When, how, and through whom did Celtic culture arrive in Britain?

stevenarmstrong

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Dear Eupedia Forum,

When I read a study on ancient DNA submitted for peer review in May that concluded that Rhine River Bell Beaker people replaced over 90% of the male population of Britain some 4,000 years ago, it made me wonder: who were the British Celts, where did they come from, and when did they arrive?

Were these Bell Beaker people the Celts? Stonehenge was supposed to have already been built by the time the B.B. folk arrived. Were the people who built Stonehenge pre-Celtic? And if the Bell Beaker essentially replaced the the native British male population thousands of years before the founding of Rome, then who were the Picts? Were they descendants of the Bell Beaker folk, or someone else?

Did the invading Celts bring their culture with them, fully formed? Or is what we consider “Celtic” today really a synthesis—a blend of Neolithic (Hunter Gatherer and Near East Farmer) and Bronze Age (Steppe) influences?

Where do the myths, legends, and modern data corroborate or contradict one another? How can we make sense of it all?

Earnestly Yours,
stevenarmstrong
 
The Bell Beaker who lived in Central Europe and were probably the bringers of steppe DNA admixture to Britain and also of Indo-European languages were certainly themselves a synthesis of Neolithic European and Steppe cultures and genetics. They had enough time to become a new people and a new ethnicity, and if the Olalde study was correct then it seems they also had received a significant influence from the non-IE (i.e. lacking steppe components) and pioneer Bell Beakers of Iberia.

Therefore, IMO Central European Bell Beaker was a mixed IE-speaking society and that's what thet brought to Britain, where they of course must've mixed a little more. I don't believe those were the Celts. The Celtic languages, with the exception of clear outliers like Lusitanian and perhaps Ligurian, were too similar to each other to descend from any language older than 1,500 BC. Proto-Celtic is usually estimated to have been spoken in the Unetice cultural period, ~1200 BC.

So, I believe Central Bell Beaker (not Iberian) were Pre-Celtic, and the Celts proper, with their characteristic culture and language, were just the late Unetice and perhaps early Hallstatt, whose ways (and language) were absorbed by similar peoples like the pre-Celtic British. It must've been a bit like the langue d'oïl French "absorbed" the Occitans and the Castillians absorbed the Mozarabs in the last centuries: those cultures didn't disappear, but melted a bit into the more dominant and related culture.
 
Yfull.com has the arrival of r1b L11 a t 4800 years ago.

As for the how, bronze weapons, horses, and galleys. Maybe better disease resistance as well.

Bell beakers first arrived in Spain, so North Africa is the most likely migration route.
 
Yfull.com has the arrival of r1b L11 a t 4800 years ago.

As for the how, bronze weapons, horses, and galleys. Maybe better disease resistance as well.

Bell beakers first arrived in Spain, so North Africa is the most likely migration route.

There are two groups of people who used bell shaped beakers. The ones in Spain have nothing to do with the steppe. The Bell Beakers who brought steppe ancestry to western Europe came from Central Europe, including Germany.

Please read Olalde et al:
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/05/09/135962
 
Stelae People had had arrived to Iberia and North Africa. Then they were called Bell Beaker people/tartessians/vettons/keltoi/Gaellicians/"Mil Espaine" (spanish soldier in Irish) and then Irish, British, Bretons, etc. So, Stelae People, Iberian way travellers in my opinion...
 
There are two groups of people who used bell shaped beakers. The ones in Spain have nothing to do with the steppe. The Bell Beakers who brought steppe ancestry to western Europe came from Central Europe, including Germany.

Please read Olalde et al:
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/05/09/135962
If you carefully read the full article you'll realize the Iberian A-DNA they used wasn't Bell Beaker. It either pre-dates the arrival of the Bell Beakers, or it's from a population that didn't mix with the Bell Beakers.
 
