Myths of British ancestry

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Myths of British ancestry


Read Stephen Oppenheimer’s follow-up to this article here, in the June 2007 edition of Prospect, as he answers some of the many comments and queries readers have sent in response to his analysis. You can also find out more about his work here, at the Bradshaw Foundation website.

The fact that the British and the Irish both live on islands gives them a misleading sense of security about their unique historical identities. But do we really know who we are, where we come from and what defines the nature of our genetic and cultural heritage? Who are and were the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish and the English? And did the English really crush a glorious Celtic heritage?

Everyone has heard of Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. And most of us are familiar with the idea that the English are descended from Anglo-Saxons, who invaded eastern England after the Romans left, while most of the people in the rest of the British Isles derive from indigenous Celtic ancestors with a sprinkling of Viking blood around the fringes.

Yet there is no agreement among historians or archaeologists on the meaning of the words “Celtic” or “Anglo-Saxon.” What is more, new evidence from genetic analysis (see note below) indicates that the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, to the extent that they can be defined genetically, were both small immigrant minorities. Neither group had much more impact on the British Isles gene pool than the Vikings, the Normans or, indeed, immigrants of the past 50 years.

The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language.

Another wave of immigration arrived during the Neolithic period, when farming developed about 6,500 years ago. But the English still derive most of their current gene pool from the same early Basque source as the Irish, Welsh and Scots. These figures are at odds with the modern perceptions of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon ethnicity based on more recent invasions. There were many later invasions, as well as less violent immigrations, and each left a genetic signal, but no individual event contributed much more than 5 per cent to our modern genetic mix.

Many myths about the Celts

Celtic languages and the people who brought them probably first arrived during the Neolithic period. The regions we now regard as Celtic heartlands actually had less immigration from the continent during this time than England. Ireland, being to the west, has changed least since the hunter-gatherer period and received fewer subsequent migrants (about 12 per cent of the population) than anywhere else. Wales and Cornwall have received about 20 per cent, Scotland and its associated islands 30 per cent, while eastern and southern England, being nearer the continent, has received one third of its population from outside over the past 6,500 years. These estimates, set out in my book The Origins of the British, come from tracing individual male gene lines from continental Europe to the British Isles and dating each one (see box at bottom of page).

If the Celts were not our main aboriginal stock, how do we explain the wide historical distribution and influence of Celtic languages? There are many examples of language change without significant population replacement; even so, some people must have brought Celtic languages to our isles. So where did they come from, and when?

The orthodox view of the origins of the Celts turns out to be an archaeological myth left over from the 19th century. Over the past 200 years, a myth has grown up of the Celts as a vast, culturally sophisticated but warlike people from central Europe, north of the Alps and the Danube, who invaded most of Europe, including the British Isles, during the iron age, around 300 BC.

Central Europe during the last millennium BC certainly was the time and place of the exotic and fierce Hallstatt culture and, later, the La Tène culture, with their prestigious, iron-age metal jewellery wrought with intricately woven swirls. Hoards of such jewellery and weapons, some fashioned in gold, have been dug up in Ireland, seeming to confirm central Europe as the source of migration. The swirling style of decoration is immortalised in such cultural icons as the Book of Kells, the illuminated Irish manuscript (Trinity College, Dublin), and the bronze Battersea shield (British Museum), evoking the western British Isles as a surviving remnant of past Celtic glory. But unfortunately for this orthodoxy, these artistic styles spread generally in Europe as cultural fashions, often made locally. There is no evidence they came to Britain and Ireland as part of an invasion.

Many archaeologists still hold this view of a grand iron-age Celtic culture in the centre of the continent, which shrank to a western rump after Roman times. It is also the basis of a strong sense of ethnic identity that millions of members of the so-called Celtic diaspora hold. But there is absolutely no evidence, linguistic, archaeological or genetic, that identifies the Hallstatt or La Tène regions or cultures as Celtic homelands. The notion derives from a mistake made by the historian Herodotus 2,500 years ago when, in a passing remark about the “Keltoi,” he placed them at the source of the Danube, which he thought was near the Pyrenees. Everything else about his description located the Keltoi in the region of Iberia.

The late 19th-century French historian Marie Henri d’Arbois de Jubainville decided that Herodotus had meant to place the Celtic homeland in southern Germany. His idea has remained in the books ever since, despite a mountain of other evidence that Celts derived from southwestern Europe. For the idea of the south German “Empire of the Celts” to survive as the orthodoxy for so long has required determined misreading of texts by Caesar, Strabo, Livy and others. And the well-recorded Celtic invasions of Italy across the French Alps from the west in the 1st millennium BC have been systematically reinterpreted as coming from Germany, across the Austrian Alps.

De Jubainville’s Celtic myth has been deconstructed in two recent sceptical publications: The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention by Simon James (1999), and The Celts: Origins, Myths and Inventions by John Collis (2003). Nevertheless, the story lingers on in standard texts and notably in The Celts, a Channel 4 documentary broadcast in February. “Celt” is now a term that sceptics consider so corrupted in the archaeological and popular literature that it is worthless.

This is too drastic a view. It is only the central European homeland theory that is false. The connection between modern Celtic languages and those spoken in southwest Europe during Roman times is clear and valid. Caesar wrote that the Gauls living south of the Seine called themselves Celts. That region, in particular Normandy, has the highest density of ancient Celtic place-names and Celtic inscriptions in Europe. They are common in the rest of southern France (excluding the formerly Basque region of Gascony), Spain, Portugal and the British Isles. Conversely, Celtic place-names are hard to find east of the Rhine in central Europe.

Given the distribution of Celtic languages in southwest Europe, it is most likely that they were spread by a wave of agriculturalists who dispersed 7,000 years ago from Anatolia, travelling along the north coast of the Mediterranean to Italy, France, Spain and then up the Atlantic coast to the British Isles. There is a dated archaeological trail for this. My genetic analysis shows exact counterparts for this trail both in the male Y chromosome and the maternally transmitted mitochondrial DNA right up to Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and the English south coast.

Further evidence for the Mediterranean origins of Celtic invaders is preserved in medieval Gaelic literature. According to the orthodox academic view of “iron-age Celtic invasions” from central Europe, Celtic cultural history should start in the British Isles no earlier than 300 BC. Yet Irish legend tells us that all six of the cycles of invasion came from the Mediterranean via Spain, during the late Neolithic to bronze age, and were completed 3,700 years ago.

Anglo-Saxon ethnic cleansing?

The other myth I was taught at school, one which persists to this day, is that the English are almost all descended from 5th-century invaders, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, from the Danish peninsula, who wiped out the indigenous Celtic population of England.

The story originates with the clerical historians of the early dark ages. Gildas (6th century AD) and Bede (7th century) tell of Saxons and Angles invading over the 5th and 6th centuries. Gildas, in particular, sprinkles his tale with “rivers of blood” descriptions of Saxon massacres. And then there is the well-documented history of Anglian and Saxon kingdoms covering England for 500 years before the Norman invasion.

But who were those Ancient Britons left in England to be slaughtered when the legions left? The idea that the Celts were eradicated—culturally, linguistically and genetically—by invading Angles and Saxons derives from the idea of a previously uniformly Celtic English landscape. But the presence in Roman England of some Celtic personal and place-names doesn’t mean that all ancient Britons were Celts or Celtic-speaking.

The genocidal view was generated, like the Celtic myth, by historians and archaeologists over the last 200 years. With the swing in academic fashion against “migrationism” (seeing the spread of cultural influence as dependent on significant migrations) over the past couple of decades, archaeologists are now downplaying this story, although it remains a strong underlying perspective in history books.

Some geneticists still cling to the genocide story. Research by several genetics teams associated with University College London has concentrated in recent years on proving the wipeout view on the basis of similarities of male Y chromosome gene group frequency between Frisia/north Germany and England. One of the London groups attracted press attention in July by claiming that the close similarities were the result of genocide followed by a social-sexual apartheid that enhanced Anglo-Saxon reproductive success over Celtic.

The problem is that the English resemble in this way all the other countries of northwest Europe as well as the Frisians and Germans. Using the same method (principal components analysis, see note below), I have found greater similarities of this kind between the southern English and Belgians than the supposedly Anglo-Saxon homelands at the base of the Danish peninsula. These different regions could not all have been waiting their turn to commit genocide on the former Celtic population of England. The most likely reason for the genetic similarities between these neighbouring countries and England is that they all had similar prehistoric settlement histories.

When I looked at exact gene type matches between the British Isles and the continent, there were indeed specific matches between the continental Anglo-Saxon homelands and England, but these amounted to only 5 per cent of modern English male lines, rising to 15 per cent in parts of Norfolk where the Angles first settled. There were no such matches with Frisia, which tends to confirm a specific Anglo-Saxon event since Frisia is closer to England, so would be expected to have more matches.

When I examined dates of intrusive male gene lines to look for those coming in from northwest Europe during the past 3,000 years, there was a similarly low rate of immigration, by far the majority arriving in the Neolithic period. The English maternal genetic record (mtDNA) is consistent with this and contradicts the Anglo-Saxon wipeout story. English females almost completely lack the characteristic Saxon mtDNA marker type still found in the homeland of the Angles and Saxons. The conclusion is that there was an Anglo-Saxon invasion, but of a minority elite type, with no evidence of subsequent “sexual apartheid.”

The orthodox view is that the entire population of the British Isles, including England, was Celtic-speaking when Caesar invaded. But if that were the case, a modest Anglo-Saxon invasion is unlikely to have swept away all traces of Celtic language from the pre-existing population of England. Yet there are only half a dozen Celtic words in English, the rest being mainly Germanic, Norman or medieval Latin. One explanation is that England was not mainly Celtic-speaking before the Anglo-Saxons. Consider, for example, the near-total absence of Celtic inscriptions in England (outside Cornwall), although they are abundant in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Brittany.

Who was here when the Romans came?

So who were the Britons inhabiting England at the time of the Roman invasion? The history of pre-Roman coins in southern Britain reveals an influence from Belgic Gaul. The tribes of England south of the Thames and along the south coast during Caesar’s time all had Belgic names or affiliations. Caesar tells us that these large intrusive settlements had replaced an earlier British population, which had retreated to the hinterland of southeast England. The latter may have been the large Celtic tribe, the Catuvellauni, situated in the home counties north of the Thames. Tacitus reported that between Britain and Gaul “the language differs but little.”

The common language referred to by Tacitus was probably not Celtic, but was similar to that spoken by the Belgae, who may have been a Germanic people, as implied by Caesar. In other words, a Germanic-type language could already have been indigenous to England at the time of the Roman invasion. In support of this inference, there is some recent lexical (vocabulary) evidence analysed by Cambridge geneticist Peter Forster and continental colleagues. They found that the date of the split between old English and continental Germanic languages goes much further back than the dark ages, and that English may have been a separate, fourth branch of the Germanic language before the Roman invasion.

Apart from the Belgian connection in the south, my analysis of the genetic evidence also shows that there were major Scandinavian incursions into northern and eastern Britain, from Shetland to Anglia, during the Neolithic period and before the Romans. These are consistent with the intense cultural interchanges across the North sea during the Neolithic and bronze age. Early Anglian dialects, such as found in the old English saga Beowulf, owe much of their vocabulary to Scandinavian languages. This is consistent with the fact that Beowulf was set in Denmark and Sweden and that the cultural affiliations of the early Anglian kingdoms, such as found in the Sutton Hoo boat burial, derive from Scandinavia.

A picture thus emerges of the dark-ages invasions of England and northeastern Britain as less like replacements than minority elite additions, akin to earlier and larger Neolithic intrusions from the same places. There were battles for dominance between chieftains, all of Germanic origin, each invader sharing much culturally with their newly conquered indigenous subjects.

So, based on the overall genetic perspective of the British, it seems that Celts, Belgians, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings and Normans were all immigrant minorities compared with the Basque pioneers, who first ventured into the empty, chilly lands so recently vacated by the great ice sheets.

Note: How does genetic tracking work?

The greatest advances in genetic tracing and measuring migrations over the past two decades have used samples from living populations to reconstruct the past. Such research goes back to the discovery of blood groups, but our Y-chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA are the most fruitful markers to study since they do not get mixed up at each generation. Study of mitochondrial DNA in the British goes back over a decade, and from 2000 to 2003 London-based researchers established a database of the geographically informative Y-chromosomes by systematic sampling throughout the British Isles. Most of these samples were collected from people living in small, long-established towns, whose grandparents had also lived there.

Two alternative methods of analysis are used. In the British Y-chromosome studies, the traditional approach of principal components analysis was used to compare similarities between whole sample populations. This method reduces complexity of genetic analysis by averaging the variation in frequencies of numerous genetic markers into a smaller number of parcels—the principal components—of decreasing statistical importance. The newer approach that I use, the phylogeographic method, follows individual genes rather than whole populations. The geographical distribution of individual gene lines is analysed with respect to their position on a gene tree, to reconstruct their origins, dates and routes of movement.

Discuss this article at First Drafts, Prospect’s blog

  1. June 12, 2013


    Reply to Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

    I did not suggest that the inhabitants of 30,000 years ago were Celts. I was following on from my previous comment that the Welsh (Cymric) language still has words in common with Hindi, which might indicate a more distant historical link to a smaller global population.

    The term Celts loosely describes the people who sailed the Atlantic coasts and islands, of what were still densely forested lands, and their Celtic (Gallic) languages developed later.

    The Basque language is unique however in not being Indo-European in origin.

  2. June 26, 2013


    Genetically, all Western Europeans are “Basques”. The Indo-Europeans were a small minority. They brought Indo-European languages without population replacement… ^^

    • October 20, 2013


      I know that the original report in this page was posted in 2006. Claming that, basically, germans are a tiny minority of the english population (5%; up to 15% in some specific locality). However, un up-to-date is necessary. people, please check this link
      it says that scientists have found genetic proof that english are basically germans: about 50% britons have a segment of DNA in common with danish and north germans. So, do we have to go back to the “genocide” hypothesis the author tried to dismiss?

