From as far back as the 16th century, historians taught that the Irish are the descendants of the Celts, an Iron Age people who originated in the middle of Europe and invaded Ireland somewhere between 1000 B. DNA research indicates that the three skeletons found behind Mc Cuaig's are the ancestors of the modern Irish and they predate the Celts and their purported arrival by 1,000 years or more.
The Nobel-winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats titled a book “Celtic Twilight.” Irish songs are deemed “Celtic” music. And in Boston, arguably the most Irish city in the United States, the owners of the NBA franchise dress their players in green and call them the Celtics.“The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,” said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford who has written books on the origins of the people of Ireland.
They are indisputably related, and indisputably a well-defined category.
To be sure, some think that Celtic languages originated with the Celts on continental Europe and subsequently spread to Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Tolkien, better known as the author of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" novels, described the popular understanding of "Celtic" in a celebrated lecture: “‘Celtic’ of any sort is ...
The senior author of the DNA research paper, Dan Bradley of Trinity College Dublin, was reluctant to weigh in on the cultural implications, but he offered that the findings do challenge popular beliefs about Irish origins.
The Irish language is, like Welsh and Scottish Gaelic, part of a group that linguists have labeled Celtic. They seem to have emerged after a similar evolution from Indo-European.
This is the traditional view, and it dovetails with the idea that the Celts moved into Ireland during the Iron Age. a magic bag into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come....
But over the last decade, a growing number of scholars have argued that the first Celtic languages were spoken not by the Celts in the middle of Europe but by ancient people on Europe’s westernmost extremities, possibly in Portugal, Spain, Ireland or the other locales on the western edges of the British Isles. Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight, which is not so much a twilight of the gods as of the reason.” Moreover, in recent years, some archaeologists have proposed that the traditional story of the Celts' invasion was, in a sense, exactly wrong — the culture was not imported but exported — originating on the western edge of Europe much earlier than previously thought and spreading into the continent.
Genetics is fuzzy, and it doesn't follow political and cultural borders." Even so, some experts warned that the new findings will disappoint many who would prefer a simpler answer to the question Irish origins.
Koch, the linguist at the University of Wales, for example, proposed in 2008 that “Celtic” languages were not imports to the region but instead were developed somewhere in the British Isles or the Iberian Peninsula — and then spread eastward into continental Europe. In a 2001 book, Cunliffe, the Oxford scholar, argued on the basis of archaeological evidence that the flow of Celtic culture was opposite that of the traditional view — it flowed from the western edge of Europe, what he calls “the Atlantic zone” — into the rest of the continent.
His doubts about the traditional view arose as he was studying inscriptions on artifacts from southern Portugal. “It just didn’t fit with the traditional theory of Celtic spreading west to Britain and Iberia.” Numerous digs, most notably in Austria and Switzerland, have traced the outlines of the Celts. In many places of the Atlantic zone, he notes, people were buried in passages aligned with the solstices, a sign that they shared a unified belief system.
That story has inspired innumerable references linking the Irish with Celtic culture.
The genetic roots of today's Irish, in other words, existed in Ireland before the Celts arrived.“The most striking feature” of the bones, according to the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, is how much their DNA resembles that of contemporary Irish, Welsh and Scots.