The Picts

Most good scholarship has concluded that the Picts were not Celtic. Celtic peoples probably migrated in to the British Isles first from the south west of Europe after the Picts were well settled.

From what I've read most good scholarship has concluded the exact opposite. Why do you think that the Picts were not Celts?
 
"Caledonii" - you can compare the name with Breton "kalet", Welsh "caled" and Old Irish "calad", which all mean 'hard'. It's also found in the Gaulish tribal name "Caleti". The '-on-' is an augmentative form also typically Celtic (think of tribal names like "Senones" and "Lingones", etc.).


"Vacomagi" - the first element is also found in the Gaulish "Bellovaci", as well as possibly the Celtiberian "Arevaci" and "Vaccaei". The second element is probably the same as Old Irish "mag" and Gaulish "magus" ('plain', 'field').

About "Taezali" what should be added that other versions give the name as "Tazali" or even as "Taexali" - it's unclear what the original form was. What should be added (to quote Forsyth 1997, the link which I provided above):

"If we are wavering in accepting the Celticity of these problematic tribal names, it is surely of the greatest significance that the river Deva ran through the territory of the Taezali. If Celtic-speakers were sufficiently established in the region to have named the major river, this should give us pause before dismissing a Celtic explanation for the local tribal name. Likewise with the river Tama and the place-name Bannatia in the territory of the Vacomagi."

for Caledoni I have some doubt: I find it hard they could have had a -D for -T (CALETI fits very well with 'kaled') at this precise time; but it seems celtic yes. I cannot say more -
for the remnant I agree : Picts placenames seem almost all of them of P-brittonic celtic formation as you and others said -
gaelic 'Cruithni' seems close to 'Pretani' - someones discuss yet the doublet BRITANNIA/BRITTONIA: a form BRITTIA would have existed according to some scholars - BRITANNIA could be a mix of PRETANIA and BRITTONIA or BRITTIA (this last supposedly south of current Scotland) - maybe a name transmitted through more than a tribe or dialect before reaching roman ears??? just an hypothesis very fragile
curiously BRIZH/BRITH (spottled, mixed of colours) could come from BRITT, maybe a form of BRIKT too (welsh has BRYCH too for the same, << BRIKK?) - the "Picts" were tatooed...
I agree Romans were precise, but they made mistakes too, as others, concerning foreign names!
good night
 
From what I've read most good scholarship has concluded the exact opposite. Why do you think that the Picts were not Celts?

The only serious suggestions were the Picts land would have had two languages, a celtic one and a pre-celtic one, I-E or not I-E, this last languages being the autochtones one not completely assimilated...

concerning geographical origin, at pre-Iron age (Urnfield culture?) some celtic tribe from East Galia or present day Switzerland left some remnants in Fifeshire (SE Pict land) - physically they showed some 'alpine' connexions, not too surprising at this time if the origin region is right - I 'll try to find the details.
 
I believe that the Irish and the Picts may have had much closer relations than previously thought. We know that the Gaels and the Picts were aware of each other long before the founding of the Dál Riata. There existed a subset of the Irish population called the "Cruithne", centered in Ulster. This most likely derived from the same word as P-Celtic "Priteni" or "Britanni". "Cruithne" is also the word that the Irish used to refer to the Picts. Now, the Annalists don't really describe the Cruithne as being any different from the other Irish clans and groups as far as I know. However, simply by virtue of their name and the fact that the Annalists also refer to the Picts as "Cruithne", I believe that the Cruithne were likely Picts that crossed the Irish Sea and settled in Ulster. This supposed settlement would have likely occurred when Pictish and Brythonic was still mutually intelligible, or even before there existed a distinction between Pict and Brython. Hence the Irish would have still referred to them as Brythons, or "Cruithne" in their own tongue. This distinction would have survived long after the Pictish settlers adopted the Irish language, and perhaps the memory of the Cruithne's origin accounts for why the Annalists referred to their Pictish contemporaries as Cruithne. Again, conjecture. It makes sense to me however.

nonetheless distinct from Brythonic. The Romans probably weren't familiar enough with Brythonic in the first place to recognize the similarities in Pictish, merely hearing the Irish vocabulary and dismissing it as a totally unrelated language.