      • February 2, 2014


        No, of course not. Oppenheimer has already covered this. “A segment” of DNA could be a contribution froma neolithic or later invasion, which would still leave Britons’ DNA predominantly Iberian.

        Second, there is no need for a “genocide” story – even if the DNA contribution from invaders were higher. There is zero archeological evidence for it, which basically rules out such a huge slaughter. It could be explained by social dominance – IF it existed at all, which it does not.

        Third, once science has found an answer, it does not need “an update”. If it’s right, it’s right forever!

        • April 6, 2014


          ” … once science has found an answer, it does not need “an update”. If it’s right, it’s right forever!”

          Irony, I hope. Otherwise Karl Popper and his ilk will be spinning in their graves.

        • April 7, 2014


          Strange. I always thought Einstein was an “update” on Newton. I am told that when matter is approaching the velocity of light the mathematical paradigms of Newtonian Mechanics start to break down and tumble into insoluble contradictions.

  3. July 16, 2013


    The term ‘Indo-European’ refers to a language group, not a population.

    Modern English, classical Latin, Sanskrit and Hindi are all Indo-European languages.

    The ‘Indo-Europeans’ were not ‘a small minority’. That sentence doesn’t make any sense.

  4. July 24, 2013

    Neil Wheatley

    Following the recent change of evidence concerning the Neanderthals, ie every body has Neanderthal DNA except the africans. It would be interesting to know if this group of Basques have a higher percentage of Neanderthal genes than other europeans. This would help explain why this group survived the ice age and also why the Basques have such powerful frames and unique culture and also other unique traits such as blood type. As they repopulated europe and Britain their DNA changed as they came into contact with other groups….

    • March 5, 2014


      Basques have the highest percentage of neanderthal DNA than any other group of humans in the world.

  5. August 14, 2013


    The Belgae did NOT speak a Germanic language, that is false! All the ancient place names in modern-day Belgium are exclusively Celtic in origin.

    • October 6, 2013

      Jean-Marc de Picardie

      Entièrement d’accord avec vous! Quant aux toponymes celtes qui seraient absents outre Rhin, rien n’est plus faux. Au contraire, leur frontière nord qui va des Pays bas jusqu’à la Pologne en passant par le centre de l’Allemagne est même jalonnée de noms de lieux en doublets celtes et germaniques ce qui permet de déterminer que toute la moitié sud de l’ALLEMAGNE, l’Autiche, la Suisse et l’Italie du nord étaient des rerres celtiques!

  6. August 26, 2013

    andrew galea

    I wonder whether there are any studies linking Neanderthal to any modern European Group.

  7. August 28, 2013

    James Ensor

    What can be said about the Picts? I understand that a specific Pictish gene has been discovered peculiar to the people of north-eastern Scotland. Even today people, in this region tend to be taller, slimmer, sometimes with larger noses and ears than people to the south and west. They also often have very narrow feet, only otherwise found in the Baltic countries. This would seem to be indicative of another early incursion of people from across the North Sea, with so far as one can see from the limited relics, a different culture and language and a remarkable ability to carve animal figures in stone.

    • August 29, 2013

      John Garcia

      There is always the chance of another baltic migration. There very well could have been a Doggerland migration to what is now known as scotland as well. We will never know. The whole picts thing though is probably much simpler than people tend to think. They never called themselves picts, that was a word applied to them. They were mostly likely just speakers of a Celtic language like the rest of the isles (and the continent) at this time.

      The whole mystery aspect and way the mind works, makes us complicate it. There is some evidence to assume that they spoke just a normal P-Celtic language. Scottish Gaelic (originally from ireland, Q-Celtic) still has many old loan words and a verb system of P celtic, Basically good chance it was the same as the rest of Britain.

      • August 29, 2013

        James Ensor

        The origin of the Picts is clearly still a mystery as there is so litle evidence of their writing. But Bede, who spoke to them, required an interpreter, which suggests that their language was not very close to the Celtic, in use further south. Surviving place names also differ. And their descendants are physically very different from the descendants of Celts in other parts of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. Presumably this would show up in a genetic analysis,

        • August 29, 2013

          Roger Henderson

          Bede spoke English and, as did churchman of his day, he was a master of Latin and Greek. I have never noticed in writing that he spoke any kind of Celtic languages and so he WOULD have need an interpreter to speak to the Picts. Place names would suggest that a Celtic language was used in the region, though it does not necessarily follow that this would be identical with Gaelic, which did not become prominent until later. Pictish has never been decyphered as so we will have to wait for a clear indication on that account.

        • August 30, 2013

          John Garcia

          Check the DNA and Haplogroups, they’re identical to northern england and the rest of england for that matter. People want it to be something *different*, short person with black hair, oh boy that’s a pict right there.

          Things are very simple. All the pict names and everything were all celtic. The area was covered by celtic languages. Place names are celtic, why in the world would you not thing it’s celtic. Also spaniards and portuguese needs interpreters, the languages are only a few hundred years apart really. Same goes for even galician to standard spanish.

          The picts were the first people on that island and likely came from continental europe as everyone else.

  8. August 30, 2013

    James Ensor

    Galician is close to Portuguese and Portuguese can understand Spaniards, but the reverse is more difficult not least because of the tortured pronunciation of Portuguese.

    The Picts were clearly not short and dark. On the contrary, they and their descendants are tall and fair. They appear to have built encampments on peninsulas which suggests that they may have been fisherman and seafarers. Given the relatively short distance from Orkney, Shetand and the north-east coast of Scotland to Norway and the Baltic, it seems likely that they would have arrived by ship, perhaps later than other incomers. If they spoke Cetic, their carvings would have been easily interpreted. I am sure that they picked it up later just as they later took on english.

  9. September 8, 2013

    paul macallister

    one thing is that is clearly apparent even to this day, is that the South Welsh are clearly of Mediterranean (Iberian) stock. you only have to look at some famous people of South Wales (origin), such as actress Catherine Zeta Jones, football manager Chris Coleman, London comic Alan Davies, Welsh comic Rob Brydon, to see the classic dark hues that are omnipresent in South Wales people. a lot more than in other parts of the UK.

    • February 24, 2014


      My south Welsh ancestry is pretty mixed in fact when you look at it in detail. How Welsh is the south Welsh population really?

  10. September 13, 2013


    The “race” element is open to discussion depending on the latest opinions or advances in genetics. If you’re interested in that stuff, a bit like genealogy, fine. The more fascinating story is linguistic. The language named “Celtic” shares features with others. This has given rise to conjectural families eg Italo-Celtic and Celto-Semitic. The latter on the basis of person postfixed pronouns, a two tense system and verb initial sentences. All fascinating stuff, but not helping one jot in saving Welsh, both varieties of Gaelic, Breton, Cornish and Manx from extinction. If they disappear a distinct linguistic worldview disappears too.

  11. September 13, 2013

    Will Hobson

    Isn’t it strange that you can find a lot of dark native britons especially jn Wales and London with olive skins and brown eyes. Yet is fairly common to find fair ir blonde haired and blue eted Sicilians due to part Norman and Viking mixing, Greeks, Spanish, north Pakistani’s and Iranians. Countries people normally associate as a sark haired olive skinned peoples. The Galicians too claim to be goidelic celts akin to the Manx, West Scots and Irish. Bear in mind also there was a region in central Turkey called Galatia.

    • September 16, 2013


      People have travelled to and from Wales for a very long time. In the very distant past: there were neanderthals who left evidence of their inhabiting the area 230,000 years ago. Then there is the Red Lady of Haviland – a tomb of a young modern human man with detailed ornaments, valuable trading objects, and evidence of funerary rites, dating back to 33,000 years ago.

      The dark skins of many modern Welsh most likely date back to the withdrawal of the Romans when many were left behind. Likewise the blond A blood group people of Pembrokeshire were originally French speaking Normans. The small dark people were said to be first, then the Celtic seaboard traders brought the Gallic languages, and the R1b haplogroup which is most densely inherited in Western Ireland.

      Welsh people originally claimed America for Elizabeth I – ‘What Prince Madoc found, so the legend runs, was America. He and his brother managed to cross the Atlantic and land on the shores of the New World. Madoc returned to Gwynedd for more men, then sailed off again, this time never to return. His sailors inter-married with a local Native American tribe and for years the rumour of Welsh speaking Native American tribes was widely believed. It is, of course, the stuff of legend but like all good legends it has at least a grain of truth about it.

      As America was explored and colonised several Native American tribes were discovered, speaking a language that did actually sound quite like Welsh. That was not the only connection. The Mandan Indians used Bull Boats for transport and fishing, vessels that were identical to the famous Welsh coracles.’ [BBC blogs]

      It is difficult to map the travelling which occurred between ice ages, and the pockets of peoples who remained in one place and settled. DNA mapping is opening the information storehouse!

      • October 20, 2013


        To Alyson,
        You have to bring up something, better evidence, than just hypothetical tales, which come from sources that are not credible; it’s more than just wishful thinking, to believe that there are amerindians descendants from welsh. Besides, I believe that a just a handful of suppesdly welsh settlers would be insignifant to leave a mark in the language: they would have rather assimilated. Note, there is no such scientific proof of welsh influence in an indian language. period. Now, if you find an “indian”, with haplogroup clearly european, it is most likely that an english settler post-colonies married to an indian.

  12. September 13, 2013

    Will Hobson

    Sorry about the miss spelling. It was done from my mobile phone.

  13. September 15, 2013


    I have my own hypothesis about this, and I am more than open to information that refutes it. It would explain a handful of different historical, genetic, and archaeological phenomena. It is based on a few different things: some of the oldest evidence of humans in Europe is from Western Europe, 30-40 thousand years ago, or more; several Native American tribes along the American east coast have neolithic European genes (albeit a small percentage of their genes); there is evidence of tools found in eastern North America that are identical to tools found in Western Europe from the same time period (about 20 thousand years or so ago); some preserved “bog” bodies, about 10 thousand years old, have been found in northern Florida that are directly related to modern western Europeans; although contested, there are those who maintain that King Tut was part of the same haplogroup as most Western European men alive today, based on the recent analysis of his DNA; the Basque people, while speaking a different language from the rest of the Western Europeans, are genetically related to them.

    Given that information, my hypothesis (and please let me know if someone else has already thought of this. It is not my desire to take credit for someone else’s idea) is that after humans left Africa, a population of people from the stock of people that were Caucasoidal from somewhere in Western Asia migrated back down toward the Mediterranean and North Africa. That population migrated across the southern border of the Mediterranean toward Gibraltar, some of whom stayed behind along the way leaving some of their genes behind (such as those who would later become Pharaohs). Those people, possibly heavy into fishing, went to the west coast of Spain (possibly east as well, becoming the Iberians), up into France, and then, when the glaciers retreated, up into the British Isles. If they were a fishing people and had done some boating, some of them could have kept moving north, following the sea life along the edge of the ice sheet into North America, eventually working their way south.

    As those same people didn’t venture too far inland in Europe, they also didn’t venture too far inland in North America, being assimilated into the populations from northeast Asia, leaving a relatively small genetic footprint in a geographically limited area.

    As they were a fishing population, they would have gotten plenty of vitamin D from the sea life, and while the decreased sunlight would have caused their skin to get lighter, it would not have gotten as light as the Europeans who came from inland western Asia, and certainly not as light as the Nordic peoples. Thus those coastal peoples as a whole would have a somewhat darker complexion, which could explain why the Welsh can tend to have some darker features.

    On the whole, I don’t find it completely ridiculous that Europe could have first been populated (I couldn’t say how extensively) via Gibraltar before it was ever populated via western Asia, some going west up the Atlantic coast north from Spain, and some going east along the northern Mediterranean. And I don’t pretend to know what factors caused the Indo-European languages to dominate Europe the way they did. I suspect that Europe was populated from at least two directions, meeting somewhere in the middle, but with the Easterners’ language(s) dominating, and the languages of those who came through Spain becoming extinct (except for modern Basque).


  14. September 16, 2013

    James Ensor

    Stephen Oppenheimer certainly supports your view that the British Isles were populated by Basques after the Ice Age retreated northward. He works mostly from genetic evidence. He believes that the Basque people once occupied a far larger area of the Continent but retreated into Northern Spain as the ice drove them south into a warmer refuge. He suggests that migrating peoples entering Europe generally crossed the Dardanelles or what is now Ukraine rather than the Straits of Gibraltar. But it must be hard to establish precise routes and the Arabs did later cross into Iberia, this way.

    He considers that Western Europe was virtually the last place to be inhabited by humans and Neanderthals, starting to move north between 7,500 and 15,000 years ago. North America was populated much earlier across the Bering Straits. It is often suggested that Europeans also arrived there well before Columbus, perhaps sailing friom Greenland.

    The extent to which fisher folk were also sea farers and moved by small boats along the coasts from river estuary to river estuary does seem to have been overlooked. It is certainly a much simpler route to follow than traversing the Pyrenees passes, especially before the use of horses or mules.

    My own view would be that the Basques, who are still keen fishers and excellent sailors would have come to Britain by sea, perhaps in a long series of hops up the French coast. I believe that the Picts came into North Eastern Scotland in similar fashion across the North Sea. The Scots, themselves, a Celtic people, are known to have traversed from Ireland by boat into the West of Scotland. Maybe they crossed into Ireland from England or Wales also by sea, at an earlier date.

    Oppenheimer believes that Basque origin accounts for three quarters of the genetic make-up in all British Isles nations, with little influence from Angles, Saxons , Celts, Romans, Vikings or Normans. Obviously the complex and abstruse language was abandoned. But some peolle have noted links between Basque and Caucasian languages, at least in the peculiar grammar.