I'd like to make a few points:
first, "Celts" is originally a linguistic concept. The Celtic language family is part of the Indo-European languages. If we associate the Beaker-Bell culture with the Celtic languages, you have to wonder what do we associate with the other Indo-European branches (Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Greek, Italic, etc.). In my opinion, the Bell-Beaker culture is too old (also, too primitive) to be Celtic, and you have it in areas that were never Celtic (much of Italy), or even Indo-European until the arrival of the Greeks/Romans: I'm thinking of the Balearic Isles, Sardinia and Sicily - though some of Sicily's inhabitants before Greek colonization may have been recent immigrants from mainland Italy themselves. And the old Celtic languages (Celtiberian, Gaulish, Lepontic, etc.) are all far too similar to each other for the language family to have spread 2000 years earlier (Ygorcs mentioned this, I would agree with the estimate of 1200 BC). In so far, trying to tie an archaeological culture to a single language family is probably not a good idea.

(One thing to add): the Picts (in my opinion) were just the Brythonic people living in the north of Britain, without the influence from Roman occupation.
 
I'd like to make a few points:
first, "Celts" is originally a linguistic concept. The Celtic language family is part of the Indo-European languages. If we associate the Beaker-Bell culture with the Celtic languages, you have to wonder what do we associate with the other Indo-European branches (Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Greek, Italic, etc.).
I suggest you look at some language trees. The languages that have a common root around 3000 BC are the ones that derive from the common Bell Beaker language.
 
I agree with the caution showed by Taranis, but it's seems to me that Expredel is not completely wrong - I remember someones spoke of "Celto-Ligurian" culture concerning BB's. It' s a bit abrupt. But if we speak of the Central and N-W European BBs we can imagine links between them and future Celtic, Ligurian, Lusitanian, Italic (and NW Corner old IE language)...
(for genuine first BBs I don't know, I'm not sure at all we have "steal" prooves of the identity of initial Iberian BBs and of their precedent geographical origins and paths)
And some linguists think still even typical Celtic languages are older than Iron Hallstatt even if certainly not very older than 1500 BC; rather a language born in ONE of the large BB zone of influence BY one of the archaic western IE languages, what doesn't exclude some impulses from foreign elites more or less close; Hallstatt could have been only the Qw- >> P- IE people launcher.
 
What of skara brae, maeshowe and all the others plus the standing stones some of which date back to 3700bc ?
you guys have all that stuff as too early for R1b and acredit those to an existing population.
but sun temples and sky gods and cosmology practice ? a hallmark of Indo european ?
Or did they much like the Romans just take the credit of all the technology they mopped up on the way through ?

I am of the belief that this practice of star gazing only could have happend inside the artic circle. so either
(1) they had the tech allready 9000 bp in the steps.
(2) created it between 9000 and 6000 YBP on there way to orkey.
(3) created it in north western europe around 4000/3500bc
(4) learned it from from who ever was here prior there arrival

Theres no doubt it came out the north, But at what time and by who ?
 
The Bell Beaker who lived in Central Europe and were probably the bringers of steppe DNA admixture to Britain and also of Indo-European languages were certainly themselves a synthesis of Neolithic European and Steppe cultures and genetics. They had enough time to become a new people and a new ethnicity, and if the Olalde study was correct then it seems they also had received a significant influence from the non-IE (i.e. lacking steppe components) and pioneer Bell Beakers of Iberia.

Therefore, IMO Central European Bell Beaker was a mixed IE-speaking society and that's what thet brought to Britain, where they of course must've mixed a little more. I don't believe those were the Celts. The Celtic languages, with the exception of clear outliers like Lusitanian and perhaps Ligurian, were too similar to each other to descend from any language older than 1,500 BC. Proto-Celtic is usually estimated to have been spoken in the Unetice cultural period, ~1200 BC.

So, I believe Central Bell Beaker (not Iberian) were Pre-Celtic, and the Celts proper, with their characteristic culture and language, were just the late Unetice and perhaps early Hallstatt, whose ways (and language) were absorbed by similar peoples like the pre-Celtic British. It must've been a bit like the langue d'oïl French "absorbed" the Occitans and the Castillians absorbed the Mozarabs in the last centuries: those cultures didn't disappear, but melted a bit into the more dominant and related culture.

Thanks for weighing in! So then who brought Celtic culture and language to the British Isles, when, and how? If the R1b takeover of Britain was pre-Celtic, then how did Celtic culture become so widespread, its influence seemingly disproportionate to its genetic component? I don’t see how it’s possible these Bell Beaker folk weren’t the bringers of Celtic culture when you consider that no group has had a greater influence on British demographics before or since.
 