The relationship between the Irish and the Picts likely would have intensified after the Roman occupation of Britain. The Picts would have been cut off from interaction and trade with their kinsmen further south, leaving themselves and the Gaels as the only unconquered Insular Celts. This would have further developed the Pictish language, and might have laid the groundwork for the Gaelic/Pictish merge after Irish/Pictish relations took a more militaristic turn.

This relies on a lot of assumptions, and doesn't explain the apparently nonsensical Pictish inscriptions. I would also think that Irish and Pictish material culture would be more similar than they are, if the Gaels and the Picts were as close as I'm suggesting they might have been. I'm unaware of any Irish knotwork in pre-Dál Riata Scotland, or of any Pictish Beasts in Ireland. The Picts were most likely centered in Northeast Scotland, far from the Irish Sea. And of course, this is unsupported by the Annals as far as I'm aware. Nonetheless, I feel that this would explain many things about the Picts, and might help us in learning more about the language. What do you folks think?

Also, on a somewhat related note, this line of thinking makes me wonder if there exists a Pictish/Brythonic substrate in Ulster Irish. Would anyone here, by any chance, happen to know this?

One theory I've read is that the Cruithne were the pre-Celtic, but still Indo-European, substrate (from the Bell Beakers?) that had previously populated both Britain and Ireland.

My thinking, however, is that the Cruithne were a specific people (Novantae?) who initially migrated from Galloway (SW Scotland) into SE Ulster, before the establishment of surnames. Their signature is 10-15% I-M223 (I2a2a) in Galloway and SE Ulster (in the area of County Down), which is much less significantly present in surrounding populations. See Maciamo's I2a2 map (90% of I2a2 are I2a2a):

Haplogroup-I2b.gif


Note the distinct genetic boundary that approximates Hadrian's Wall. This might suggest that this was a population that had been pushed and isolated north of Hadrian's Wall by the Romans, and were further pushed into Ireland by several Roman sorties into Galloway. Later, pressure from Scots (Dal Riata Gaels) from the north and Angles (of Northumberland, or Bernicia/Deira) from the east continued what was an east-to-west population shift.

See:

Blood of the Celts by Jean Manco and Ancient Scotland by Stewart Ross.
 
This presence of Y-I2a1b and I2a2 lineages could show the Neolithic megalithic pop's of Britain were powerful enough or had skills which made they were incorporated among BB's and later post-BB's Celtic tribes.
This mixed stratum (maybe darker haired, with "purer" 'dinaric and more kind of 'mediter' types than southern BB's of Britain, see Coon) could have spoken a not-IE or an IE dialect (I prefer the last bet), a meta-Italic or kind of proto-Italic-Celtic dialect where 'makk' could have preserved an archaic form, this dialect being more archaic, as seems Gaelic compared to Brittonic (so if true, this 'makk' doesn't need to be well achieved Gaelic, but just an IE or proto-Celtic ancient form). Brittons from South came after and took the strong side upon them, imposing their dialect(s). Just reasonable bets.
 
"an IE": I want say: one of these Northwestern ancient IE dialects, not PIE!!!
 
I-M223 (I2a1b1/I2a2a/I2b1) would seem to be a British, but not an Irish, signal, in that it is generally present in Britain, but not Ireland, which would argue against it having come in with the Bell Beakers, who replaced the earlier "neolithic" y-dna lineages. An intriguing possibility is that I-M223 among the Novantae/Cruithne originated from the Suebi (or Suevi), who were a Germanic tribe enlisted by Julius Caesar as mercenaries against the Gauls. The strongest I-M223 hotspot in Europe is in central Germany/Bohemia and corresponds to the homeland of the Suebi in the 1st Century BC.