    • April 7, 2014


      I think the problem with the sailing hypothesis is that there is no evidence that anyone had any ships capable of sailing on intentional courses in stormy and tidal waters much before 400BC. It is hard enough to even imagine the Phoenicians loading up their boats with tin ingots or ore in Cornwall and beating a course back down to the straits of Gibraltar, so the idea that entire populations populated western europe that way before that epoch seems remote.

      • April 7, 2014

        James Ensor

        I have made that passage in a modern Swedish-designed sloop and i readil;y accept thatit would not have been an enjoyable trip, especuially without modern weather forecasting. But manyof the inhabitants of the Atlantic coastal regions must have been fishermen, form the earliest times. It is not so dificult to believe that the boats that took them out fishing a few miles off-shore to catch mackerel and bass might not also have been capable of a Channel crossing.

        I too am sceptical that boats from the Levant sailed up the Portuguese coast and across Biscay. But some centuries later, the Vikings were certainly making genuine ocean passages in relativel;y small boats.

        • April 8, 2014


          Incidentally, I too, have set out from Falmouth in spring heading west in a small boat to be later hit by a NE gale (rare, according to the pilot), so have some experience of sailing those waters. I feel sure that the Cornwall trade was most likely to be across the channel and then overland, These overland routes would explain genetic mixing. One of the problems with this most interesting discussion is that it plays fast and loose with a very long timescale. Over a thousand years of technology separates Phoenicians and Vikings. Even so it is hard to imagine those viking boats with their very low freeboard making consistent long voyages in heavy seas. I have been on the Atlantic in a mirror calm for days on end but even so the idea that stable American colonies were created and supported by early Europeans is difficult to understand especially considering that almost all the western colonies of Americas after Columbus failed in the beginning. Certainly sailors may have made it across to by chance but it is a long way from there to saying they had much or indeed any influence on the Americas. There must be a lot more about the conditions of those post glacial times than we know. But to the point under discussion, the population of early Britain and the Basques. There is no Basque linguistic residual in the language we speak, hardly any Celtic words which suggests at least that these populations were both distinct and supplanted by other peoples quite early. Later Neanderthal settlements are found progressively further and further south, the latest being Gibraltar at around 30,000 BC and several thousand years before the last glacial maximum which suggests that either something or someone pushed the Neanderthals south. If we imagine a new human population moving in above the Mediterranean and finding themselves reduced to the warmer bays and coastal regions with the advent of a colder climate then they would be there before any population movements northward from the mediterranean after the end of glaciation. The Basque language probably originates in this first population, only to be supplanted by Indo-european languages coming both through the Mediterranean and from central asia – incidentally confirming overland trade as being very much more significant rather than overseas trade.

  15. October 6, 2013

    Jean-Marc de Picardie

    je suis français, je veux bien admettre que la majeure partie des britanniques soit d’origine basque et que las apports celtiques, germaniques et scandinaves soient restés marginaux. Mais alors comment expliquer l’absence de toponymes basques en Grande Bretagne et l’absence totale de mots basques au sein des langues anglaises ou encore galloise, irlandaise et écossaise? Cela n’a pas de sens. Le Pays basque est une des provinces de mon pays et nous connaissons très bien ses spécificités, en particulier son attachement vicséral à sa langue l’euskuara qu’il préserve et continue de parler depuis des millénaires. Alors si vraiment les 4/5 du “british people” étaient d’ascendance basque je vous prie de croire qu’aujourd’hui ce n’est pas l’anglais (ce mélange de français et de germanique) que vous parleriez aujourd’hui mais le basque! Autre détail important: les Anglais, du moins ceux de l’ANGLETERRE orientale sont plutôt blonds et ressemblent nettement plus à des Français du nord, ou à des Hollandais qu’à des basques ibéres connus pour avoir des cheveux très foncés.

    • October 7, 2013

      James Ensor

      More recent DNA research than that quoted by Stephen Oppenheimer in 2006, seems to complicate the simple picture that he presented. Matters are made more opaque by the changed names of certain DNA Haplotypes, as new discoveries are made. The Haplogroup R1b based on Y DNA and therefore passed down the male line is the most prominent, within the British islands. It is also predominant along the Atlantic Coast of France and in Flanders., along the Mediterranean coast of Spain and in Galicia. An isolated island also occurs in the Bashkir region of Siberia, close to the Ural mountains.

      More recent research has discovered certain mutations of the basic R1b Haplogroup which identify later population splits. For instance the SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) mutation M269 defines a more recent descent than the general R1b. This Haplotype has had its name changed but is currently called R1B1a2 defining it as a subset of the general R1b. It is thought to have mutated in a single individual between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago.

      Here are estimates of its presence of M269 in various populations:

      Donegal 98%
      Wales 92%
      Basques Spain 87%
      Ile et Villain 80%
      Cornwall 78%
      Finisterre 75%
      Basques France 75%
      Scotland 70%
      South East England 70%
      Leicestershire 62%

      There are still different opinions about how people with this mutation moved around Europe, but it was though to have been well after the Ice Age.

      Another mutation of R1b is indicated by the marker S68, also known as L165. It is found in England, Norway, and Scotland (mostly in the Northern and Western Isles) and presumed to be Viking in origin.

      The marker M222 appears in Scots and Northern Irish and indicates settlement from Northern Ireland into Scotland.

    • October 20, 2013


      Oui, je suis aussi d’accord. C’est du materiel a en reflechir. Cependant, je crois que nous sommes heurtes a un conflit origine par les approches d’etudes divergents en nature: Les Basques, avec une langue misterieuse, certainement, comme aucune autre en europe; helas, d’apres l’information genetique, ou du moins, le lineage Y, les basques ont le meme haplogroup que le reste de peoples d’europe occidentale, y compris l’espagne, le portugal, la fraance, el les iles britaniques et l’irlande. Je me rapelle un passage de la Bible, qui vient a notre aide: L’histoire de la Tour de Babel, et la confusion de langues; tous a peut pres genetiquement similaire ont donne naissance a des langues diverses. Pour le croyant, cette historie a de quoi etre valable, encore miex que de conjectures inventes de nulle part, et du “whishful thinking”. Salut!

    • March 27, 2014


      vous avez tout à fait raison quand vous dites que les anglais orientaux rassemblent beaucoup les hollandais ou bien les français du nord: ils sont beaucoup plus blonds et grands. Cependant les britanniques de chez moi, c’est-à-dire les Cournouaillais et les Devonais à l’ouest du pays, sont plutôt moins grands et aux cheveux brun foncés ou roux. Ça en est de même pour les gens de tout l’ouest de l’Angleterre, les Cournouailles, le Pays de Galles et l’ouest de l’Ecosse. J’ai déjà remarqué qu’il y a une ligne assez évidente qui divise l’ouest et l’est, en ce qui concerne le physique des britanniques. (Désolée pour les erreurs en français!)

  16. October 7, 2013

    James Ensor

    Merci Jean-Marc. Vous avez bien sur une connaisance des Basque beacoup plus developee que la mienne. Je sais que la langue Basque possede une structure tellement complique qui n`est plus present dans tous les autres langues europeens.
    Il faut dire que on ne trouve pas enormement des noms celtiques de villages en Angleterre, sauf en Cournaille, la domaine la plus recente des peuples celtiques. Souvent un nom celtique comme Camys (baie) garde son propre pronunciation mais est ecrit a la Normande comme Cambois. Evidement les scribes qui a dessine les premieres cartes etaient francophone.

    Peut etre ca c`est aussi arrive aux nommes basques. Pas d`explication pour le manque d`influence de la langue basque ni sur l`anglais ni sur la culture anglaise.
    Mais beacoup des centaines ont passes et beacoup des autres peuples sont arrive sur nos plages, depuis les Basques.

    Sur le cote oriental du pays de Grande Bretagne on trouve un bon proportion des blonds. Ces sont sans doute les heriteurs des Jutes, des Angles, des Vikings, des Saxons et en Ecosse des Picts. Pour le plupart des Brittanique la decourveture des resultats des enquetes DNA etait une grande surprise.

    J`m`excuse pour less accents manquants et les fautes grammatiques.

    • October 7, 2013


      Indeed – and the Normans who conquered Normandy were Norse-men or Vikings – who subsequently arrived in Pembrokeshire where some place names are French and many people are blond.

      Welsh (Cymric) was the language of the British Isles (before the Jutes and Angles pushed the tribes back to the mountains of Wales) as in Cumbria – the language was spoken up to the borders of Scotland. Written records of early British history are therefore only in old Welsh which few people can read these days.

      Written symbols of the old Gallic language spoken by the mountain people of Morocco appears similar to the runic symbols left in Galicia. Languages get superseded by changes in the dominant group. The bagpipes and tartans of Galicia seem loosely related to Scottish music, but with the addition of Eastern European Visigoth dance rhythms (is my guess).

      Heavy bones are also found in some Native Americans tribes – many of whom cannot swim – because they sink. It is fascinating to learn the range of differences and similarities between different migratory groups and where they have settled and stayed.

      • October 8, 2013

        Mike Ellwood

        Quote: “Welsh (Cymric) was the language of the British Isles (before the Jutes and Angles pushed the tribes back to the mountains of Wales) as in Cumbria – the language was spoken up to the borders of Scotland. Written records of early British history are therefore only in old Welsh which few people can read these days” – Unquote.

        Be careful, since that is the “$64,000″ question – what was the language spoken (at least in the eastern part of the English part of) the British Isles. Stephen Oppenheimer’s article above (and I believe his book) refutes the idea of any “ethnic cleansing” by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, and I believe this is pretty much supported by the earlier genetic work of Professor Bryan Sykes. Furthermore, Michael Goormachtigh and Dr Anthony Durham of the website have developed a fairly sophisticated thesis (based partly on the work of Stephen Oppenheimer) that strongly suggests that a Germanic language (or languages- so-called “Proto-English”) are or were spoken in England roughly to the south and east of a line drawn from The Wash to The Solent, prior to the “Anglo-Saxon Invasion(s)”.

        Until recently, like most people I guess, I also had assumed that a Celtic language had been spoken everywhere in England (as well as in Wales, Scotland and Ireland), but I am now finding the work of Michael Goormachtigh & Dr Anthony Durham, as well as Stephen Oppenheimer, more and more convincing.

  17. October 8, 2013

    Mike Ellwood

    For what it’s worth, Scandinavians also vary quite a bit in shape, size, and colouring. I’ve known very tall Norwegians and Swedes, and very short Danes, but not all Danes are short, and not all Norwegians and Swedes are tall, and they are not all blond(e), either. It’s probably wisest not to read too much into obvious signs of appearance (especially given that hair can easily be recoloured), and go by genetics where the numbers are available.

    FWIW, the earlier work of Professor Bryan Sykes (author of “Blood of the Isles”) seems to pretty much support that of Stephen Oppenheimer, and he noted that the genetics of the vast majority of the inhabitants of modern England were about the same as they had been in the Neolithic Age. Furthermore, the genetic input of the Romans and Normans was negligible. That of the Vikings (especially in the North-East) and of the Anglo-Saxons (especially in the South-East of England) was higher, but less than 20%. The exception was Shetlands and Orkney, where the Viking input is about 40%.
    (Please see his Wikipedia page for more detail).

  18. October 8, 2013

    Mike Ellwood

    (Just agreeing with the person defending Oppenheimer’s use of the word “England”):

    Quite so, and while no one disputes that Celtic languages were spoken in Wales, Scotland and Ireland in antiquity (we might quibble about which languages though, especially in Scotland), the big question is what language was spoken in what we now called England (or for short, just “England”), before the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came, especially in central and south-east England (or roughly a line drawn south and easy between The Wash and The Solent. Was it Celtic, or was it Germanic, and if it was Celtic, how did it disappear almost without trace? Almost no loan-words, and only a few place-names, and these are disputed by the people at the website – (to which I have no connection, by the way).

    • October 8, 2013

      Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

      It is most likely that those were the same people as on the continent in front, i.e. the Belgae (cf. J. Caesar). They may have been Brythonic (Welsh-like) tribes, but it has also been suggested some tribes may have been Germanic, something I doubt, because the term ‘Germanic’ was used rather loosely by the Romans, basically meaning people living east of the Rhine, and it is historically possible that some were actually Celtic (cf. Switzerland, W. Austria, e.g. Hallein, Halstadt and other salt mine towns with ‘hal’ (salt) in their name,…). The only thing we can be sure of is that the Belgae were not Gallic Celts and very probably did not speak a Gaelic-type language.

      • October 8, 2013

        Mike Ellwood

        And for what it’s worth, there are also “tribes” like the Atrebates and Catuvellauni to consider, who were a bit further inland than the “Belgae” (if Wikipedia is to be believed). Wikipedia seems to have decided that they were Celtic (e.g. origin of name related to Proto-Celtic), but that could be a kind of confirmation bias (“we ‘know’ that they were Celts, so let’s furiously comb the Celtic dictionaries until we come up with a convincing-looking origin of the name….” sort of thing, as mentioned on the Proto-English website).

        On the other hand, no particular evidence for them being Germanic, either.

        • October 8, 2013

          Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

          The Atrebates were one of the ‘Belgian’ tribes, i.e. Belgae themselves.

  19. October 8, 2013

    Mike Ellwood

    (To the person who claimed Oppenheimer had said the British had been speaking a Germanic language for tens of thousands of years) -

    It would have been mad if he had said that, but he didn’t say it. Not that I can see, anyway.

  20. October 8, 2013


    Did the `Jutes and Angles push the tribes back to the mountains of Wales`? This goes to the heart of the debate, the origins of the British population. My understanding is that DNA suggests far fewer Angles came to this island than previously supposed and there is no conclusive archeological evidence of conflict or battles, as there are from the time of the Roman conquest.

