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Title: Pre-Celtic  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Celticisation, Goidelic substrate hypothesis, Insular Celts, Indo-European, Rhine
Collection: Ancient Celts, Bronze Age Europe, Indo-European, Pre-Indo-Europeans
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Celts in Europe, distribution by 500 BCE (dark green) and by 250 BCE (light green).

The term pre-Celtic refers to the period in the prehistory of Central and Western Europe postdating the emergence of the Proto-Celtic language and cultures and predating the expansion of the Celts or their culture in Iron Age Europe and Anatolia (9th to 6th centuries BCE). The area involved is that of the maximum extent of the Celtic languages in about the mid 1st century BC. The extent to which Celtic language, culture and genetics coincided and interacted during this period remains very uncertain and controversial.


  • Languages 1
  • Archaeology 2
  • History 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6


Research based on Glottochronology has suggested that the Proto-Celtic language branched from the Indo-European tree between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago.[1][2][3] However, other sources suggest that Proto-Indo-European itself emerged only about 6,000 years ago.

In continental Europe, pre-Celtic languages of the European Bronze Age may be taken to comprise two distinct groups.

It has been suggested that results of large-scale genetic surveys, undertaken since the late 20th century, cast serious doubt on the belief that the present-day speakers of pre-Indo-European languages represent relict populations. For instance, Basques show a dominance of the Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b,[12] which a majority of scholars now propose spread through Europe relatively recently, from southwest Asia in the Neolithic period or later (4,000 to 8,000 years ago).[12][13][14][15][16] However, present-day Basques also harbour some very rare and archaic lineages, such as the mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup U8a.[17] Moreover, it is a truism that the composition of any particular normative racial, linguistic group and/or material culture may represent an anthropological "Ship of Theseus": the links between members of such groups (e.g. DNA, language and artifacts) may vary to a significant degree over time.


A simplified map of archaeological cultures of the late Bronze Age (c. 1200 BC): Terramare culture (blue), central Urnfield culture (red), northern Urnfield culture (orange), Lusatian culture (purple), Knovíz culture (central blue), Danubian culture (brown), Atlantic Bronze Age (green), Nordic Bronze Age (yellow).

In the later Celtic areas there were many archaeological cultures.


When the Celts are first recorded about 600 BC they are already widespread across Iberia, Gaul, and Central Europe.

In Ireland the Book of Invasions gives a pseudo-history for a number of incoming peoples.

See also


  1. ^ Forster, Peter; Toth, Alfred (2003). "Toward a phylogenetic chronology of ancient Gaulish, Celtic, and Indo-European". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (15): 9079–9084.  
  2. ^ Gray and Atkinson, RD; Atkinson, QD (2003). "Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin". Nature 426 (6965): 435–439.  
  3. ^ Rexova, K.; Frynta, D and Zrzavy, J. (2003). "Cladistic analysis of languages: Indo-European classification based on lexicostatistical data". Cladistics 19 (2): 120–127.  
  4. ^ Trask, R.L. 1997. The History of Basque. P.9. Citing Bertranpetit and Cavalli-Sforza: "Basques represent descendants of Paleolithic and/or Mesolithic populations and non-Basques later arrivals, beginning with the Neolithic.".
  5. ^ Hualde, José Ignacio and Jon Ortiz de Urbina. A grammar of Basque. 2003. P.7
  6. ^ Pallottino, 1955. The Etruscans: ethnic island of very ancient peoples isolated by the flood of Indo-European speakers.
    Page 52
  7. ^ Facchetti, Giulio M. & Negri, Mario. Creta Minoica. Sulle tracce delle più antiche scritture d'Europa. Leo S. Olschki Editore, 'Biblioteca dell'Archivum Romanicum. Serie II: Linguistica' nº 55, 2003. ISBN 8822252918.
  8. ^ Bonfante, Larissa (1990). Etruscan. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.  
  9. ^ de Simone, Carlo (2009). "La nuova iscrizione tirsenica di Efestia". Tripodes 11. pp. 3–58. 
  10. ^ Steinbauer, Dieter H. (1999). Neues Handbuch des Etruskischen. St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae Verlag. 
  11. ^ Kitson, P.R. (November 1996). "British and European River Names". Transactions of the Philologica Society 94 (2): 73–118.  
  12. ^ a b Balaresque, Patricia; Bowden, Georgina R.; Adams, Susan M.; Leung, Ho-Yee; King, Turi E. et al. (2010). Penny, David, ed. "A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for European Paternal Lineages".  
  13. ^ "International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) - Y-DNA Haplogroup R and its Subclades". ISOGG. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  14. ^ B. Arredi, E.S. Poloni and C. Tyler-Smith, The Peopling of Europe, in M. Crawford (ed.) Anthropological Genetics: Theory, Methods and Applications (Cambridge University Press 2007)
  15. ^ Myres, Natalie; Rootsi, Siiri; Lin, Alice A; Järve, Mari; King, Roy J; Kutuev, Ildus; Cabrera, Vicente M; Khusnutdinova, Elza K et al. (2010). "A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene effect in Central and Western Europe". European Journal of Human Genetics 19 (1): 95–101.  
  16. ^ Sjödin, Per; François, Olivier (2011). Lalueza-Fox, Carles, ed. "Wave-of-Advance Models of the Diffusion of the Y Chromosome Haplogroup R1b1b2 in Europe". PLoS ONE 6 (6:e21592): e21592.  
  17. ^ USA (2006). "The mitochondrial lineage U8a reveals a Paleolithic settlement in the Basque country" 7. p. 124.  


  • Thompson, T. Ireland's Pre-Celtic Archaeological and Anthropological Heritage. (2006) Edwin Mellen Press.
  • Waddell, J., The Celticization of the West: an Irish Perspective, in C. Chevillot and A. Coffyn (eds), L' Age du Bronze Atlantique. Actes du 1er Colloque de Beynac, Beynac (1991), 349-366.
  • Waddell, J.,The Question of the Celticization of Ireland, Emania No. 9 (1991), 5-16.
  • Waddell, J., 'Celts, Celticisation and the Irish Bronze Age', in J. Waddell and E. Shee Twohig (eds.), Ireland in the Bronze Age. Proceedings of the Dublin Conference, April 1995, 158-169.
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