small rooms it meant that Vikings were in on the international slave trade. The academics have lost their damn minds.
Perhaps “publish-or-perish” has something to do with it. It doesn’t just happen with archaeology — one can find the same thing with e.g. medicine or nutrition, where different researchers can offer diametrically opposed views on some topic (e.g. whether the advantages of the regular consumption of coffee outweigh its disadvantages, or vice versa).