  21. October 8, 2013

    James Ensor

    It was once thought that the Angles and Saxons committed a holocaust in England and wiped out the existing population almost entirely, driving the remaining tribes into Cornwall and Wales. Oppenheimer`s genetic research repudiates this theory for he believes that only 5.5% of people in England derive from Angle or Saxon ancestry. Except in Kent, the Jute influence would be even less, whilst Vikings seem to have had impact mostly on the Northern and Western isles, Cumbria, the Meon Valley and Isle of Wight. You can certainly notice more fair skins, blond hair and light eyes in these districts, even today. Caesar`s Roman legionaires mostly came from Portugal, where he was based before invading England,

    West Pembrokeshire is known to have had a comparatively recent influx of Flemish weavers, who were originally traced by their A blood group, before advances in DNA research. Basques are very high in Rh+ and entirely lacking in B blood groups. But it seems that DNA is a better guide to origin.

    The ScotlandDNA research group based at Edinburgh University has recently suggested that R1b with the S530 marker indicates ancient Picts rather than the Scots that came into Scotland from Ireland, who have M222. S530 is thought to have emerged 3,000 years ago, It accounts for 10% of Scotsmen. It is believed to have spread rapidly with people who crossed the North Sea bringing with them the cultivation of wild oats and the cuisine of porridge, from the Baltic coast, into a land still inhabited by hunter-gatherers.


  22. October 8, 2013

    Mike Ellwood

    Richard on April 13 2013 said:

    As I have said elsewhere, I have recently returned from Norway. I cannot say that the Norwegians looked any different from most Britons, except that they they looked fitter and happier.
    When I was born and up until I was about 8 or so, I was a blue eyed blonde. Then as I got older my hair turned brown. What does that say about racial origins I wonder? I might add I was not unique. I think most kids of my generation (post war baby boom) had the same change in hair colour.

    Quite: on a short trip which included Denmark, Sweden and Norway, I found exactly the same sort of variety. The only common factor was that I found the women very beautiful, especially in Norway, but that means nothing, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I might have only noticed the beautiful ones! We need to beware of making subjective judgments from limited observations.

    I too have blue eyes & was very blonde when young, and am now darkish The same is true of my children, and appears to have been true of my wife (Yorks+Lancs heritage).

  23. October 8, 2013


    Stephen Oppenheimer’s fondness for the Basques may stem from the homogeneity of their language and locality but the western seaboard of the Atlantic brought people to trade along all the coasts for millenia. This mix of peoples may not have penetrated much in the inner parts of the country hence the meeting of Celts and Saxons midway.

    Genetic testing will determine more of the intermixing of different tribes over time, and needs to also look at the dominant strands in the female dna history to determine what mixing occurred where and when. The first book I read on this theme was by a Welsh academic but this is from the Irish perspective:

    “The Atlantean Irish”

    by Bob Quinn
    “This thesis is refreshing in that it states that the Irish are not a homogenous fiction called ‘celtic’ but an energetic mixture of many peoples and cultures inhabiting what for thousands of years has essentially been an island trading post.

    The maritime perspective brings them a lot closer to mediterranean peoples – including Arabs and Berbers – than to the jaded fictions of ‘Celts’ or ‘Aryans’.”
    THE Atlantean Irish book and films show that the island of Ireland was never a remote outpost on the fringes of Europe. From the hunters and fishermen of the megalithic age, then the Carthaginians of the 1st Milennium to the crooked investors, carpetbaggers and drug smugglers of the modern age, from Eastern monks fleeing persecution to 19th century prosletysers, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, the island has always been regarded as a lucrative trading post and a desirable residence.

    This Atlantean adventure, in the Bob Quinn version, is not the fanciful residue of a submerged continent or a racist fiction called ‘Celts’.
    It is a revelation of Irish identity using much the same sources and scholarship that have been available for the past 1000 years to armchair scholars and writers. But here, for the first time, their conclusions are exposed to the light of commonsense i.e. historic reality, field research and wide travel.

    The basic principle is that the sea does not divide peoples – it unites all countries and human beings.

    ‘In megalithic times the Irish sea was bright with argonauts’ – E.G.Bowen
    For a couple of centuries the Vikings ruled the Atlantic waves from the mediterranean to Norway. Dublin was their slave emporium. 800 years later the pirate corsairs from North Africa maintained the connections – as far as Iceland.They even kidnapped the entire population of Baltimore, Co. Cork and brought them back to Algiers.
    The island of Ireland was and is a traffic island.

    The project began innocently enough when, nearly thirty years ago, an Irish film maker, Bob Quinn, set out to show that the singing style of his neighbours in Gaelic-speaking Conamara in the West of Ireland was much more than a debased and incomprehensible version of ballad-singing – which was the attitude of anglophones.

    Over the following thirty years he showed how similar it was to North African and Afro-Asian singing and daringly went on to discover historic, religious, artistic, archaeological and linguistic similarities with Hamito-Semitic cultures.
    A trilogy of films ensued. They won several awards, were acclaimed internationally. The film maker wrote a book on the subject which he recently updated and published (with an introduction by archaeologist Barry Cunliffe , Oxford professor of European Archaeology) under the title “The Atlantean Irish: Ireland’s Oriental and Maritime Heritage” (Lilliput Press, Dublin 2005)

    Apologies for the long quotation here

    • October 8, 2013

      Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

      The Basques are far from homogeneous, although there is a very homogeneous core of very old ancestry. But the R1b admixture is enormous. And linguistically: a Basque from Labourd finds it very hard to understand – if he manages to do so – a Biscayan from Bilbao (where there are almost no Basque speaking people left). The dialectal separation is incredible.

      • February 26, 2014


        Most of the people the Irish, and English Scot come from Armenia. They were mixed from inception. The Turks have control of the place now. But west Irish and Scot and English are mixed with others at 20 to 30 percent and are taller from these groups. They are all mixed with this small element which make them taller.

  24. October 9, 2013


    The assertion about the Belgae speaking a Germanic language is total nonsense

  25. October 12, 2013

    Sergio García

    Good evening.

    I am from Mallorca and I would like to make my points about the matter. Here I go:

    1.- RACISM / NARCISSISM: I observe much racism when discussing this kind of topics, especially by poor people who try to convince themselves about having more in common with Germanic peoples just because they feel better if they believe they are more related to blond people. Yes, so it is, so childish, so ridiculous, so narcissistic!

    2.- PERSONAL OBSERVATION: Me myself, as a Mallorcan who have observed hundrends of thousands of Europeans every year of my life, I can firmly assert that British People are the most different and special Germanic People, as it were. In general terms, they are of course lighter than most of Spaniards (but not than all of us), but it would be difficult to me to classify them just as Germanic. I see me myself and my family much closer to English people than other Germanic pepoles. – Basques, genetically speaking, are not an isolated group of people in Spain; I mean, they have a lot in common with the rest of Spaniards. They did spread themselves down in Spain in a large number when the Reconquista times.

    3.- LINGUISTICLY: As much as the Basque lanuguage has not left words in English vocabulary, I dare say that there is one and very rooted gramatical trait in her wich is shared by English, Basque and Spanish language: Continuous Tenses (and hugely used). I mean: To use the verb “to be” + verb-ing. This happens very similarly in Spanish and Basque. In Spanish we use of course as well the verb “to be” (estar) + verbs-endo/ando. It is to say: the common trait is: “to be + verb-low vowel-n”. This happens only in our languages and does not happen in the rest of the Germanic languages nor in French or in Latin. It does exist in standard Italian as well but in a much lesser extent than does in English and Spanish, and presumible introduced by North East Spaniards when they ruled Milan and the South Half of Italy. (I haven’t found the origins of this tenses in Italian yet). So, “I’m singing, You were talking, I had been looking…” simply don’t existe in French, German, Swedish, Dutch…

    4.- CONCLUSSION: I have the very strong intuition that Britons and Basques and Spaniars are very close ones other. And as well as that, I believe the Celts are the perfect word and historical people to put there where there are important and historical doubts and shadows. But: Did they really ever exist such one thing as the Celts! I don’t think so.

    So, thank you for reading, and don’t forget visiting Mallorca!
    Good by, by by, Adiós!

  26. October 14, 2013

    James Ensor

    Catalans and Basques are certainly genetically related by the large R1b haplotype which runs from both the Mediterranean and Biscay coasts of Spain along the Atlantic shore of France and into Flanders. It is the dominant group in all of the islands of Britain only becoming weaker in islands like Orkney.Shetland and Man, which are known to have strong Norse rather than narrowly German origins. I do not believe that there are many British people who would prefer to be closely related to Germans rather than say Catalans, for instance, But we all believed until we saw modern genetic research that we were predominantly Anglo-Saxon. This it now seems is false.

    The absence of Basque names and Basque words in English is a puzzle. But there are not many Celtic words or names either in England except in Cornwall. You are quite correct about the two present tenses in English – I sing and I am singing -, which seem so difficult to speakers of other European languages. Does ths double case also exist in Basque? in Catalan?

  27. October 21, 2013

    James Ensor

    The article in Der Spiegel which suggested that the people “who hate the Germans more than any other race – the British – are really krauts,” was based on research done by Professor Mark Thomas at UCL in 2002. It also cited Heinrich Haerke from Reading Univesity who did an archaeological study near Oxford at the same time.

    As advances in reading both male and female DNA have been very considerable in the past 11 years and more and more mutations in each version of R1b haplotype have been discovered ( which define population subgroups) so opinions on the origins of the British peoples have evolved.

    Male and female studies can give different results where a ruling population of one race kept many female slaves on another race. But most experts think that Oppenheimer`s research is more accurate than Thomas` older study.

    One wonders whether Der Spiegel has a correspondent in Greece?

  28. October 21, 2013

    James Ensor

    Der Spiegel`s report is inaccurate in many respects. I have checked Professor Thomas` original reasearch. He checked small samples of male Y-chromosome DNA from a series of small towns stretching from North Norfolk to North Wales. These were compared with even smaller <100 samples from West Frisia in the NETHERLANDS and South NORWAY. No data was taken from modern Germany at all.

    He found that the haplotype then called hg1 was most common in LLangefni at 89% and rarest in Norway at 26%. It represented over half the population of every English and Welsh town and in Frisia. This has since been identified as the Basque or Atlantic Coast haplotype as it is common in Basque Spain, though its highest occurence is in Donegal. It is defined by the mutation M269 or M343.

    The second haplotype which was called hg2 ( now defined by the M405 mutation was most frequent in southern Norway, but at only 46%. This reached 42% in Fakenham and 34% in Friesland. It scarcely registered in Llangefni or in Abergele, where 39% of the population had hg21, found nowhere else in a significant quantity. This is now defined by the V13 mutation and is thought to have been brought with Roman legionaires from the Balkans.

    It is known that there are many words from Old Frisian similar to modern English which are not as close in either modern Dutch or modern High German. Frisian pottery has also been found in East Anglia.

    Given later DNA research by Oppenheimer and others, these results suggest to me that there were two distinct peoples, one that we might call Basques who moved right up the Atlantic Coast northwards and another that we might call Frisians who moved at a much later date from Norway through Frisia to East Anglia and the East Midlands.

  29. November 13, 2013


    The article is very thoughtful, and only ruined by the comments! ;-)

    Two points I feel need to be addressed is that firstly, many of the examples and proofs being used don’t acknowledge that people have migrated in modern times as well. For instance, many of the people who now live in the Celtic heartland of North Wales, moved to the area from other areas in the early part of the 19th century. The place being an industrial gold mine of work. On that basis, I would suggest that areas with hotspots of Celtic genes are more likely areas where Irish families have migrated to on a regular basis over centuries.

    Secondly, prior to the 7th century, Brithonic was spoken from the Firth of Forth to the Bristol Channel but this came to an end following the Battle of Chester in 616. The kings of Northumbria (who, thanks to this article could have spoken very old English) closed the route between both areas to the Welsh. This meant that over time Brithonic became old Welsh, which with even more time became modern Welsh.
    However, to suggest that because a modern Welsh world sounds like a word from another language is enough evidence of a link is a very weak piece of logic deduction!

  30. November 13, 2013


    Brythonic is the name, rather than Cymric (the people of the valleys) because allegedly Brutus named the islands of Britain after himself. The defeat of 10,000 Cymric warriors at Chester did indeed push the survivors back into Wales where the language survived and evolved, as all languages do.

  31. November 15, 2013

    James Ensor

    It is hard to find any sign of the Bassque language in any of the languages spoken in the British Isles. But one ancient link does exist in counting, by twenties. Both Scots Gaelic, older Irish Gaelic and the Welsh Gaelic spoken in north Wales, count on the base of twenty. This also existed in older usage of English as in four score etc. Basque also uses this counting system up to the number 100. So does the French spoken in France but only for the numbers between 70 and 99 eg quatre vignt. It is otherwise used only in Georgian and in Danish between 50 and 99, and a few less spoken langauages.

  32. November 24, 2013

    Sergio García

    Hello again,

    I know it is difficult to find other kind of links between Basque and Irish or Welsh, but let’s have into account some Premises and then some Further Conclussions:

    It doesn’t really exist just ONE thing as the Basque language. Modern Basque is an “artificial” languge modernly designed by linguistics so as to unify the very different and split Basque Dialects, almost different languages.

    According to the evidence, human beings arrived in the British Isles thousands of years ago. Some scientists say it happened about 12 thousands of years ago. That is quite some time! In such a long period any single language which not be perfectly clear in phonetic terms is very likely to evolve and split itself into separate languages.

    When the Romans came to Ibreria, there were here a lot of Iberian peoples, amgong them the Basques. All of those peoples were finally defeated by the Romans and interbreded with them (and with Germanics and Moors later on), except the Basques, who remained the most isolated iberian people. But they were not found by the Romans where they are now, but far away from the sea, particularly: down the southwest of the Pyrinees. The current Basque country is the region where the Basques moved following the Roman Invasion and following the possible “Iberian invasion” of the British Isles.

