Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We Turks of Ireland

As the putative descendant of Celts, I was interested and mildly distressed to learn from Stephen Oppenheimer in Prospect magazine that, more than likely, those of us whose ancestors came from Ireland have no connection at all to the Celtic cultures of Central Europe but are actually Anatolian, i.e., Turkish, in origin, via the Mediterranean littoral and the Basque Country. And it's the fault of that Greek bloke Herodotus, who off-handedly said the race he called "Keltoi" came from the Danube regions, whereas what he meant to say was the Pyrenees, placing us squarely in the Basque Country. What silly old Herodotus did with his Danube comment was reinforce the idea that the Halstatt and La Tène cultures of central Europe, with their elaborate metalwork and swirling, typically Celtic shapes, were the proto-Celts of Ireland, Scotland, etc. Not so, apparently; that art was just the fashion of the times everywhere. So forget the old notion of the Celtic "rump" pushed outward by Roman expansion; our lot got started in Turkey much earlier, says Oppenheimer.

"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, traveling 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."
That's OK, then. I'm happy with Mediterranean origins. I always wanted to be Italian. But Anatolian as well, eh? Well, I was quite the young Turk in my day....

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