What of skara brae, maeshowe and all the others plus the standing stones some of which date back to 3700bc ?
you guys have all that stuff as too early for R1b and acredit those to an existing population.
but sun temples and sky gods and cosmology practice ? a hallmark of Indo european ?
Or did they much like the Romans just take the credit of all the technology they mopped up on the way through ?

I am of the belief that this practice of star gazing only could have happend inside the artic circle. so either
(1) they had the tech allready 9000 bp in the steps.
(2) created it between 9000 and 6000 YBP on there way to orkey.
(3) created it in north western europe around 4000/3500bc
(4) learned it from from who ever was here prior there arrival

Theres no doubt it came out the north, But at what time and by who ?

Why Arctic? If it’s a shift in observable star positions over time, that would be explained by procession, or are you referring to something else?
 
yes precession and the zodiac, sky gods and our calender all came like it says in the bible and mythology from the the land of the 24hour dark/light.
Ie The north pole or inside the artic circle of northern britain or norway at least.

It does not make any sense to me that R1 was not in north western europe prior the cacausus bottleneck.
They were here they had boats they went east to america in a boat 13500 years ago then later were pushed
out of europe towards the west by climate, only to return as proto indo europeans.
 
And the old Celtic languages (Celtiberian, Gaulish, Lepontic, etc.) are all far too similar to each other for the language family to have spread 2000 years earlier (Ygorcs mentioned this, I would agree with the estimate of 1200 BC).
A number of historians think the Celtic languages emerged before 1200 BC.
 
I'd like to make a few points:
first, "Celts" is originally a linguistic concept. The Celtic language family is part of the Indo-European languages. If we associate the Beaker-Bell culture with the Celtic languages, you have to wonder what do we associate with the other Indo-European branches (Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Greek, Italic, etc.). In my opinion, the Bell-Beaker culture is too old (also, too primitive) to be Celtic, and you have it in areas that were never Celtic (much of Italy), or even Indo-European until the arrival of the Greeks/Romans: I'm thinking of the Balearic Isles, Sardinia and Sicily - though some of Sicily's inhabitants before Greek colonization may have been recent immigrants from mainland Italy themselves. And the old Celtic languages (Celtiberian, Gaulish, Lepontic, etc.) are all far too similar to each other for the language family to have spread 2000 years earlier (Ygorcs mentioned this, I would agree with the estimate of 1200 BC). In so far, trying to tie an archaeological culture to a single language family is probably not a good idea.
(One thing to add): the Picts (in my opinion) were just the Brythonic people living in the north of Britain, without the influence from Roman occupation.
There are Picts inscriptions in Scotland, and the language doesn't looks as old Irish. That's really strange , because I heard that there was even a presence of Picts in Ireland earlier too. I think Picts emerged from the mix of the first IE elite warriors in Britain with the Neolithic farmers of British isles.
 
My own "convictions" :

We overlook the fact that we are talking about periods of time that span centuries, maybe millenia. People didn't wake up one morning to find a new socio-cultural order had set in overnight. Celtic culture is in my opinion a direct offshoot from the Unetice Culture (roughly put : 2300 - 1600 BCE). The Bell Beaker Culture (ca 2900 - 1800 BCE) had been there for half a millenium when the Unetice C. emerged.

At some point in time, probably very early, there must have been a FIRST westward migration (or several) of numerically few (but fierce) IE speakers (Q-celtic L21 and Lusitanian DF27 ?). Maybe they came as explorers (cp. The "mountain men" of the American West), or traders, or raiders/settlers. Anyway, they brought with them : the copper technology that gave Bell Beaker people their copper daggers ; the burial tumuli (at notable variance with former habits) ; and those IE languages no-one has as yet managed to classify : Lusitanian, Ligurian, ... . Otherwise, they didn't care much what kind of pots they drank their beer out of, and didn't much alter the other ways and customs of the (BB) locals. (Those people may even have retained connections of sorts with their original homeland, which could account for the BB expansion towards the north-east.)