    This very region is where Dr. Oppenheimer has now found the most common genes between today’s Spanish and British Pepoles.

    Therefore my INTUITIONS are that:

    1.- The Basques are not a unique people, but the most isolated iberian people whose language have not disappear and whose genes are the least mixed with Romans, Moors and Germanics.

    2.- The Basques did not get into the British Isles. It could have been other Iberian pepoles, genetically equal to the Basques (liguistically different or similar), those who might have arrived there and whose genes are the base of the genes of both the English and the Spanish. And in the case of the Basques, the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots that blood would not only be the base, but the total of theirs.

    3.- The Base of the Spanish blood is the one from the Iberians, not from the Romans, nor from the Moors or the Germanics.

    4.- The Iberian Peoples, and later on the Britons, might have had languages in which CONTINUOUS TENSES (I woud be singing, I am watching, I was sleeping, I will be doing…) would have existed. And afterwards those peoples would have badly learned Latin in the case of Spain, and the languages of the Anglos, Saxons and Jutes, in the case of the Britain, but by adapting to themselves those foreign verbs and grammars, without ever abandon the VERY USEFUL CONTINUOUS TENESES.

    This is my theory.

    Thank you for reading.

  33. November 24, 2013

    Sergio García

    One correction:
    As I said: “…the total of theirs”
    I meant: “…the most of theirs”

  34. November 25, 2013

    David Paterson

    A subject which fascinates me but which suffers from the lack (or maybe misuse) of standard or commonly agreed terms.

    For example, I think Oppenheimer’s hypothesis is that most of the population of the UK and Ireland originated genetically in “the Basque refuge”. I understand that term to mean the area of Northern Spain that was ice-free during the ice age and from which some of Europe was re-populated (similar to “the Baltic refuge” in SE Europe). But that does NOT mean that the people there were “the Basques” in any modern or even historical sense – it was tens of thousands of years ago.

    Then there is the misleading use (though probably not deliberate) of the names of countries and regions that have only existed for a very short time relative to the migrations that spread the DNA markers. For example, as has been pointed out above (re the battle of Chester) Brythonic languages were native to much of what is now NW England and SW Scotland at that time – not surprisingly because they were probably both largely parts of the ancient state of Strathclyde – unlike what is now NE England and SE Scotland which were parts of Northumbria, where a Germanic language was spoken. The East-West border that separates Scotland and England had not even been imagined at that time, the “border” ran North-south. To use the the term “Scotland” for anything much before the 9th century BCE has little meaning – centuries after the migrants from “Ireland”, “England” and “Norway” started to arrive and millennia after the hunter-gatherers inched their way up the coast of Western Europe from the Basque refuge.

    Though it is hard to divorce our thinking from modern people and places, we need to try a bit harder.

  35. November 25, 2013

    David Paterson

    Sorry, 9th century BCE should of course read CE!

  36. November 26, 2013

    Miss Vivian

    I get it, my family is descended from Romans? (I think they were short and tan?) I guess they got busy with the natives or stuck around for fun. But I do take back the bit about the big noses, they’re not that bad!

  37. November 26, 2013

    James Ensor

    Here are two pairs of phrases in Basque with their English equivalent

    etortzen naiz : I come
    ikusten dut : I see

    etortzen ari naiz : I am coming
    ikusten ari naiz : I am seeing .

    I am seeing is not common in English except in the phrase I cannot believe what I am seeing. This structure does not exist in either German or french, which provide the bulk of modern English. Is it a lost link to the Basque ancestry. Do similar forms exist in Welsh?

    • November 27, 2013

      Sergio García

      Yes they do. And also in Irish and all of the languages and dialects across Spain.

      • November 28, 2013

        James Ensor

        We can suppose that Basque was once spoken over a far wider area than it is confined to today. Perhaps even before the arrival of Latin with the Romans, languages such as Iberian and Acquitanian, both thought to have elements of Basque and to have been spoken in nearby regions were displacing it. Both have disappeared since the Roman invasion without leaving many traces.

        A similar fate befell Pictish which was still spoken in eastern Scotland in the 7th century. It was displaced by English but the Scots dialect in the Lowlands retained a lot of peculiar words, which surely derived from Pictish, for a considerable time, thereafter.

        We cannot assert that the people who crossed the Channel after the retreat of the ice fields in southern england, even spoke Basque. It seems more likely that the language might have changed substantially as the tribes wandered northwards.

        • November 28, 2013

          David Paterson


          Your comment on Pictish is interesting, but I think you may mean North East Scotland and not the wider “eastern” as it is most likely that south of Edinburgh (i.e. in Northumbria) the language of the Angles was spoken at that time and in the far north east (north of the Moray Firth) I think the people were almost entirely Norse settlers. Present day Scotland was an ethnic and linguistic jigsaw for centuries, it seems, but so was everywhere else in Europe.

          If you haven’t already, it is worth reading Norman Davies’ book “Lost Kingdoms” in which he looks at evidence and informed speculation on a number of relevant places including Tolosa (SW France), Aragon and Alt Clud (aka Strathclyde). Europe before the modern states began to form was a very different place in nearly every way – centres of power and religion, language, political entities – and many of the things that we think we know are often hangovers from less-well-informed 19th century speculation, coloured by the prevailing racial attitudes and reverence for the classical world, including the famous Celts from the Danube.

          One of the more intriguing snippets in Davies’ book was the possibility that William Wallace may have been a native speaker of a Brythonic language, possible evidence that it hung on in SW Scotland for a few centuries after Alt Clud disappeared. The evidence he quotes is that Gaelic speakers from W Scotland who were allies of Wallace’s referred to him as “William the Briton” when “Briton” to a Gael would probably have meant someone who spoke a language of that group. And of course the name “Wallace” is thought to derive from the same Anglo Saxon word (wealsc = “foreigner”) as “Welsh”; an interesting coincidence.

          Myths of ancestry indeed.

          Here’s one for the SNP to ponder in the week they lay out their independence manifesto – Braveheart spoke “Welsh”!

  38. November 30, 2013

    Nikol Grigoryan

    Here a copy of a comment from another forum.( Vahan Sargisyan President of International Linguistical Academy
    At The End of past century english scientist Edward Spencer Johnson absolutely accidentally has done very interesting opening.Being already well-known basqolog, Johnson has decided, in purposes of expansion of own outlook, study armenian language,and has enterred in parisian “Ecole special”, in the class of famous philologist Ogust Career.The Result was highly unexpected: after whole only bimonthly courses Johnson has noticed that many armenian words practically are identical with basque. His own cogitations about these lexical coincidences Johnson has published in 1884, in journal “Euskera” (“Basque language”) under intriguing headline “Basque words in armenian language”. The List noticed the parallels between more than fifty words. It was as thunder in clear sky, for the scientists , who already ,for a long time inhere under hypnosis of basque-georgian hypothesis.Johnson couldn’t explain the reason of existance of the similiarites among basque-armenian and thought that those may be comes from geogean,regardless of the fact that they have no parallels in georgian.Besides it the question is highly important layer of vocabulary spare, traditionally considering suit fund of each language. And most curious in that discovered basque-armenian coincidences in both languages are at a rate of full rapport :for example (with transcriptions) BS- char «bad, evil» – ARM. char «bad, evil», BS. anti «from there» – ARM. anti «from there», BS. ais «wind» -ARM. ais «wind», BS. zati «separate» – ARM. zat «apart», BS. tegi «place» – ARM. tegh «place» ….. The second important opening in that field was made after more than fourth century .In 20-e years young basque philologist Bernardo Estornes Lasa, subsequently largest scientist and academician,concern with collection of basque folk-lore material in Rapcal valley, in east part of province Navarra.So here , in village Isaba, nearly on most east border of Navara, Estornes Lasa has written local legend about that, that village Isaba is founded by armenians,which were first inhabitants of Navarra and the ancestors of basque folk. The legend tells that leader of basque folk called Aytor, he has arrived from Armenia with his seven sons and in their honour has founded seven settlings in Navarra.It Is spoken also that visitor armenian, ancestor of basques, knew secret of processing the metal. Subsequently in archives of villages have found the old-time manuscript, a historic chronic , which confirms the spoken legends.Highly notable that in basque language a name Isaba is translated as “Trace of ancestors”.At though this can seem absolutely incredible, but fact remains the fact , in village Isaba hitherto exists a road, which carries the name Erminia.The Public tradition links its with the name of an Armenia – in honour of first colonizers of Navarra. All this could be shown as figment of imagination of basque oldsters, as for a long time consider many researchers, however the science has enterred , in particular linguistics and historiography, as well as mythology. In basque language a name of storied ancestor of basques Aytor verbatim means “Received from Aya” or “Occurring from Aya” which enough exactly corresponds to armenian design ‘hay tor’(“grandson of armenian”).The fact was shown by the known german scientist Ioseph Karst. It was also proven that the famous ancestor of armenians Hayk really has a grandson, whose name was Pask. For the first time on possible relationship between armenian name Pask and etnoname of basque has indicated bay Nikolayos Marr. It’s Interesting that in basque language exists an expression ‘aytoren seme’ (“thoroughbred”), verbatim meaning “the son of Aytor”. This is indicative of that ,that in antiquities amongst basques thoroughbred were considered only one,who leds origin from one of the direct descendants of the ancestor Aytor, arrived from Armenia. The Further researches have brought new openings. The all said facts and coincidences were the only higher part of iceberg of the most great secret of european civilization.As it was realized,the theory of the armenian origin of the oldest folk of Europe has it deep roots in its historical memory and has found its reflection in basque written sources.As far back as XVI-XVII ages founders of basque national historiography Garibay,Andres de Posa and Baltasar de Echave considered Armenia the prehomeland of basques and try this prove on the base of basque-armenian toponimic coincidences… Araks (The name of a river in Armenia and in the Land of Basque) and the name of basque mountain Apalar, which was repeatedly compared with the famous biblical Ararat.Moreover, de Posa confirms that basques are from Armenia.He even elaborates that the city Taragona on was founded by armenians and on their language a name Taragona meant “commune of shepherds”.It is difficult to say anything about this translation, but main in that ,that the name Taragona highly reminds the known armenian state Taron, the ancient form is – Tarawna. For three centuries the opinion of the historians about the armenian origin of basques became a national tradition and has got very broad spreading. The List of firsthands renews a spanish historian of XVII century Gaspar Eskolano , in his book about the histories of the city Valencia (1610) ,writes that after Worldwide flood a patriarch Tubal and its people disembark on the east seaside of Spains and that they talk on armenian language. Besides Gaspar Eskolano ,with exceeding accuracy, describes the place, where, according to legend, were was buried the remainses of armenians -the first inhabitants of Spain. Now on that places, on the territory of modern Catalonia , are located churches, and this prompts that point that the area was considered as saint. Regrettably, all these information too long remain in darkness of oblivion by reason of that,that in due course basque material wasn’t analysed and evaluated in light given by armenian sources and armenian language. And when in twentieth years of present century german linguist Joseph Karst has proceeded to detailed and all-round study basque-armenian theory, in a sense there was already enough late.For passed period in basqology has firmly motivated hypothesis about georgian origin of basques.obtained many supporters. Eastern, but indeed purely armenian orientation of basque national tradition, create beneficial ground for “kartvelizing” of basques,more for that the armenian side continues save full indifference.It goes to that, that with basque language have begun match such georgian words,which were obvious borrowing from armenian,as in due his course had been indicated by basque academician Bernard Estorence Lasa. In 1928 a well-known german philologist Joseph Karst finally has published the results of his own studies, under headline “Alarodians and protobasques”.The Book were issued in Vein on french , and has caused the enourmous resonance in scientific world.In the given work Karst has presented more than 300 basque-armenian lexical similiarites and in greater amount coinciding elements of phonetics and grammaticses, including systems of declension, conjugations and others.On this base Kerst has come into conclusion that basque and armenian are two varieties of one linguistical type, which has named the alarodian. Aside of purely linguistical material Kerst also handled the results of other sciences, in particular the ethnography and the anthropologies. It follows to note specifically that fact that Kerst came to its scientific conclusions on base of own studies without having any information on previous works, about which was spoken above.Subsequently Kerst has written several books, where has continued the motivation of theory basque-armenian ethnoligical unity, bringing new datas and proofs. As would be expected, publication of the books has caused highly negative reaction of supporters of traditional approaches in linguistics.The Campaign against Kerst had been led by Maye, famous french linguist and one of the founders of modern linguistics. Maye has fallen into fury. The Reason clearest possible: Kerst ventured to revise linguistical card of Europe and lay a new way in the opinion of Maye’s school , where everything was defined long ago.Armenian language is an IE language , but basque no, and here nothing did signify neither hundreds of coincidences, nor public legends, nor history data. After negative reviews of Maye ,Kerst remain in packeded insulation, and though he continued zealous work, his studies did not render the essential influence upon development of basqology and armenology.

  39. November 30, 2013

    Nikol Grigoryan

    Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History”:

    “The first inhabitants were the Britons, who came from Armenia (3), and first peopled Britain southward.”
    (3) “De tractu Armoricano.” — Bede, “Ecclesiastical History” i. I. The word Armenia occurring a few lines above in Bede, it was perhaps inadvertently written by the Saxon compiler of the “Chronicle” instead of Armorica.

    What do you think, is it possible to make so many typos in a word,
    or is the Note : (3) a political review ?

    • December 15, 2013

      Sergio García

      Nikol Grigoryan, with all due respect, I dont’t think it’s serious or fair to sell as “a fact or a true” that Armenian origin, because of what some old and very little documented Historians or said or because of some similar words in langauges wich split thounsands of years ago.

      Look, it’s science which has to yet discover the origins, not only of the Basques, Iberians, Celts, Britons… but of the whole human race or races.

