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September 18, 2004

Celts & Iberians

There is new research (unpublished) that seems to confirm a relationship between the peoples of Iberia & the Celtic Isles. This is obviously a novel idea, because news magazines seem intent on picking up this story and presenting it as if previous papers that pointed in this direction had never come to light.

Since Iberia was one of the refugia of our species during the Last Glacial Maximum, it stands to reason that when the ice sheets withdrew humans would push their way up to the North Atlantic coast. Later population movements would no doubt diminish in impact the further you moved West since their origins were generally closer to the heartland of Eurasia. The articles that came out today on this topic keep referring to the movement of Celts from Central Europe, but I find it implausible that there weren't population movements in prehistory that we simply don't have record of because of the lack of literacy (the Megalith Builders?). After all, we know that a man associated with Stonehenge came from Switzerland.

Readers might be interested to know that Iberia was home to several non-Indo-European languages at the time of Roman conquest (and is home to Europe's last remaining "indigenous" non-Indo-European language [1]). This indicates the process of Indo-Europeanization was late, though the Celtiberians are attested from the northern part of the peninsula. There are debates as to whether Pictish was non-Indo-European, it might be that the process of Indo-Europeanization simply finished right before the Romans arrived in Britain.

[1] Depending on whether you think Finno-Ugric originates in Finland.

Posted by razib at 02:38 PM