Invasion Of Britain By Goidelic Celts In The Bronze

The aborigines of Europe, who were driven westward by the successive waves of Aryan conquest, appear to have been in the Neolithic stage of culture, and they are identified by Prof. W. Boyd Dawkins with the Iberians mentioned by Strabo. Prof. W. Boyd Dawkins gives a map in his Early Man in Britain (p. 318) showing the relative distribution of the Iberic, Celtic, and Belgic races i 1 the historic period. In this map the Iberians occupy the north of Africa, the west of Spain and France, the country round Marseilles, the whole of Wales, and the south-west of Ireland. The Celts follow behind to the eastward, pressing the Iberians towards the Atlantic.

In the opening address of the Antiquarian Section at the meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Scarborough in 1895, Prof. Dawkins said:—1

" The theory that the Neolithic inhabitants of the British Isles are represented by the Basques and small, dark Iberic population of Europe generally, has stood the test of twenty-five years' criticism, and still holds the field. From the side of philology it is supported by the fact pointed out by Inchauspe that the Basque word aitzr for stone is the root from which the present names of pick, knife, and scissors made of iron are derived. This of itself shows that the ancestors of the Basques were in the Neolithic stage of culture. The name of Ireland, according to Rhys,2 is derived from Iber-land (Ilibernia), the land of the Iberians, or sons of Iber. The evidence seems to be ciear: i That the Iberians were the original inhabitants of France and Spain in the Neolithic age, and the only inhabitants of the British Isles ; 2. That

1 ArchcrrlogicalJournal, vol. lii., p. 342.

2 Ctltic Britain, p. 262.

they were driven out of the south-eastern parts of France and Spain in the Neolithic age; (3) That they are now amply represented by the small dark peoples in the Iberian Peninsula, and in the island which bears their name, and in various other places in Western Europe, where they constitute, as Broca happily phrases it, 'ethnological islands.' The small, dark, long-headed Yorkshiremen form one of these islands."

Let us pause for a moment to consider the stage of culture attained by the Neolithic aborigines of Britain whom the Celts found here on their first arrival. The houses in which Neolithic man lived are of two kinds : (1) pit dwellings dug to a depth of from seven to ten feet deep in the chalk, like those at Highiicld,1 near Salisbury, explored by Mr. Adlam in [866; and (2) hut circles like those at Cam Bre near Camborne,'2 in Cornwall, excavated by Mr. Thurstan C. Peter, and on Dartmoor,3 excavated by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould and Mr. R. Burnard. Ir many cases the v illages are fortified by a wall of rubble stone, as at Grimspound, on Dartmoor. Neolithic dwellings have also been explored by Mr. George Clinch, at Keston, in Kent.4

Neolithic man supported himself by the chase and by fishing, and also was a farmer in a small way, growing wheat and cultivating tlax. He had domesticated the sheep, goat, ox, hog, and dog. He could spin, weave, mine flint, ch;p and polish stone implements and make rude pottery.

1 W. Boyd Dawkins' Early Man in Britain,p. 267; and E. T. Stevens' Flint Chips, p. 57.

3 R. Burnard in Trans, of Plymouth hist., 1895-6; and T. C. Peter in Jour. R. Inst, of Cornwall, No. 42.

3 Reports oi Dartmoor Exploration Committee in the Trans, of Devonshire Assoc. for Advancement of Science.

4 Proc. Sac. Ant. Land., ser 2, vol. xii., p. 258, and vol. xvii., p. 216.

He buried his dead in long barrows, chambered cairns, and dolmens. Cremation was not practised, and it was usual to inter a large number of bodies in a chamber constructed of huge stones.

Such was the aboriginal inhabitant with whom the first Celtic invader had to contend. I sayjfrt€ Celtic, invader advisedly, for there was a second Celtic invasion at a later period. The vanguard of the Celtic conquerors arc called by Prof. J. Rhys, in his Celtic Britain (p. 3), "Goidels," to distinguish them from the " Brythons," who constituted the second set of invaders. The modern representatives of the Goidels are the Gaelic-speaking population of the Highlands of Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man ; whilst the descendants of the Brythons now inhabit Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. At the time of the Roman occupation the Brythonie tribes inhabited the whole of England with the exception of the districts now occupied by Cumberland, Westmoreland, Devon, ard Cornwall. The most 'mportant of these Brythonie tribes were the Brigantes and Parisi of Yorkshire, the Catuvelauni of the Midland Counties, the Eceni of the eastern counties, the Attrebates of the Thames Valley, and the Belgse, Regni, and Cantion in the south. The south of Scotland was in possession of the Dumnoni and Otadini, who were Brythons, as were also the Ordovices of Central Wales. The Ivernians still held their own in the north of Scotland. The remainder of Great Britain was inhabited either by pure Goidels or by Goidels who had mixed their blood with the Ivernlan aborigines.

As Prof. J. Rhys has pointed out in his Ccltic Britain (p. 211), the soundest distinction between the Goidels and the Brythons rests on a peculiarity of c pronunciation in their respective languages. In the corresponding words in each language where the Bry-thons use the letter P, the Goidels use Qv. Hence they have been termed the "P and Q Celts.*1 The most familiar instance of this is where the Welsh use the word ap to mean son of, and the Gaels use mac. The older form of mac found on the Ogam-inscribed monuments of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the West of England is maqvi, as in the bi-literal and bi-lingual inscribed stone at St. Dogmael's, ;n Pembrokeshire, where the Latin "sagrani hli cvnotami" has as an equivalent in Ogams "sagramni maqvi cynatami." In modern Welsh map, or mab. has been shortened bv dropping the m, and in Gaelic the v of maqvi has been dropped, and the q made into c.

So much for the pnilological differences between the Goidel and the Brython. They can also be distinguished archicologically, the former as being in the Bronze Age stage of culture, and the latter in the Early Iron Age when he arrived in Britain. In a subsequent chapter we shall have to deal with the Brythonic Celt, but at present we are concerned exclusively with the Goidel.

The Neolithic irhabifants of this country, whom the Guidelic Celts found here on their arrival, were ethno-logically a small dark-haired, black-eyed race, with long skulls of a type which is sti'.l to be seen amongst the Silurians of South Wales.1 The ethnological characteristics of the Goidels were entirely different: they were tall, fair-haired, round-headed, with high cheek-bones, a large mouth, and aq;ii:ne nose. In studying the past much must necessarily be more or less conjectural, and we can never hope to see otherwise than "as in a glass darkly." As far, however, as it is 1 Boyd Daw kins' Early Man in Britain, chapttr ix.

possible to ascertain the facts, it appears probable that the advancing wave of Goidelic Celts did not entirely overwhelm the aborigines or drive them before it. Most likely the big Goidels made the small Iberians "hewers of wood and drawers of water," and in t:me either absorbed them or themselves became absorbed.

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  • chiaffredo
    Who were celtus and iber?
    7 years ago

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