      We can only speculate on languages, you could at least try to explain some more profound similarities, for instance grammar similarities, instead of talking about some similar words. Probability and combination of sounds make that there are similar words in a lot of languages which have never had anything to do each other.

      Just curiosity: Do you have Countinuous Sentences in Armenian? If not, How could Iberians or Britons came to “invent it”?

      My friend, we need science, more and more complete DNA studies, and so on, and so forth. And meanwhile we can have some kind of fun speculating, but not sell speculations as facts.

      With all due respect.

      • December 16, 2013

        Nikol Grigoryan

        Dear Sergio,
        I appreciate your reply.

        Are you looking for connection between “continuous tense” and origin of nations ?
        Please take a look “/wiki/Continuous_and_progressive_aspects”.
        The continuous and progressive aspects (abbreviated CONT and PROG) are grammatical aspects that express incomplete action or state in progress at a specific time: they are non-habitual, imperfective aspects.

        In the grammars of many languages the two terms are used interchangeably. This is the case with English: a construction such as “He is washing” may be described either as present continuous or as present progressive. However there are certain languages for which two different aspects are distinguished. In Chinese, for example, progressive aspect denotes a current action, as in “he is getting dressed”, while continuous aspect denotes a current state, as in “he is wearing fine clothes”.

        Hindi and Urdu
        Hindi and Urdu have a definite progressive/continuous aspect, marked by auxiliaries, for past, present, and future. It is distinguished from the simple aspect, and is widely used in everyday speech. Like English, it is also used to denote an immediate future action.

        In the Amazigh language, past continuous is formed by using the fixed participle “ttugha” (original meaning: I forgot); “ttugha” is added before the verb that is in the present tense. So we have:
        Ntta itari : he writes / he is writing
        Ntta ttugha itari : he was writing
        Present continuous is usually the same as the present tense. But in the Riff variety of Berber, the participle “aqqa” is added before the verb to form present continuous.

        French does not have a continuous aspect per se.
        An exception is in relating events that took place in the past: the imperfect has a continuous aspect in relation to the simple (historic) past; e.g. nous mangions quand il frappa à la porte (“we were eating when he knocked at the door”). However, the passé composé is more often used to denote past events with a neutral aspect in a non-narrative context.

        There is no continuous aspect in standard German.
        Certain regional dialects, such as those of the Rhineland, the Ruhr Area, and Westphalia, form a continuous aspect using the verb “sein” (to be), the inflected preposition “am” or “beim” (at the or on the), and the neuter noun that is formed from an infinitive. For example, ich bin am Lesen, ich bin beim Lesen (literally I am on/at the reading) means I am reading. Known as the rheinische Verlaufsform (roughly Rhinish progressive form), it has become increasingly common in the casual speech of many speakers of standard German, although it is still frowned upon in formal and literary contexts.[7] In Southern Austro-Bavarian, the aspect can be expressed using tun (to do) as an auxiliary with the infinitive of the verb as in er tut lesen for he is reading.

        Russian verbs of motion usually have progressive and non-progressive lexical pairs (“? ???” – “? ????” (I’m going – I go), “? ????” – “? ?????” (I’m flying – I fly)). However, non-motion verbs in Russian do not have the progressive aspect. Instead, adverbs like “??????” (“(right) now”) can be used to indicate that the action is progressive/continuous and not habitual.

        Chinese is one family of languages that makes a distinction between the continuous and progressive aspects.


        I share your opinion concerning DNA study.
        You can find genetic study in regions of Armenia “Weale-HG-01-Armenia.pdf” from internet.
        The genetic study which has done in different regions of Armenia has detected that the characteristic genetic code prevalent in Welsh, Basques and Irish, called the Atlantic Modal Haplotype, is also present in Armenian population of Syunik and Karabakh. These are two Armenian provinces predominantly isolated in the mountains, which precluded genetic admixture with neighboring ethnic groups and nations.

        Nikol Grigoryan.

  40. December 23, 2013

    Sergio García

    Hello Nikol

    Well, I wanted to publicly share my observation of the rare coincidence of the Continuous / Progressive forms in English and Spanish. And I say rare because of the reasons I said before: it doesn’t exist in Latin or in any other Germanic Languages. (My “obsession” is not Continuous Forms, but to get to know the origins of Iberian Tribes, Basques among them, and also the origins of Britons, “Celts”, Germanics, Slavics… and even Homo Sapien…) Because I suspect there have been a lot of common lies around for a lot of time.

    But then you go and answer me in – what I’d call – a no fair way, because you are replying me, but referring to other things. Quite different things, actually.

    And I say that because I was speaking about some verbal tenses which strangely follow the same pattern both in English and Spanish. This pattern is: Conjugated “to be (= estar)” + “verb-ing (= verb-end)”; regardless of whether the name of such a pattern.

    And here you go not talking about that, but about the Continuous / Progressive “Aspect”. Well, Which “aspect”? By “Aspect” you’ve got from the wikipedia anything, as a simple and fixed word could be, that be able to express the times of the actions that English and Spanish Continuous Tenses can express.

    So my question to you would be: aside from the knowlege you’ve got from the wikipedia regards all of the Languages you mention, which of them build their Continuous “Aspects” by using and conjugating their verbs To Be + Gerunds (ending in a vowel + “n”)?

    Finally, I would like to say to you that even though you think that the Basque is an Armenian People, I have to tell you that I can’t believe it, anyway. They may have their own language and may try to spread to the world the message they have nothing in common with the rest of Spaniards, but that’s just because they want to stupidly feel better trying to believe they are special. But they aren’t. There are no reason to believe the Basques were a unique and ditinct tribe among all of the iberian tribes before the Romans. None at all.

    And, if the Basques have now to be Armenians, then I think that all of the Iberian Tribes should be Armenian too. And I don’t think there is a lot of likelihood of it.

    Read you.

  41. December 27, 2013

    James Ensor

    Counting by twenties which exists in an archaic form of English eg four score, also exists in Georgian and Basque. It is a clear linkage of language design although, of course overwhelmed by very many other differences. But since all European races originally emerged from the Caucasus, many thousands of years ago, I do not find it fanciful; to suggest that the people who now live in the mountains of Georgia had some form of linguistic link, albeit very tenuous with the peole who now live in the Basque region of Spain and France and in Britain. If they did, it will surely be confirmed by genetic evidence which Nikol suggests exists in the Karabakh region.

    • December 29, 2013

      Sergio García

      But if all European races emerged from the Caucasus, many thousands of years ago, then, as I said above, all european Peoples should have those very links with the Armenian, not only the Basque.

      • January 5, 2014

        Nikol Grigoryan

        Dear Sergio,
        not only Basques and Britons came from Armenia,
        Bavarians also are originated from Armenia.

        According to the narrative traditions collected by Anno, the Bishop of Cologne, and some other documents, the Bavarians had come from Armenia, the ‘land of Noah’s arc’
        “The Germanic realms in pre-Carolingian Central Europe” Herbert Schutz, 2000, p. 313

      • January 11, 2014

        Nikol Grigoryan

        “The Armenian Origin of the Etruscans”. Robert Ellis, London, 1861.

        The Armenians, like the Celts, are now few in number. They belong once to a longer extent of a country where they spread westward from Armenia to Italy under the names of Phrygians, Thracians, Pelasgians, Etruscans and also spread to other locations.

  42. December 29, 2013

    Sergio García

    Anyway, in future DNA’s evidence, let’s trust.

  43. December 29, 2013



    I read recently that the English language did not have the continuous/progressive present tense until recent centuries. (Shakespeare was cited as evidence of its absence in 16th century.)
    (Just found the reference: Bill Bryson, “Mother Tongue”, p58. I haven’t checked.)

    Separately, re Wallace, I have understood since childhood (1960s) that the surname ‘Wallace’ meant ‘Welsh-speaker’ and that ‘Welsh’ in that context meant the language spoken in the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde, which is the area Wallace came from. As a student of the history of that time Mr Salmond is unlikely to be surprised by the suggestion that some 13th century Scots had recently been speaking a P rather than Q Celtic language (or Inglis).

    The discussion of the Basques and their language is diverting and could give a further spin to the ‘Black Irish’ stories. My Basque friend was thought to be Black Irish while working in Glasgow. If the marker originated with the Basques, or related people, why would it be most prominent in Donegal? Is it because it’s effectively the end of the line (if you’re coming from the south) and therefore experienced fewer influxes and less subsequent variation? Sorry if that’s a silly question – I haven’t looked into the science yet.

  44. December 29, 2013


    Re my last question, I now see from Mr Oppenheimer’s answers to earlier questions that he thinks that the marker is more prominent in the likes of Donegal because it is the result of earlier population movements, when the market was less diluted.

  45. December 30, 2013


    Interesting, but citations, please. Otherwise it’s just felicitous argumentation.

  46. December 30, 2013

    James Ensor

    The reason for high concentrations of the Atlantic Coast gene with the M269 or M343 mutation in Donegal and the Basque homeland must be presumed to relate to the lack of later incomers after those people`s who had sheltered from the Ice Age in the Basque refuge either stayed put or movednorthwards across the Channel and the Irish Sea.

  47. January 1, 2014

    James Ensor

    It is suggested that the present continuous tense in English developed from an earlier archaic form.

    “Thus the milkmaid is at milking” developed into the familiar but archaic “the milkmaid is a-milking” and eventually reduced to “the milkmaid is milking.”

    It is possible that the Basque use of this idea passed via Celtic into English, which is a very modern languages that has borrowed ideas and words from all around the world.

  48. January 27, 2014


    Well, as I see it, we are all human and we all share, more or less, the same DNA, regardless of where you come from on the planet. We can all interbreed and make new human beings.
    I share 99% of my DNA with the mouse in the floorboards and 60% with the Bananas in my fridge and 99.9% with the poor unfortunate apes incarcerated in the zoos. I think all this analysis of insignificant genetic differences can sometimes play into the hands of Fascists, Nazis and Racists. We have to be a bit careful and circumspect. It can be exploited by certain types.

    • March 10, 2014


      Well said! However I would add we share 99% of our DNA with all the world’s creatures too :-)

  49. January 27, 2014


    Just to add, are we not all on different yet interconnected branches of the same tree of Homo Africanus? We are all Africans really who have spread out since 200,000 YBP. The molecular anthropologists say that we are all descended from a small group of proto-humans who lived in East Africa 200,000 YBP. Their evidence is genetic markers in the mitochondrial DNA of the peoples of the Earth. In my opinion, one day we really will all be one in a totally different society without all these class and cultural divisions.

  50. February 19, 2014

    Sergio García

    Stephen Oppenheimer seemed to be right.

    Rather both interesting and intriguing results have been published today (14 of february of 2014) They are fruit of a research carried out by University College of London, Oxford University and Max Plank Institute (Germany).

    They can be looked up at this funny and interactive website:

    I wouldn’t like to sound very pretentiously, but I think my intuitions were not very much on the wrong track. Tu sum up:

    1) Old Spanish tribes before Romans, (Iberians) and Basque People were quite the same.

    2) Basques have been the most isolated Iberian tribe.

    3) The “purity” of those – that tribe were the eldest in Western Europe and somehow the mother of much of the peoples of Western Europe, excluding Scandinavians, but specially the mother of the British.

    4) The British are chiefly the product of the interbreeding of both those Iberian tribes and Scandinavians.

    So, Just joking, we could say every Englishman is the son of a Spanish mother and a Dane / Norweigian father or viceversa.

    Have a good day.

    • February 19, 2014


      I was reading something similar recently. A genetic study suggests that between 90-95% of the gene pool of the English is actually pre-Roman. This splits up into 75% : 20%
      Neolithics : pre-Roman Scandinavian migrants. The other 5-10% is Roman and post Roman. This 20% is due to pre-Roman Scandinavian migrations (before the ice melted and cut Britain off from the continent).
      The Roman, Germanic, Viking and Norman influences were essentially cultural because they involved conquest and rule by armies and warriors but they did not involve mass migrations. Look at the way the Romans conquered Britain and you will see a basic “model” for subsequent invasions

  51. March 6, 2014

    James Ensor

    This is precisely Oppenheimer`s main point that the great bulk of the population now living in the British Isles, including Ireland and Scotland, which the Romans diod not reach, are descended from people who were there before the Romans. He too says that the Norse and Anglian invaders had less influence of the native gene pool than had once been thought. Certainly neither Norsemen nor their Norman descendants nor the Anglo-Saxons committed a holocaust of the lofcal inhabitants that they encountered. Rather, over much time, the seem to have intermarried and mixed up the gene pool.

    He does not call these original inhabitants Scandinavian and does not give an opinion as to whether they arrived on foot across a frozen North Sea or by boat across an unfrozen Channel. But he does suggest that these were people who had sheltered from the Ice Age which covered the northern parts of Britain in the Basquen country which now covers the French and Spanish border regions.

    The genes of these people, today, still correspond closely to those possessed by about three quarters of the members of all four British nations, but a little less with the Orcadians and people of Man who are much more Scandinavian.

    What I find interesting about the genetic maps, in so far as I can understand them is the link between modern Scots amd L:ithuania, I believe that the Pictish people whio left so little writen record, arrived from the Baltic lands by ship settling the North-east coast of Scotland. I cannot explain the link to the Caucasus unless these were people who migrated via the Basque lands or the Baltic.

      • March 6, 2014


        Fascinating paper – and please allow me to take a tangent to the apple tree. In your article – thank you Mr Selleslagh-Suykens:

        ‘the original core of the Basque language (possibly identified with the precursor of proto-Basque which I call Pyrenian, would have been part of the continuum that encompassed the earliest precursors of Uralic and Altaic, and second, this same core could be identifiable with at least some Western variant of the almost legendary, old European linguistic layer… sometimes assumed to be Vasconic, or the like’


        ‘Malus sieversii is a wild apple native to the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, eastern Uzbekistan, …Malus sieversii has previously been identified as the main contributor to the genome of the cultivated apple (Malus domestica), on the basis of morphological, molecular, and historical evidence. A DNA analysis in 2010 confirmed M. sieversii as the progenitor of the cultivated apple.’