Caesar, himself, said that the Suebi were the most warlike of the German tribes, and may have accompanied the forces of Caesar and other Roman commanders in their invasion and occupation of Britain. My thinking is that the Suebian mercenaries were granted land in Galloway, safely on the other side of Hadrian's Wall, but also to serve as a buffer against the Picts, resulting in a Britonic population, but with overlords with Suebian roots. As oft happens, buffers can themselves become troublesome, resulting in several Roman sorties into Galloway, further pushing the Novantae/Cruithne across the Irish Sea to SE Ulster.

Cruithne, thus, would originally have been a name used by the Irish to denote them simply as being Britons (from Britain). They would have served as intermediaries/traders between Romanized Britain and a relatively backward Ireland, where they were able to amass wealth, gain influence, make allies, and conquer land.
 
One theory I've read is that the Cruithne were the pre-Celtic, but still Indo-European, substrate (from the Bell Beakers?) that had previously populated both Britain and Ireland.
My thinking, however, is that the Cruithne were a specific people (Novantae?) who initially migrated from Galloway (SW Scotland) into SE Ulster, before the establishment of surnames. Their signature is 10-15% I-M223 (I2a2a) in Galloway and SE Ulster (in the area of County Down), which is much less significantly present in surrounding populations. See Maciamo's I2a2 map (90% of I2a2 are I2a2a):
Haplogroup-I2b.gif

Note the distinct genetic boundary that approximates Hadrian's Wall. This might suggest that this was a population that had been pushed and isolated north of Hadrian's Wall by the Romans, and were further pushed into Ireland by several Roman sorties into Galloway. Later, pressure from Scots (Dal Riata Gaels) from the north and Angles (of Northumberland, or Bernicia/Deira) from the east continued what was an east-to-west population shift.
See:
Blood of the Celts by Jean Manco and Ancient Scotland by Stewart Ross.

Maybe, but there are some things that have been omitted like Scottish/Northern English settlement in Ulster via the Plantations, which can account for some I-M223 in Northern Ireland. Obviously some I2 lineages in Ireland are representative of indigenous lineages.

I-M223 (I2a1b1/I2a2a/I2b1) would seem to be a British, but not an Irish, signal, in that it is generally present in Britain, but not Ireland, which would argue against it having come in with the Bell Beakers, who replaced the earlier "neolithic" y-dna lineages. An intriguing possibility is that I-M223 among the Novantae/Cruithne originated from the Suebi (or Suevi), who were a Germanic tribe enlisted by Julius Caesar as mercenaries against the Gauls. The strongest I-M223 hotspot in Europe is in central Germany/Bohemia and corresponds to the homeland of the Suebi in the 1st Century BC.
Caesar, himself, said that the Suebi were the most warlike of the German tribes, and may have accompanied the forces of Caesar and other Roman commanders in their invasion and occupation of Britain. My thinking is that the Suebian mercenaries were granted land in Galloway, safely on the other side of Hadrian's Wall, but also to serve as a buffer against the Picts, resulting in a Britonic population, but with overlords with Suebian roots. As oft happens, buffers can themselves become troublesome, resulting in several Roman sorties into Galloway, further pushing the Novantae/Cruithne across the Irish Sea to SE Ulster.
Cruithne, thus, would originally have been a name used by the Irish to denote them simply as being Britons (from Britain). They would have served as intermediaries/traders between Romanized Britain and a relatively backward Ireland, where they were able to amass wealth, gain influence, make allies, and conquer land.

Were the Suebi ever used as mercenaries against the Gauls by Caesar? It was my understanding that Ariovistus (the king of the Suebi) was attacking Gaulish tribes via invitation from the Gaulish Arverni and Sequani in their conflict with the Aedui. Germanic auxiliaries and foederati that were stationed at Hadrian’s Wall or nearby include the Tungri, Frisii/Frisiavones, Nervii, Baetasii, and Batavi to name a few.

