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Celts descended from Spanish fishermen, study finds

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    Celts descended from Spanish fishermen, study finds

    Celts descended from Spanish fishermen, study finds

    By Guy Adams
    Wednesday, 20 September 2006

    Don't tell the locals, but the hordes of British holidaymakers who visited Spain this summer were, in fact, returning to their ancestral home.

    A team from Oxford University has discovered that the Celts, Britain's indigenous people, are descended from a tribe of Iberian fishermen who crossed the Bay of Biscay 6,000 years ago. DNA analysis reveals they have an almost identical genetic "fingerprint" to the inhabitants of coastal regions of Spain, whose own ancestors migrated north between 4,000 and 5,000BC.

    The discovery, by Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University, will herald a change in scientific understanding of Britishness.

    People of Celtic ancestry were thought to have descended from tribes of central Europe. Professor Sykes, who is soon to publish the first DNA map of the British Isles, said: "About 6,000 years ago Iberians developed ocean-going boats that enabled them to push up the Channel. Before they arrived, there were some human inhabitants of Britain but only a few thousand in number. These people were later subsumed into a larger Celtic tribe... The majority of people in the British Isles are actually descended from the Spanish."

    Professor Sykes spent five years taking DNA samples from 10,000 volunteers in Britain and Ireland, in an effort to produce a map of our genetic roots.

    Research on their "Y" chromosome, which subjects inherit from their fathers, revealed that all but a tiny percentage of the volunteers were originally descended from one of six clans who arrived in the UK in several waves of immigration prior to the Norman conquest.

    The most common genetic fingerprint belongs to the Celtic clan, which Professor Sykes has called "Oisin". After that, the next most widespread originally belonged to tribes of Danish and Norse Vikings. Small numbers of today's Britons are also descended from north African, Middle Eastern and Roman clans.


    Well, that would certainly go a long way to explaining my love of spicy food! I always suspected that my Celtic tribe had wandered a bit......


      It is also thought that many of the survivors of the sinking of the Spanish Armada (1588) made their way to the southwest/west of Ireland.


        Fascinating. This is like when Wise explained that my Cherokee roots make me Asian. Are Spaniards hot-tempered? I've told Wise before that this Irish-Cherokee blend is incapable of the pacifism that he has. And then he told me we were basically related.

        I wonder where the fair skin/blue eyes/ red hair strain of Celts come from? Vikings? I always think of them as blond.

        Amazing that the Romans left so little trace, isn't it? I wouldn't think a ban on marrying locals for 200 years, all the way from Rome, would prevent the occupying forces from spreading a great deal of DNA about the place.
        Does This Wheelchair Make My Ass Look Fat?


          Celtic women

          How interesting! Three women with celtic roots responding to this thread. Celtic women are an object of worship and well known for their independence. According to the following web site

          The Celtic people have long been an enigma to the world for their historically independent- thinking minds and for their kind of natural mysticism. The Celts have also been known for their tendency for both their progressivism as evidenced in their early law codes, and for their conservatism as seen in their attachment to native pagan traditions in the face of pervasive Christianity. There is much scholarly debate as to which historical observer has told the most reliable accounts of the Celts or which literature retains the most accurate portrayal of Celtic life. This is especially true of ancient Celtic women. The body of literature that we have was "tainted" by Christian monks and subject to Christian moralizing. Observers, who were usually members of the conquering people, were often woefully inaccurate in their interpretation, using their experience as a lens through which they viewed the Celtic people and as a measure of what was "acceptable" and what was not.

          It is important to briefly note that the term "Celtic" refers to a diverse body of languages and a varied group of people. The Celtic language includes Irish, Manx, Scots-Gaelic, Welsh, Breton and Cornish. Further, the term "Celtic" has only be en in use since the 18th century classicists coined it. It was they who "lumped together" the Celts as "noble savages" and circulated the modern stereotypes persistent to this day. No literature survives from ancient Gaul and records of the people are fragmentary. Carolyn Larrington in her book, The Feminist Companion to Mythology says,

          "We do not know the Celts but only the Gauls, Irish, Welsh, and Bretons�archeological evidence (of the Celts) is related to the continental Celts, vernacular literature to the insular Celts, thus the two cannot validate each other without the risk of circularity, but they can tell us about their myth and beliefs" (121).