        The apple is said to date back to 6,500 years ago and arose from the same area, Almaty (Kazakstan) (Alma Ata – old apple grove)

        This original species is extremely health-giving. All other variants stem from this original variety. We also have the widespread concept of Avalon. Afallon in Welsh is the (holy) apple grove.

        Apologies for the diversion

        • March 7, 2014

          Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

          I don’t think this is a diversion, rather an extra argument for the link with the Uralic-Altaic area E. of the S. Urals. In Basque, ‘apple’ is ‘sagar’, and ‘apple grove’ is ‘sagasti (sagar/s-ti)’, even though it is possible that other suffixes may have been used int he past, e.g. *sagar-atz(e)’, which might provide a reasonable etymology for the name of the (excavated Hellenistic) Pisidian city of Sagalassós (S. Turkey) near Aglasun village (same etymology via Turkish). The apple was probably known in S. Europe very long before the Romans. At the very latest around the arrival of the Etruscans from the Aegean island of Lemnos in Italy around 1200 BCE, and more likely, around the arrival of the Iberians in Spain around 3000 BCE.

          Interestingly, and even more to the point: the theory of the western/Atlantic origin of the Celts (F. Villar, X. Ballester et al. plus some contribution of mine, not published) is gaining popularity as more data conflicting with the central European origin become available. The theory/hypothesis goes like this, roughly sketched: Italics from the southern half of Italy and maybe the Dalmatian coast, migrated, with some stops in N. Africa, and long before the Phoenicians, through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Portuguese and Galician coast. The central group would later be known as the Lusitanians (who spoke a language astonishingly close to Latin); they stayed there, in the most climatologically attractive part of W. Iberia. The northern group expanded to the west along the N. Spanish coast into Vasconic lands and became Celtic as a result: loss of initial and intervocalic ‘p’ plus some other traits (like somewhat ergative constructions that still survive in e.g. Welsh). This is due to the p-less and ergative chaacter of Vasconic. The southern group (later known as Celtici) underwent a similar fate under the influence of Iberian (which formed a tightly knit ‘Sprachbund’ with Basque, and is very similar, although not mutually intelligible except for some words). They expanded westwards until they were stopped at the Ebro River by the main Iberian populations, giving rise to the ‘ili-briga’ line and the emergence of the Celtiberians (who were Celtic, not Iberian, but lived in Iberia). Somewhat later the northern Celts (Galaeci) migrated by sea again, to both shores of the Channel, giving rise to the first Q-Celtic (i.e. Goidelic) lands. Even later, the northern ‘Spanish’ Celts’ language evolved even further in the labializing direction, giving rise to P-Celtic (Brythonic, in which PIE k^w > p as opposed to Q-Celtic where k^w > k: Prytyn Cruithni); when they began to expand to the shores of the Channel they pushed the earlier Q-Celts to the edges (Ireland, Scotland, Belgium) and replaced them, so that Gaul (not entirely) and the S. British shores became P-Celtic.
          Much later the continental P-Celts expanded greatly, mainly following the Danube valley, even to Anatolia (the Galatians of the NT), i.e. exactly the opposite of classic theory. In Tyrol, e.g. the linguistic traces are everywhere in the Salzkammergut (‘salt chamber land’): Hallein, Hallstadt (hal = salt, cf. Welsh). In fact the land is riddled with prehistoric salt mines, some can even be visited today.
          Conclusion, according to this theory: the Celts were first Italic migrants to W. Iberia, underwent linguistic change under the influence of Basque-Iberian (and probably also some intermarrying), before expanding along the Atlantic Façade in two waves: a Q- and a P-Celtic wave. The later expansion to the SE originated in the upper Danube valley (S. Germany)

        • March 7, 2014

          Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

          ADDENDUM: The Italic migration (if real!) must have taken place somewhere between 1900 and 1200 BCE, probably in the earliest quarter. That is the period of the great upheaval in the eastern Mediterranean (the Sea Peoples etc., the long series of ‘Trojan wars’, i.e. the attempt to stem the Hittite tide). Another ‘time stamp’ might be the abandonment of new construction in Stonehenge around 1600 BCE, something that might be linked to the first arrival of the Galician Celts (Too bad for the modern would-be druids ;-) ). Note that the Etruscans, who were actually intruders in the Aegean, migrated to Umbria around 1200 BCE.

          BTW, the ‘central European origin’ (or even Danubian) theory of the Celts was largely the consequence of associating them with the spread of material cultures (Urnfeld, Halstatt, La Tène…). That is always risky as such technologies may be passed on to other peoples. In fact that’s what happens most of the time, as shown e.g. by the spread of agriculture.

  52. March 7, 2014


    What happened to all those Celtic settlements around the Black Sea and the idea that the aboriginal Celtic peoples came from the zone where Tibet sigues into central Asia? I seem to remember that popular theory a while back. Did not these aboriginal Celts also use horses which was not the Iberian way, as I understand it.

    • March 8, 2014

      Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

      According to the ‘western Celtic origin’ theory, the Celts arrived in the Black Sea region via the Danube valley from S. Germany, i.e. after the Channel coast Celts migrated further inland on the continent. The Celts are Indo-Europeans who (or at least their culture and language in an earlier pre-Celtic, probably still Italic,form) came originally from the general region of Ukraine, to Italy. No way they came from east-central Asia: that is a fantasy theory, maybe inspired by the finding of Tocharian graves with tartans and red-bearded mummies, but those IE people were actually migrants into central Asia, coming from the west (along the later ‘silk route’), just like the Indo-Iranian peoples (who turned to more southern areas).
      BTW, the Iberians did use horses! They were even good at it. Excavated little statues prove it (like e.g. the ‘knight of Moixent’, Valencia, Spain).

  53. March 8, 2014


    I have come across this old paper on the asiatic origins of the saxons (and angles?)

    I know it is slightly off message, but does anybody have any views on this interesting paper? It seems that at some point in their journey west, the Saxons resided in the region of Nagorno Karabakh between the rivers of Araxes and Kur.

    By the way, does anybody have a comprehensive understanding of the ‘deep history’ origins of the angles/saxons in Asia – with evidence, etc – even before this stop in the Armenia region?

    • March 9, 2014

      Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

      This paper dates back to 1827 when little of what we know today was known. Unfortunately some have continued that avenue of thinking leading to crackpot theories that culminated in a series of modern papers (often from Armenia) that, taken together, can only mean that about everybody comes from Armenia or thereabout. A lot of that is still lingering.
      The Angles and Saxons are western Germanics (more precisely: Ingwaeonics) from N. Germany-S. Scandinavia. It is true that even in Viking times there was still an active trade route (Baltic-Belarus-Ukraine) from Viking lands to the Black Sea (and Byzantium) using the rivers (e.g. the Dniepr…) and stretches over land . But pretending that they came from that area (including the Caucasus and general neighborhood) is inverting historical facts.
      Of course, there is the deeper history of the Indo-Europeans (before there were Germanics etc.), who came from the general area of Ukraine before arriving in Western Europe, but that is a wholly different question, and a much earlier one. It is even more complicated because most of our knowledge of Indo-European(s) is linguistic, and does not necessarily correlate well with people’s migrations.

  54. March 9, 2014


    Thanks for this. So can we locate the proto-”germanics” amongst the Scythians?

  55. March 9, 2014


    Thanks for this. So can we locate the proto-”germanics” amongst the Scythians?
    How do we explain the same words found in Old Persian and Anglo-Saxon?

    • March 9, 2014

      Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

      ‘Scythians’ is a term nobody really knows what it means. There are as many meanings as there are people writing about it. They are often associated with Iranian-type peoples, with Thracians etc. etc.
      Germanics and Persians are both Indo-Europeans, so what, if they share Indo-European words? Old Persian is merely an eastern branch.

  56. March 10, 2014


    I have noticed a difference in appearance between the British people in the east of the country and those in the west. Those in the east would seem to be generally taller with a larger build and lighter colouring (at least this is what I observed when there). I myself am from the west (Cornish peninsula) and people there are generally smaller, slighter in build and darker in colouring. One does not see many fair-haired people there. Possibly a small number of Nordic/Germanic people went over there and remained in the east of the country. From another article on Basque origins I also gather that the percentage of Basque DNA is slightly lower in British people in the east, particularly the north-east.

  57. March 10, 2014

    James Ensor

    Maria, You are absolutely right. The East Coast of Scotland and England, travelling southwards from the Shetlands and Orkneys to Kent, were settled in historical times by Vikings.,Picts,Vikings again, Saxons, Angles and Jutes. All arrived I believe from the areas which are now Norway, Denmark, Lithuania and perhaps Friesland in the northern Netherlands. Finally Normans, who were originally Vikings settled in Hampshire and the Channel islands.

    The West Coast reading again from Scotland down through Wales to Cormwall was settled by Celtic peoples. speaking various variants of a common but non-germanic language, probably rather earlier than the Norse arrivals in the East. The only exceptions were Cumbria and the Isle of Man, which were also settled by Vikings.

    What Stephen Oppenheimer has found through DNA research, however, is that the bulk of the people in all these regions were an earlier stock that had travelled northwards from the Basque regions of what are now Spain and France.

    This has been a considerable surprise to people from almost all of these regions of the British Isles who were much more aware of the later incursions, that had certainly replaced the language and culture of the earlier arrivals. ..

  58. March 11, 2014


    James: The difference is indeed quite striking! I live in the Netherlands and I have seen a great many people in the east of Britain who closely resemble the Dutch. This was disconcerting as I am used to the smaller, darker British in the west.

    However I didn’t know that the Isle of Man was settled by the Vikings, although it does seem logical as the Vikings also settled in Ireland and Wales. I am of Irish, Welsh and Breton origin so probably there is some Viking in me somewhere along the line on both sides!

    The fact that the early Basques settled in the British Isles also comes as a very pleasant surprise. In another article on the same topic, I read that approximately 80 to 85% of the entire British population, including those in the east, are believed to have Basque DNA. However as I said before, this percentage is slightly lower in the east. The lowest percentage of Basque DNA has apparently been found in the region of Yorkshire but even this is 60%!

    By the way, it is true that the Normans were originally Vikings but don’t forget they intermarried with the local population. William the Conqueror’s own ancestors include Emma of France and Conan of Brittany.
    Also the Normans probably settled throughout most of England and part of Wales, as William gave them various lands in England after the Conquest. I expect a lot more Normans came over after the Conquest to settle there as well, and it seems reasonable to suppose that they too intermarried with the locals. This makes it all the more surprising that the Basque DNA emerges so strongly in present-day Britons!

  59. March 11, 2014

    Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

    The idea of ‘Basque DNA’ needs some clarification: it doesn’t only concern actual Basque emigrants to the British isles but also other migrants from the north coast of Spain (from Galicia to Cantabria). The western origin theory of the Celts (more and more confirmed by new data) includes their migration along the Cantabrian coast into formerly proto-Basque areas, where they intermarried with the local ‘Basques’ (people from the Franco-Spanish glacial refuge). Conclusion: the migration of the original Celts to the shores of the Channel also brought Basque genes to Britain, long before the Germanic invasions; it might even be the main source.
    [Some versions of the western origin theory posit that Italics from the southern 2/3 of Italy and possibly the Dalmatian coast migrated by sea to the western coasts of Portugal and Galicia, where they - minus the central group of the Lusitanians - became linguistically Celtic by 'contamination' of their Italic language(s) by proto-Basque and Iberian (both 'p-less' languages causing the trademark of Celtic: loss of Indo-European initial and intervocal 'p'; modern Celtic also shares another characteristic with Basque (and maybe Iberian): ergative tendencies in certain cases]

  60. March 20, 2014

    Jan de Jong

    Maybe you may say “Iberians” instead of “Basques” (a litle -but the surviving- part of the Iberians).

    By the way, in 1776 Edward Gibbon wrote in his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Chapter I): “As far as we can either trace or credit the resemblance of manners and language, Spain, Gaul, and Britain were peopled by the same hardy race of savages”.

  61. March 20, 2014


    The Basque, Etruscans Irish have Rb like the Armenians and come from that region.
    They have all the symbols found in the caves there. So do people in Europe Italians.

  62. March 25, 2014

    conor graham

    It’s hard to reconcile these two extracts:
    1. ‘Celtic languages and the people who brought them probably first arrived during the Neolithic period. The regions we now regard as Celtic heartlands actually had less immigration from the continent during this time than England. Ireland, being to the west, has changed least since the hunter-gatherer period and received fewer subsequent migrants (about 12 per cent of the population) than anywhere else.’
    2. ‘One explanation is that England was not mainly Celtic-speaking before the Anglo-Saxons. Consider, for example, the near-total absence of Celtic inscriptions in England (outside Cornwall), although they are abundant in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Brittany.’
    If the Celts arrived in Ireland n Scotland through England how does the author account for this inconsistency in the language spread?

  63. March 25, 2014


    Re ‘Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History”:

    “The first inhabitants were the Britons, who came from Armenia (3), and first peopled Britain southward.”
    (3) “De tractu Armoricano.” — Bede, “Ecclesiastical History” i. I. The word Armenia occurring a few lines above in Bede, it was perhaps inadvertently written by the Saxon compiler of the “Chronicle” instead of Armorica.