Later on, maybe because salt and ore were abundant in the mountains, the Proto-Italo-Celtic U152 branch of the Unetice people moved en masse and weapon in hand across Bohemia, up the Danube and along the Alps to Bavaria and the Rhine. By that time, U106 had gone its own way northwards. Then it was that P-Celtic emerged. In due time, iron technology gave P-Celts the tools and weapons for another leap westwards. They moved into Gaul and central Iberia, descended on Northern Italy, and a new wave brought Brythonic and Pictish P-dialects to Britain.

Stonehenge, in my opinion, has very little to do with Celts. It's distinctly Atlantic Megalithic. At best, the above-mentioned first wave(s) of Celts might have arrived before the last stages were completed, but "culturally", Stonehenge has its roots in pre-IE local traditions and beliefs.
 
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There are Picts inscriptions in Scotland, and the language doesn't looks as old Irish. That's really strange , because I heard that there was even a presence of Picts in Ireland earlier too. I think Picts emerged from the mix of the first IE elite warriors in Britain with the Neolithic farmers of British isles.

concerning genetics your are maybe not so far from truth; concerning language, the only one whose we have some serious traces was brittonic, not gaelic!
 
Skara brae is astonishing because architecturely it doesn't evocate a purely occidental megalithic culture and no more the first IE, Celts or not - it rather evocates some East mediterranean culture to me, but I'm not archeologist. As already said, the Stone Henge and similar cultures were surely pre-IE -
@Ziober: your seem being mixing a lot of different things here!
 
The tales can easily overrun the truth but thanks to your question. I thought that Anne Ross's "Pagan Celtic Britain" might offer a starting point but as I was looking through I had a chance to reconnect with
Robert O Driscoll 's " The Celtic Consciousness" I hope that these sources might help in separating the myths from the truths. I also like this British source and it's methodoloy of telling a story.
Thanks again from waking my conciousness.

Late Celtic Period
.The date of the first use of iron, 'man's greatest step along the path of progress,' in Britain is uncertain. There was probably a period of some centuries when the iron was not unknown, but bronze continued to be the metal principally employed. Its full use did not, perhaps, begin till about B.C.. 500. (fn. 2)
During the later part of this period there was an invasion of Belgic tribes, tall, fair-haired people from north-east Gaul, who overran the south-east of Britain, including what is now Hertfordshire. In the first century B.C.., Cassivellaunus was the prince of the Belgic tribe of the Catuvelauni, miscalled by the MSS. of Ptolemy Catyeuchlani, whose territory extended into the present counties of Hertford, Middlesex, Buckingham and Bedford. Cæsar, in his second invasion (B.C.. 54), directed his march to the chief stronghold of this prince, which he eventually took. It is a reasonable conjecture that this stronghold was Verulam, near St. Albans, and, indeed, it answers well to the description given of it by Cæsar. (fn. 3) The Trinobantes, another Belgic tribe whose chief town was at Camulodunum or Colchester, inhabited the present county of Essex and probably the eastern parts of Hertfordshire.
Besides Verulam, it would seem from the number of ancient British coins and other objects found, that there were 'Late Celtic' settlements in the county at Braughing, Welwyn and Hitchin.
The 'Late Celtic' people developed a native art of high merit. Its chief characteristic was a wonderful mastery of line, and although the modelling of human and animal forms was weak, the boldness of the designs approached the classic. This art was adapted principally for metal work and pottery, and survived and developed through the Roman occupation. Some specimens have been found in Hertfordshire, but considering the prominence of the 'Late Celtic' people in the county, many may yet lie hidden in the ground. Bronze helmets have been found at Verulam and Tring, and other objects at Verulam and Welwyn. Some tapering 'cordoned' urns, probably copied from prototypes in metal and characteristic of this period, have been discovered at Hitchin.
Perhaps it was this people who brought coinage from Gaul into south-east Britain about B.C. 200. The coins were at first rude imitations of the gold stater of Philip II. of Macedon and being uninscribed, there is considerable doubt as to their date. The earliest inscribed coins are those of Tasciovanus, bearing his name and 'Ver.' for Verulam, which were struck at Verulam in gold, silver and bronze from B.C.. 30 to A.D. 5. A considerable number of these and other early British coins have been found in Hertfordshire.
 

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