          It is my intention to explore the myth of the ancient Celts especially as they focus on female deities. The myths of the ancient Celts suggest the dominant role of the Celtic female, or at least they point up a society that was at one time matrifocused�that is, focused on women. Further, the evolution of these myths suggests a distinct shift in consc iousness shaped by the warrior ethos, Christianity and patriarchy. The female goddess, once held sacred, became violent. Her life-giving qualities brought instead only death and destruction. Consequently, female members of this society who had enjoyed much freedom and equal status among men, were made to suffer at the hands of violence as well. It is my belief that the Celtic woman, while certainly not a direct reflection of the Celtic goddess, was at one time honored for her life-giving ability, thou ght of as wise and treated as an individual. Mythology of the Celtic people does seem to suggest this.

          Important in our study then is the role of the goddess in pre-Christian Celtic society. Larrington describes the goddess in this way, she was a "dual-natured female figure, beautiful and hag-like by turns in whose gift was great power" (122). The goddesses were especially depicted in three's, such as Eriu, Banba, and Fotla, all goddesses of sovereignty. In the eleventh century, Ireland was often called Eire ( a form of Eriu) and also called "the island of Banba of the women" (Mary Condren, The Serpent and the Goddess, Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland, 26). Goddesses, according to Larrington, were often hybridized by Roman and Greek influences, but this did not seem to obscure the native elements. For example, Julius Caesar liken ed one Celtic goddess to Minerva, a classical deity. In fact, some Celtic goddesses seemed to share certain of their characteristics. However, there were no Celtic goddesses of love. There were goddesses more often associated with fertility and the natural cycle of life, including death (23). Perhaps most importantly, the goddesses represented creativity especially as it related to giving life, in all its aspects.

          Condren describes the female warrior goddesses respect for death, as a natural part of life, which seemed in translate into "real" life as well. This is best seen in the symbolic marriage between the king and the goddess of sovereignty. This union was to "ensure fertility for the land and for his people in the year to come.

          "The king was not the one who put his personal satisfaction or gratification first but the one who was wise enough to embrace symbolically the ambiguity and tragic consequences of the human condition�the natural tragedy of cyclical life and death symbolized the goddess (and) was eventually rejected" (23-4).

          The king traditionally had to embrace the goddess in the guise of a hag who would then turn beautiful after receiving his kiss. Condren impressively states here that the king of that time was a man who respected both life and death and importantly, respe cted the giver of life. The king then must marry such a notion, that embrace of the natural.

          Condren describes not only the role of the goddess in Celtic Ireland, but also the important inter-relatedness of goddess and human woman: "Since the source of life was so integrally associated with women, it would seem to follow that the origin s of life were female. At times of joy or moments of pain, humans would turn to the Goddess who was honored in her many guises" (26). It would not seem strange then to worship a female deity and consequently treat her female subjects with respect and honor. Descent was also often traced through the mother and a strong emphasis was placed on the mother relationship. However, conservative scholars are quick to point out that the power did not entirely rest on women, rather the focus appears to be on women. Life was of tremendous value in what appears to be the most natural, physical sense. Hence the importance of the woman, goddess or human. Condren again observes this early society:

          "Women were highly honored, female symbolism formed the most sacred images in the religious cosmos, and the relationship with motherhood was the central elements of the social fabric �the society was held together by common allegiance to the customs of the tribe loosely organized around the traditions of the goddess" (28).
          Last edited by Wise Young; 30 Nov 2008, 12:28 PM.


            Originally posted by betheny View Post
            Fascinating. This is like when Wise explained that my Cherokee roots make me Asian. Are Spaniards hot-tempered? I've told Wise before that this Irish-Cherokee blend is incapable of the pacifism that he has. And then he told me we were basically related.

            I wonder where the fair skin/blue eyes/ red hair strain of Celts come from? Vikings? I always think of them as blond.

            Amazing that the Romans left so little trace, isn't it? I wouldn't think a ban on marrying locals for 200 years, all the way from Rome, would prevent the occupying forces from spreading a great deal of DNA about the place.
            Fascinating question. Here is one discussion of the subject:
            Approximately 1% of the world's population has red hair, but there isn't very much known about its origins, when it popped up or even why. Red hair appears in people who have two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16 which causes a change in a protein known as MC1R. Various studies estimate that the gene appeared anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 years ago. Jonathan Rees of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who identified the gene for red hair and light skin in 1995, believes that the gene appeared only 50,000 years ago.