    According to Christopher Robbins it is possible that King Arthur was a Roman leader of Sarmation cavalry, posted to Britain. ‘In AD 175, the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius sent a contingent of 5,500 cataphracti – heavily armed auxiliary cavalry – to Britain from Pannonia, modern day Hungary….. they settled in Ribchester, in south-west Lancashire…. The commander … was called Lucius Artorus Castus ….. The Sarmations, as direct descendents of the Scythians, had always been mounted warriors ….. were also known to carry dragons resembling wind socks as their battle standards. … Just as the young Arthur draws the magical Excalibur from the earth, so the Scythian god of war is symbolized by a magical sword thrust into and drawn from the earth … the Alan tribe who settled in Gaul, on the River Lot ….. Alan of Lot, Alanus a Lot….. a band of Alans is said to have stolen vessels from the Basilica of St Peter’s … Rome in 410 … including a sacred gold chalice they associated with their own legend…..’

    The arrival of the Armenians by this token would seem to be with the Romans, rather than earlier.

  64. March 25, 2014

    James Ensor

    What Bede actualy wrote was “To begin with the inhabitans were all Britons,from whom the island got its name. They are reputed to have come from Amorica by ship and to have appropriated to themselves the southern part of the island.” By Armorica Bede means the land that now lies around St Malo. In Breton the name means by the sea.

    • March 25, 2014


      Ar means ‘on’ in Welsh
      Mor is ‘sea’ in Welsh

  65. March 27, 2014

    Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

    Indeed, Alyson: Ar-mor = on (i.e. ‘by’) the sea.

    Geographically it seems logcal that sea-faring migrants from the Cantabrian coasts first landed on the coast of Armorica (Brittany) before spreading to the somewhat farther out lying, less accessible, coasts of S. Britain. They just had to cross the Gulf of Biscay.
    When, at a certain time, these migrants were linguistically Celtic (the very oldest ones being Basque-like, from the glacial refuge), it would become likely that the initial spread of Celtic languages in the Channel area/Atlantic Façade would have emerged from Armorica.
    It seems likely that there were two such expansions: an older one, spreading Q-Celtic (which originated in central Spain under Basque-Iberian influence on the immigrant Italic-like Indo-European), and a later one, spreading P-Celtic, that might be the result of a local innovation in Britttany (possibly under the continuing influence of ancient indigenous populations speaking some Vasconic-Uralic language (“Old European”). That would explain why the Goidelic languages are the farthest away from Brittany (pushed to the outer margins), and the Brythonic areas the closest (including Gaul and the eastern expansion, much later). It would also imply that the Belgae spoke Q-Celtic, as opposed to the Gaulish tribes (P). [Note that Germania Cisrhenana was actually Celtic, so the Belgae being (left bank) 'Germanic' doesn't mean anything as to their language].
    One reason for these Ibero-Celtic migrations could have been the quest for tin and copper (Cornwall, Wales etc.) during the early Bronze Age, something in which they were followed later by the Phoenicians who set up storage and shipping facilities on the Channel Islands.The same thing happened in S. Spain (Tartessos: Huelva, Rio Tinto…, an originally Iberian region, then Celticized and subsequently taken over by the Phoenicians).

    • March 27, 2014


      Funnily enough I have been reading a couple of books which give further anecdotal evidence of migrations. The first is the fascinating book – ‘Apples are from Kazakhstan’ – by Christopher Robbins which introduced for me the concept of forced migration, as is still happening in China, and which happened extensively in the USSR. He contends that his Kazakh sources believe that King Arthur was one of 5,500 Hungarian horsemen, sent by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius to patrol Hadrian’s Wall initially. The Romans used different groups to defeat others across their Empire and so in Britain, had the Saxons push the Picts back north, in return for settlement lands, and the the Hungarian horsemen push the Saxons back in support of the Welsh. Artyr was called a Dux Bellorum or war lord according to Robbins. Next I went back to the poetry of Taliesin which describes the appearance of the horsemen, their armour, their military successes and that Artorus was crowned king of the realm after his many military successes. He also uses the term Armorica to describe the Brythonic people who were sent overseas by the Romans, as in ‘over’ the sea, rather than on it.
      I have one further suggestion – also anecdotal in origin – I recall a student of Old Icelandic telling me he could read and understand the Old Irish that was written on the old Irish pound (punt) notes. This would also support the evidence of ‘Celtic’ migration along the western seaboard and early Celtic Christianity was notable for its beautiful written calligraphy.
      ‘The Guanches, survivors and their descendents’,by Jose Luis Conception addresses language and dna links in the people of Tenerife, with the Caucasian Amazhie of the Atlas Mountains, who speak a Gallic language, and the Saami tribe of Eastern Scandinavia, who traded widely around 3,000BC.
      There is still much to discover before origins and mixes become clearer. Stephen Oppenheimer’s research identifies much of the evidence in current research, although written sources from before the Romans are still lacking.

    • March 27, 2014


      Is there any archeaological, historical or historiographical, etc, evidence that the Phoenicians created “storage and shipping facilities on the Channel Islands”?

      If so, please give the list appropriate citations accordingly.

  66. March 27, 2014

    Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

    No remains were found as far as I now (maybe some related ones near Mont Saint Michel and the Cotentin), but it is known that they used the islands to handle the materials (some say ‘ingots’) from SE Britain/English Channel for shipping to the Mediterranean. So, the actual operations seem to have taken place thereabout, but we don’t have material proof.
    I don’t have the bibliography at hand, but I remember having read it in numerous places. There is however a discussion on the exact identification of the islands (or maybe coasts) described by ancient writers (Pliny, Strabo, Herodotos, and a whole series of others, and their medieval copiers); the only thing we can be sure of is that it concerns the area of the channel islands, Cornwall etc.
    In the more popular realm, you can read a lot of pretty serious (non-fiction) informative stuff in “And Did Those Feet…?” by Michael Goldsworthy, Chapter 4, to be found on

  67. March 27, 2014

    Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

    Alyson, the Amazigh speak a Berber language, i.e. belonging to the Lybico-Berber subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family (the other branches are Semitic, Cushitic, Old Egyptian/Coptic and Chadic). Nothing to do with Gallic, which is Indo-European. The Guanches of the Canary islands were a branch of the Berbers. If anything, Tamazight is remotely but definitely related to Hebrew and Arabic for instance, or pharaonic Egyptian.
    Old Icelandic is a North-Germanic language, and Old Irish is a Q-Celtic language, both belong to very diverging branches of Indo-European. I guess what the guy said meant that he could read the old letters; I’m sure he couldn’t understand a word of Old Irish.
    The Saami (Lapps) are a Uralic people with origins in North-Central Asia. They are very different from the Amazigh/Guanches, in all respects.

  68. March 27, 2014

    James Ensor

    Tin was mined in Cornwall, therefore South West England. It was an essential ingredient for making bronze. And as the mines in Iberia and Bohemia became exhausted, Cornwall became the most important source of tin, in Europe. It is believed that it was shipped from Padstow to St Malo, both of which have fine natural harbours. The cargoes continued to Rome and indeed Byzantium overland. Possibly Phoenicians were amongst the merchants buying it. But it does not seem likely that they would have chosen Jersey or Guernsey, with their fierce tides, frequent thick fogs and sharp rocks as entrepots.

  69. March 27, 2014


    No citations regarding archaeological evidence of the presence of a Phoenician entrepot on Jersey.

    I am in agreement here with the content of James Ensor’s post. I am not a specialist in the area but I think he has more or less captured the ‘essence’ here.

    There is historiographic evidence only to support the assertion that both the Phoenicians and Greeks traded with the Cornish region (Cassiterides?) in ancient times, primarily for tin ingots or tin ore. For example, the voyages of Pytheas found in Strabo. Possibly, they navigated or even went ashore on the Channel Islands but a more likely candidate for any attempt to avoid “Breton” control of the trade is the Scilly Isles. And there is archaeological evidence that the Byzantines followed the same trade route for the same reasons after the end of Roman rule in Britain. Byzantine pottery, coins, etc, has been found which has been subjected to microanalysis and carbon dating which locates it in 6th and 7th century southern Asia Minor.

    In fact geographically the Channel Islands are due south-east of the traditional Cornish areas for trade in tin and it would have been strategically more feasible to find any “storage or shipping facililties” in more westerly locations on the Scilly Isles or Brittany coast. Tin was a very precious commodity of the age. The Phoenician trade in tin was under the control of the ‘Bretons” of the time, the Veneti*. And, as JE remarks, the CIs are notoriously problematic regarding tides, rocks and landings.

    *Champion, T. “The appropriation of the Phoenicians in British imperial ideology”. Nations and Nationalism 7 (4): 451–465.

    But I am yet to read any peer-reviewable paper in any journals which gives archaeological or any other form of evidence which indicates Phoenician “storage and shipping facilities on the Channel Islands”. If this were the case, this would be a major discovery in Phoenician Studies. Akin to the discovery of Roman trading posts in western India. In such matters, however, as always, I reserve the right to be wrong.

    For the time being, we must take Mr Selleslagh-Suykens’ assertion here as purely speculative. Have any Phoenician cultural artifacts actually been found on the Channel Islands?

    Some individuals subscribe to the view that the Phoenicians were in America before the Norsemen or Columbus. Whereas evidence has presented for both Columbus and the Vikings in North America, none, as yet, has been put forward in any reputable academic journal to indicate the Phoenicians in America beforehand.

  70. March 27, 2014

    Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

    I think my term “storage and shipping facilities” was interpreted too literally: these activities did take place in the general region mentioned, and no material proof was found, to my knowledge. I think I mentioned all of Sapo’s items in my second posting, albeit in a much shorter form. The debate is about the true identification of the Cassiterides (the CIs are just one possibility, most often mentioned), and the semi-legendary island of Ictis, often supposed to lie in the mouth of the Avon.There are somewhat similar problems with ancient Tartessos in the Huelva (Río Tinto) region of Andalusia (where shifting sands and disappeared river mouths make finding material remnants, let alone identification of the site, virtually impossible).
    I believe we are all aware of the uncertainty of many facts in this matter, having to rely mainly on interpretations of ancient writers. Except about the essence: the Phoenicians did collect and ship tin (and probably also copper) from the region.

  71. March 27, 2014

    James Ensor

    Cassiteride or tin ore has never been found on the Channel Islands. Herodotus, who lived at what is now Bodrun in Turkey was not familiar with the Atlantic islands. Maps drawn after his writings do not show the British isles, at all. But they are the most likely source for Casiiterides, as they were a major source of tin, some of which was delivered tio Byzantium, a trade with which Herodotus might have been familiar.

    It seems likely that the Amoricans shipped either ingots or ore from Cornwall to Brittany and perhaps carried it further overland, before selling it to Phoenicians, who controlled much of the trade in the Mediterranean.

    The Phoenicians settled around the Rio Tinto in Spain, another source of cassiteride in ancient times. Evidence for this is that the dogs native to this area the Podengo/Podeco originated in the Levant.

    • March 28, 2014

      Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

      ‘Cassiterides’ is the ancient name of the islands we were talking about, not the name of the tin ore. And you’re right: there was a lot of confusion in ancient times about their location. And I have never said or even believed that the ore was dug up on the Channel Islands: if they (or the Scilly islands, or Ictis) played any role in the tin (and probably copper) trade, it was for temporary storage before shipping it out, i.e. as a trading post or a simple landing site.
      You mention the Armoricans as possible intermediaries; it is possible, even likely, that they or very close relatives of theirs also lived in Cornwall, which would mean they covered the whole area we were talking about, on both sides of the Channel. It seems unlikely the Phoencians bought the tin ingots further inland (either in Britain or on the continent), as they were basically seafaring traders who never ventured inland anywhere. Even Hannibal followed the coastline (of Spain and France), except for his crossing of the Alps.
      ‘Cassiterite’ (with a T) for ‘tin ore’ (SnO2, tin dioxide) is of course a modern term that has nothing to do with the islands, but with the ancient Greek name of tin ‘kassiteros’.

  72. March 28, 2014


    “if they (or the Scilly islands, or Ictis) played any role in the tin (and probably copper) trade, it was for temporary storage before shipping it out, i.e. as a trading post or a simple landing site”

    Once again, this cannot be asserted definitively without very specific evidence to back it. You are positing a very specific, historically localised proposition for which there is no evidence whatsoever – either archaeological or historiographical. If you were presenting a paper to a journal, you would have to support such an assertion with citations and references otherwise it would be rejected by any reputable academic publication.

    If I were to assert that the Roman administration used Chester (Deva) or Aqua Sulis (Bath) as a storage depot for Welsh gold, you would ask me to provide some form of evidence for that in order to support the proposition.

    On this question of the tin trade in antiquity, we can only posit the most generalised conceptions based on historiographics and any archaeological evidence which may be available e.g., in regard to Byzantine trade in the post-Roman period.

    Nobody knows where “Ictis” was located. It is as elusive as “Atlantis”.

  73. March 28, 2014

    James Ensor

    Phoenician dogs cannot be found north of Portugal, They are such hardy survivors amd exist all over the Mediterranean, particularly on islands, that this suggests the Phoenicians did not colonise the Channel coasts or any British islands, The dogs travelled on ships to keep down the rats, which plagued ancient mariners. They are direct descendants of the near-extinct pale-footed wolf of the Levant.

    It would be a logistical nonsense in either ancient or modern transport schemes to site a depot close to the source, which required unloading and reloading of tin ore or ingot. on another island, surrounded by notoriously hazardous seas.

  74. March 28, 2014

    Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens

    You don’t seem to understand my words. I give up.

  75. March 28, 2014


    Mr Selleslagh-Suykens, your proposition in your previous post takes the logical form of ‘if X then Y’. But if there is no historically specific, geographically localisable and citable evidence to underpin the “then” within the logical form of your proposition then, of course, you are speculating. I am not discounting the implied possibility in your assertion but we cannot state it as beyond reasonable doubt in the sense that we can state that the Cornish/Breton region was a source of tin ore/ingots in antiquity.

    I do not see any misunderstanding here, sir.

  76. March 28, 2014


    However, having written all this, there are many reasons why a Phoenician vessel may wish to drop anchor off the Scilly Isles. For a start, I am told they do a damn fine fish n chips.

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