We can’t really make the claim that I-M223 originated (17,200 years old, TMRCA of 14,500 years ago, source: YFull) with the Suebi when it is found in Britain and Ireland with very specific and diversified subgroups, there are several (actually many more) specific lineages that could represent several different ancestries, even rather aged information here on Eupedia alludes to this: https://www.eupedia.com/europe/Haplogroup_I2_Y-DNA.shtml#I2a2a

You’re more likely to find influence from the Angles in pre-Norse Scotland IMO, read: https://dsl.ac.uk/about-scots/history-of-scots/origins/, it’s also worth mentioning that the sons of Æthelfrith of Bernicia were exiled and sought refuge (with their entourage) in both Dál Riata (Oswald and Oswiu) and Pictland (Eanfrith, who’s own son Talorgan mac Enfret was king of Picts). Here is some reading on Oswald (Oswiu included) and his association with the Gaelic world: https://www.heroicage.org/issues/4/ziegler.html

There is also mention of later Northumbrian kings who took refuge in Dál Riata or Pictland, although this depended on their affiliations either to Bamburgh or York.
 
Last edited:
Maybe, but there are some things that have been omitted like Scottish/Northern English settlement in Ulster via the Plantations, which can account for some I-M223 in Northern Ireland. Obviously some I2 lineages in Ireland are representative of indigenous lineages.

County Down, where I-M223 was most concentrated, was not part of the official plantation.

Blood of the Celts theorizes that the Cruithne came into Ireland before the use of surnames, based on their later adoption of "Irish" surnames. It has the Cruithne (or Ui Echach Cobha) dating back to the 6th Century. Thus, the son (Mac) of Aonghusa (Angus) became McGuinness, the descendants of which became the lords of the Barony of Iveagh in County Down (known to carry I-M223).

"Haplogroup I2a2a1a1 (M284) is very rare outside the British Isles, except among those of British and Irish origin....The bearers of I2a2a1a1 (M284) have a mixed bag of surnames including English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish. Its descendant clade I2a2a1a1a1 (L126/S165) is more common in Scotland. Its offshoot I2a2a1a1a1a (S7753) includes men of several surnames of Irish Gaelic origin, such as McGuinness, Callahan, McConville and McManus, indicating that S7753 arrived in Ireland before the development of surnames. The estimated date of the haplogroup is around AD 500, which makes a neat fit to the earliest reference to the Cruithin in AD 552 (see p. 169)." - Blood of the Celts, p. 170.

P. 169: "The Irish Anals refer to warbands of British people rampaging around Ireland. The earliest reference tells of the 'killing of Colman Mor, son of Diarmaid, in his chariot, by Dubhshlat Ua Treana, one of the Cruithni', in 552."

Were the Suebi ever used as mercenaries against the Gauls by Caesar? It was my understanding that Ariovistus (the king of the Suebi) was attacking Gaulish tribes via invitation from the Gaulish Arverni and Sequani in their conflict with the Aedui. Germanic auxiliaries and foederati that were stationed at Hadrian’s Wall or nearby include the Tungri, Frisii/Frisiavones, Nervii, Baetasii, and Batavi to name a few.

Caesar did enlist Germanic mercenaries against the Gauls (just as he had earlier enlisted Celtic mercenaries against the Germans. The Suebi were an umbrella group that encompassed several other tribes, including the Marcomanni, for instance, and were predominant in central Germany and Bohemia. Caesar did refer specifically to the Suebi.

We can’t really make the claim that I-M223 originated (17,200 years old, TMRCA of 14,500 years ago, source: YFull) with the Suebi when it is found in Britain and Ireland with very specific and diversified subgroups, there are several (actually many more) specific lineages that could represent several different ancestries, even rather aged information here on Eupedia alludes to this: https://www.eupedia.com/europe/Haplogroup_I2_Y-DNA.shtml#I2a2a

i was referring specifically to Maciamo's I2a2 map. Yes, in SW Scotland and in SE Ulster, those would be downstream clades of P214 (L126/S165 and S7753?). (90% of P214 is M223.)

