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Bronze- and Iron-Age Celtic-speakers: what don't we know, what can't we know, and what could we know? Language, genetics and archaeology in the twenty-first century

  • Patrick Sims-Williams (a1)

In 1998 the author published ‘Genetics, linguistics and prehistory: thinking big and thinking straight’, a critique of late twentieth-century attempts to synthesize the disciplines of genetics, linguistics and archaeology. This paper assesses subsequent progress, using examples from various parts of the world, including Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Frisia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Micronesia, Portugal, Spain and the Canary Islands. The growing importance of mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome, rather than classical population genetics, is emphasized. The author argues that ancient DNA and early linguistic data should be used more. Languages mentioned include Aquitanian, Basque, Celtiberian, Etruscan, Finnish, Hungarian, Iberian, Lepontic, Lusitanian, Pictish, Raetic, ‘Tartessian’, Thracian and the Ladin dialect of the Italian Alps. Aspects of the ancient linguistic geography of Scotland and the Iberian peninsula are discussed, as is the difficulty of deciding the direction of spread of Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages. The potential of ancient place and personal names is illustrated from Celtic.


En 1998, l'auteur a publié Genetics, linguistics and prehistory: thinking big and thinking straight, critique des tentatives de la fin du XXe siècle de synthétiser les disciplines de la géné-tique, de la linguistique et de l'archéologie. Ce document évalue les progrès ultérieurs, en utilisant des exemples pris dans différentes parties du monde, notamment en Grande-Bretagne, au Danemark, en Finlande, en Frise, en Allemagne, en Hongrie, en Irlande, en Italie, en Micronésie, au Portugal, en Espagne et dans les îles Canaries. L'importance croissance de l'ADN mitochondrial et du chromosome Y, plutôt que la génétique classique des populations, est mise en avant. L'auteur avance que l'ADN ancien et les premières données linguistiques devraient être utilisés davantage. Les langues mentionnées incluent le gascon, le basque, le celtibère, l’étrusque, le finnois, le hongrois, l'ibère, le lépontique, le lusitanien, le picte, le rétique, le tartessien, le thracien et le dialecte ladin des Alpes italiennes. Certains aspects de la géographie linguistique ancienne de l’Écosse et de la péninsule ibérique sont abordés, tout comme la difficulté de décider de la direction de déplacement des langues indoeuropéennes et non indoeuropéennes. Le potentiel des noms anciens de lieu et de personne est illustré à partir du celte.

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The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0003-5815
  • EISSN: 1758-5309
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquaries-journal
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