Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lara Cassidy and Dan Bradley on the Rathlin Burials

For St. Patrick's day, several news outlets republished highlights of the Cassidy et al, 2015 findings which I wrote about three months ago [here].  Via New York Daily News, Irish Central, Razib Khan

Irelander with Tripartite Food Vessel (via New York Daily News)

Three Irish men were buried under a Pub [cymbal shot]  But seriously, three Irish men were buried under a pub.  Here's an interesting video interview starting with Lara Cassidy and leading to Dan Bradley.  It's embedded from the NY Post story:

Everything from Britain and Ireland first passes through the lens of Celtic identity, or at least the 19th Century's formulation.  The Rathlin burials demonstrate that the modern Irish genome was effectively established by the Early Bronze Age (something I had predicted for much of Europe) and gives a little fodder for Koch and Cunnliffe's theory of "Celtic from the West".  The latters propose a MBA Atlantic network leading to the formation of Celtic, but I don't believe they define from 'what', eg. more basal IE dialects or something else.

Another paper should be out this year that will challenge Koch and Cunnliffe on the details, but argue something similar; essentially that historic Celtic lacks a center of gravity specific to the Urnfield to La Tene circulation and was rather widely dispersed among Continental and Atlantic Bronze Age trading villages, or something to that effect.

With regard to the Beaker phenomenon and language (assuming its common language never changed), I'd be careful to avoid making that shoe fit.  There probably was a semi-intelligible, pan-European linguistic affinity among far flung Beaker settlements but it may be more something like 1) not European at all, or 2) something ancestral to the entire Centum branch.


Cassidy et al (2015) "Neolithic and Bronze Age Migration to Ireland and Establishment of the Insular Atlantic Genome"


  1. I agree with your perception
    Celtic is a much later language
    But such common sense won't stop some running away with their imagination
    Why & how would Celtic "come from the west" to the Alpine heartland

    1. I look forward to seeing this alternative theory to see what arguments they propose

    2. An analogous process for which we have written historical evidence was the post-Roman Empire Roman Catholic evangelization of Continental Europe by Irish missionaries (sometimes the subjects were pagans, sometimes they were Arian Christians which had been popular among peoples north of the Roman empire in the Roman era).

  2. Yes it will be Both CFW books were cover to cover great reading
    Apparently genealogists looking at the Rathlin samples found that although the BA men harboured L21, etc, they were not on a branch actually ancestral to those found modern Britons and Irish; what leaves room for subsequent migrations after the BB period ?

  3. I think what we now think of as Celtic came out of the vicinity of Bohemia in the IA due to it being the region with the best source of iron and Rathlin represents an earlier more widespread BB connected layer which might contain common pre-Celtic elements and part of which expand somewhat from the west due to tin-bronze.

    So my picture is... bunch of cousins spread around Europe, one group who happened to end up in a region with tin and copper expands from the west due to tin-bronze and later another group expands back again from the east due to iron. The surviving "Celtic" culture being the last layer rather than the earliest.

    1. I think you are right on target. I would also entertain the notion that the broad similarity of Celtic languages may be due to a proto-Italic-Celtic language spreading out and transforming into similar Celtic-like languages in many places in parallel due to their encounters with a common BB substrate under similar circumstances in all places. Italic, in contrast, may have arisen from the same proto-IE language encountering a different substrate.