You’re more likely to find influence from the Angles in pre-Norse Scotland IMO, read: https://dsl.ac.uk/about-scots/history-of-scots/origins/, it’s also worth mentioning that the sons of Æthelfrith of Bernicia were exiled and sought refuge (with their entourage) in both Dál Riata (Oswald and Oswiu) and Pictland (Eanfrith, who’s own son Talorgan mac Enfret was king of Picts). Here is some reading on Oswald (Oswiu included) and his association with the Gaelic world: https://www.heroicage.org/issues/4/ziegler.html
There is also mention of later Northumbrian kings who took refuge in Dál Riata or Pictland, although this depended on their affiliations either to Bamburgh or York.

Yes, I've read about that (in Ancient Scotland by Stewart Ross). There was a very clear distinction between the Angles in Deira and Bernicia (Northumbria) and the Britons (Novantae, Stratheclyde, Lothian, Gododdin, etc.). In Maciamo's map, the highest concentration of I2a2 looks to skirt Bernicia. I suspect the Picts were just backcountry Britons.
 
County Down, where I-M223 was most concentrated, was not part of the official plantation.
Indeed, but it was privately settled with support of the king.

"Haplogroup I2a2a1a1 (M284) is very rare outside the British Isles, except among those of British and Irish origin....The bearers of I2a2a1a1 (M284) have a mixed bag of surnames including English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish. Its descendant clade I2a2a1a1a1 (L126/S165) is more common in Scotland. Its offshoot I2a2a1a1a1a (S7753) includes men of several surnames of Irish Gaelic origin, such as McGuinness, Callahan, McConville and McManus, indicating that S7753 arrived in Ireland before the development of surnames. The estimated date of the haplogroup is around AD 500, which makes a neat fit to the earliest reference to the Cruithin in AD 552 (see p. 169)." - Blood of the Celts, p. 170.

P. 169: "The Irish Anals refer to warbands of British people rampaging around Ireland. The earliest reference tells of the 'killing of Colman Mor, son of Diarmaid, in his chariot, by Dubhshlat Ua Treana, one of the Cruithni', in 552."

These are rather specific subclades of I-M223, that are found more commonly in the Isles compared to Continental Europe (and in Continental Europe they are likely the result of movement out of the Isles).


Caesar did enlist Germanic mercenaries against the Gauls (just as he had earlier enlisted Celtic mercenaries against the Germans. The Suebi were an umbrella group that encompassed several other tribes, including the Marcomanni, for instance, and were predominant in central Germany and Bohemia. Caesar did refer specifically to the Suebi.

Caesar enlisted Germanic cavalry, he preferred them to his Gallic cavalry, though I'm not sure from which specific tribes he enlisted these mercenaries. I am aware the Usipetes were formidable mounted warriors. I would be wary of attaching the Angles to the Suebi, there seems to be some confusion as to the etymology of Anglii and Angrivarii, probably in part due to Ptolemy's descriptions compared to Tacitus.


Yes, I've read about that (in Ancient Scotland by Stewart Ross). There was a very clear distinction between the Angles in Deira and Bernicia (Northumbria) and the Britons (Novantae, Stratheclyde, Lothian, Gododdin, etc.). In Maciamo's map, the highest concentration of I2a2 looks to skirt Bernicia. I suspect the Picts were just backcountry Britons.

The Picts were likely just a branch of Britons who due to the terrain and their distance (isolation) from Romanization came to be seen as mysterious as we see them now, it doesn't help that they didn't keep written records. In regards to Bernicia, Bernicia actually has a fair amount of Brittonic graves, and graves of individuals who are from Western Scotland/Northern Ireland, see here: https://www.heroicage.org/issues/4/Bamburgh.html, https://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/bamburghs-bowl-hole-burials.htm and https://bonesdontlie.wordpress.com/...s-and-bamburgh-testing-anglo-saxon-migration/
 
To say that it was similar to the other Brythonic languages is only partially correct. Pictish was probably more similar to (if not the same as) the "old" Brythonic language that was spoken in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, but by the dark ages (5th century onward), Brythonic and Pictish must have been clearly distinct languages. Most importantly, it would appear that Pictish retained the Proto-Celtic *w- (shifted to *f- in Old Irish, shifted to *gw- in Brythonic, retained in all "old" Celtic languages).