            Possible Reasons Why the Gene Emerged

            • What we do know is that red hair is more common in northern countries, especially the colder climates associated with Western Europe. Some researchers (Bodmer and Cavalli-Sforza, 1976) suggested that a lighter skin colour is advantageous in colder latitudes because it encourages a higher level of Vitamin D production in the body, preventing the bone-softening disease known as rickets. A woman who had rickets would have severe problems during childbirth, because her pelvis would be damaged.
            • In addition, the red-headed gene allows individuals to retain heat better than someone with darker skin.
            • Other scientists have theorized that the red hair gene survived because it was attractive to potential mates, outweighing the costs associated with a higher rate of skin cancer, for example, in redheads.

            Red hair is often assumed to have emerged with the Celts, but the gene for redheadedness existed long before the Celts came into being, at the start of the first millennium BC around the headwaters of the Rhine, the Rhone and the Danube. One theory is that red hair arrived in Europe with the Iranic-speaking steppe tribes who lived the areas north of and around the Black Sea from 4,000 years ago to the 6th century. Today, there is a surprising number of redheads in Afghanistan, Iran and the Urals, as well as in Azerbaijan and Georgia. It is possible that this "Iranic" ginger trait was transferred to other populations, including the Celts, whose original hair color was various shades of brown and black in general.

            This theory conflicts with the idea that the red gene was present in Neanderthals who then passed it on to Homo sapiens when they arrived in Europe. If this is true, then the redheaded gene would have been present in Europe long before the "Iranic" gene arrived.

            The Redheaded Celts

            From about 500 BC and up to the Christian era, records of the classical nations document a powerful people living in middle and western Europe. The Greeks called these people the Hyperboreans or Celts, the latter term being first found in the geographer Hecataeus, roughly 500 BC. Plato described the Celts as a drunken and combative race, and they were associated with barbarity when they inundated Greece and sacked the city of Delphi in 273 BC. The Celt's attack on Rome and their sacking of that city about a century earlier is one of the landmarks of ancient history.

            Thanks to their interactions with the Romans, we have a lot of documentary evidence about with the Celts looked like and how they behaved, at least through the eyes of the Romans. According to records, the Celtic men of Britain were taller than those of Gaul, but their hair was not as fair, yet the Germans differed from other Celts in that they were wilder, taller and had redder hair. However, Boudicca, who was queen of a British tribe called the Iceni, was said to be "very tall and terrifying in appearance," with a booming voice and a great mass of red hair that fell over her shoulders. To the classical writers, the female Celts were not only like their men in stature, but could rival them in strength, and one record describes how difficult it would be to deal with a Celt if he called in the help of his wife.

            A first wave of Celts entered Ireland around 600 BC and came from Southern Spain. These Celts were generally dark haired, like the present inhabitants of that area. The second wave of Celts took place around 400 BC, and they came from what is now France and Belgium and settled in mainland Britain. It is this second wave that tends to be associated with red hair, according to the accounts of Roman writers. When the Romans invaded Britain, many of these Celtic people were pushed to the edges of the mainland, Celtic territories that are commonly called the "Celtic fringe."

            The Picts

            One of the early group of tribes associated with red hair are the Picts, who lived in what later became central and northern Scotland from Roman times until the 10th century. Controversy surrounds whether the Picts were a Celtic tribe, with some authors suggesting that they were separate from the Celts.

            The meaning of the terms "Picts" is uncertain, although many texts cite it as being the "painted ones." Roman historian Tacitus described the Picts as having red hair and "large limbs."

            The Vikings

            At the end of the eighth century, the Irish Sea saw the first wave of raiders from Scandinavia. These raiders have come to be known as Vikings, Northmen or Norsemen. The origin of the term "Viking" is actually a verb, from "to go on viking," which these peoples used to describe their raids.

            The Vikings are often referred to as having red hair, when in fact different sources ascribe different hair colours to them, depending on where they came from. For example, whereas Thomas William Shore writes in Origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race that the Norwegian Vikings that were "of a dark or black complexion" and the Danes were more fair-haired, Margaret Mulvihill writes in Viking Longboats that the Irish called the Norwegian Vikings "blond strangers" and the Danish Vikings "dark-haired strangers".

            Despite almost 500 years of Scandinavian trade and migration, Norse influence did not entirely prevail. The Celtic language survived, and the Viking invaders were converted to Christianity.