If they became geographically isolated from the more southern Brythonic groups, the speech of both would have diverged. If *w- was a retention, could it have been from an earlier stage of Brythonic (Proto-Brythonic?). Brythonic (P-Celtic) and Old Irish (Q-Celtic) would have diverged from each other for the same reason.

My own Y-DNA heritage (I2a M223-M284-L126-Y4751 "Isles Scot-Ire") became closely associated with the Continental and Brythonic "Celts" (R1b), but "when" and "where" is the question.
 
I've seen theories about the Picts being some super-distinct group of Europeans, with some possible pre-Indo-European links. Why does that never show up genetically? Scots are pretty comfortably Northern European, across their ethnic territory. In any case the highlanders most certainly are the descendants of the Picts, rather than the original "Scots" (which was then a synonym for Irish).
 
If they became geographically isolated from the more southern Brythonic groups, the speech of both would have diverged. If *w- was a retention, could it have been from an earlier stage of Brythonic (Proto-Brythonic?). Brythonic (P-Celtic) and Old Irish (Q-Celtic) would have diverged from each other for the same reason.

My own Y-DNA heritage (I2a M223-M284-L126-Y4751 "Isles Scot-Ire") became closely associated with the Continental and Brythonic "Celts" (R1b), but "when" and "where" is the question.


/w/ at beginning of words is remained in Old Brythonic and even in Old Britton of Britanny (Old Breton), where it was written 'u' or 'v', later 'uu' before becoming 'w' and then 'gw-' (this last appeard between VIII° and X° Cy if I don't mistake, maybe a bit sooner in brittany than on Cornwall and Wales). I can verify some time.
This reinforcement of /w/ was made at the initial but in Wales I think it had been employed ('gw' writing) even in centre of words as an analogy.
 
in centre of words before disappear quickly!
 
Some Picts were conquered by the Gaelic migrators from Ireland who created the [h=1]Dál Riata kingdom.[/h]
 
Some scholars has proposed to explain the Picts as not-romanized (and christianised) Brittons, having kept more ancient and "wild"like customs.
Some suppose their way of life and traditions were at first more widespread towards South before Roman conquest of Britain. We can add to this some kind of imbrication with non-Celtic little tribes of North Scotland.
Maybe we ought to took in consideration that Picts evolved with time and were no more the so feared and wild people in High Middle Age compared to Roman times?
 
What are the most common R1b sub-clades among Picts?

S530 is unique to Scotland. It is seldom found outside Scotland and is considered to be Pictish. Roughly 10% of Scotsmen carry it. There will be other Pictish subclads such as L21 and some I2 subclads, which were shared by other tribal groups in the British Ilses.
 
The term 'Pict' was never used before 297AD. Prior to that time the Romans refered to the peoples of northern Scotland as the Caledonians. I expect the reason for this was because by 297AD the Caledonains may have been the only northern tribal group encounted by the Romans who still painted their bodies

In his book 'Britain and Germany' - Tacitus described the Caledonains as: 'red haired and large limbed, which he considered features of Germanic origin: “The reddish (rutilae) hair and large limbs of the Caledonians proclaim a German origin'. Of course the Germanic origin is false, because all the placenames are Brythonic. Nevertheless, I am a bit bewildered as to how the weird story about the Picts being a short and dark skinned race originated.
 
Some Picts were conquered by the Gaelic migrators from Ireland who created the Dál Riata kingdom.

Before Dal Riata expanded its kingdom into western Scotland, there was a Caledonian tribe located in Argyle called the Epidii, who were already speaking Gaelic.
 

This thread has been viewed 51870 times.

Back
Top