Celtic and Italic from the West – the Genetic Evidence


Overview of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures: The core Hallstatt territory (HaC, 800 BC) is shown in solid yellow, the eventual area of Hallstatt influence (by 500 BC, HaD) in light yellow. The core territory of La Tène culture (450 BC) is shown in solid green, the eventual area of La Tène influence (by 250 BC) in light green. The territories of some major Celtic tribes of the late La Tène period are labelled.

During late Hallstatt many prinsely seats like Glauberg existed.
The most prestigious prinsely seats were Heuneburg and Vix.
They were situated on strategic crossroads for trade and show social stratification, unlike the Hallstatt salt mines where the miners themselves also seem to have participated in the wealth created by the mines.
When the Gauls expanded those prinsely seats dissapeared, it seems that the social order dissapeared and was replaced by another one.

The Gauls also expanded in the Balkans.
Those who tried to take greece and settled in Serbia and mixed with Illyrians, were not Hallstatt Celts, they were Gauls.

Like Moesan says, it is sometimes sonfusing because the Celts were very diverse and the different groups are often not very well defined by those who speak about them.

you are talking about phase 2 of Halstatt culture circa 800BC
Phase 1 was circa 1000BC

I know many want to avoid this phase 1
I know many want to avoid this phase 1
Could you develop please. What is hiden behind this phrase or what clues will you add?
I know many want to avoid this phase 1
Could you develop please. What is hiden behind this phrase or what clues will you add?

Phase 1 is avoided because it is a mix of Celtic and Illyrian people .......Celts coming from modern South Germany ..............shows zero La tene ( 400 years later ) .............Illyrians of Noricum where part of the amber trade to the adriatic sea

Phase 2 is that the indigenous Illyrians from Noricum ( east Austria ) where already celtinized into the society...ie Celtic tattooing, dress and some weapons ( shows some early La Tene "union " ) ..........amber trade seemed to have ceased to the adriatic or was kept or redirected elsewhere

most of Halstatt celts became Balkan celts and moved through the balkans......even reaching the black sea

I do not really understand what you are seeking
I crossread this little text and thought in the Cunliffe/Koch theory which I don’t agree to.
This last paper is a bit different and not without interest.
It says : « Linderholm et al. 2020 showed that the R1b-L52>P311 subgroup (leading to U106 and P312) dwelled in Southeast Poland, on the present Ukrainian border in the late Corded Ware culture times while most other CWC samples from Germany through Northern Poland to Estonia belonged to Hg R1a-M417. »
I think a single site of this sort doesn’ t prove straight on Poland is the path for these subclades. I think rather in Hungary and Danube ? Before more proofs. But nothing (only archeology?) excludes a south Poland > Moravia > South Central Europe route...
Again : « These SE Polish CWC samples also exhibit higher genetic affinity to later Bell Beaker culture samples than to CWC remains from other regions. The only CWC group related to this group is the Single Grave Culture in the Lower Rhine-Lower Elbe area. »
This discrepancy compared to other CWC groups, with a rather BB set of Y-haplo’s would call for prudence concerning auDNA (BB’s shifted to CWC’s ?). But it depends on what we think about the formations of BB’s. The big pitfall is to consider BB’s as an homogenous brutal allover phenomenon. It isn’t. If we disconnect the first BB potters (I’m tempted to see in SW Iberia, at some stage) of the later extension allover western Europe, we can imagine the late BB’s were in fact « seizers » of BB network and that they extended it later.
Then : « Therefore it is a safe conclusion that P311 ancestors migrated from the PIE homeland through Southeast Poland, north of the Carpathians towards the North Sea coast between 2900 and 2500 BC. This route is autosomally supported by Olalde et al. 2017, where they concluded that Bell Beaker samples outside Iberia (exclusively R1b-P312) are an admixture of Yamnaya-related ancestry with North European Neolithic groups (Globular Amphora and TRB), without any ancestry from Iberian Neolithic. We can conclude that the Corded Ware (CWC) horizon was the source of “autosomally unadmixed late PIE”people, being source of the proto-Italo-Celtic SingleGravepart.»
I wasn’t aware of so a proximity between the neolithic elements in BB’s auDNA and GAC + TRB at the exclusion of Iberian neolithic auDNA. ATW the exogamic system of BB’s left them very heterogenous except some N-W clans, and I doubt their neolithic auDNA would have been everywhere so poor in Iberic neolithic elements. But some amateurs simulations showed that BB’s had often some ‘baltic’ hints so a northern path… ? That said, concerning the possible respective pathes for Y-R1b-L51 and L2103>2105 &..., the distribution of downstream L11 in North can push us to accept a northern route for L51, as proposed, spite my first thought was it passed through south the Carpathians before to fork around Hungary, some of them going northwards through Moravia to Poland, East germay and Baltic shores, for the most ancestors of R1b-U106. The Lower Rhine region could have received Y-R1b subclades groups from East as well as from South. So I stay doubtful here. Some L51>L11 (or L151) could ave passed through North (then for me: U106 ancestors), others through South (P312 ancestors). Their so called GAC/TRB neolithic part could have been taken more East, before this supposed branching (somewhere in Ukraina/Belarus?)
[FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Bearing in mind the above, the autosomal genetic results support the Y-DNA branch[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]ing observation that [/FONT][FONT=ff2, Times New Roman, Times, serif]L11/P311 is the most diverse in the Lower Rhine-Lower Elbe area where U106 and P312 as well as rare brothers S1194 and A8053 could have lived next to each other around 2800-2500 BC before the P312 branch started the Beaker expansion[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif].It is widely known that the paternally the most “Celtic” subgroup, R1b-P312 is most fre[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]quent in the Celtic parts of British Isles and in Iberia (above 50%), signi[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]fi[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]cant in France[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif](40-50%) and has decreasing frequency towards Central and Eastern Europe. R1b-L21, the [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]typical P312 subgroup in British Isles was found among the earliest Bell Beaker settlers. There [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]is no reasonable scenario to expect a Carpathian Basin–North Alps or Carpathian Basin–Italy [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]migration route for proto-Celtic based on the paternal frequencies of R1b-P312. This is also underlined by autosomal DNA evidence, as shown by early British Bell Beaker samples, as [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]their genetic distance is measured from modern populations.[/FONT]
[FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]We need caution. I can accept the supposed « nordish » BB’s auDNA but it could have been catched or kept from further East and from earlier, it doesn’t exclude a more southern route (Danube). The idea of a bunch of every downstream [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]of[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif] R1b-L11 in a relatively small place (Lower Rhine area) [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]after a tour in northern Europe among territories under recent Y-R1a CWC control[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif], and their later expansion in good order, well separated [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]as a whole[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif] (L21, DF27, U15[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]2[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif], U[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]106) is not impossible but seems weird to me. [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]I suppose the variety they are talking about is based on today pop’s, not ancient ones, and it seems to me more a sink effect (later historical events, with BB’s going until Scandinavia and Germanics going West and South, [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]and maybe Belgae of some sort coming from Eastern Bavaria/Bohemia[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]). [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]ATW we need more ancient DNA to trace the way they took. [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]So l[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]i[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]nguistically speaking I don’t see why a southern (north-alpine) route would be forbidden to proto-Celtic and proto-Italic speakers, even if I [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]think they formed relatively late, in situ in [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]central-[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]western Europe on a network of close west-IE dialects [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]of late BB’s origin[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]. [/FONT]
[FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]R1b-L21, the typical P312 subgroup in British Isles was found among the earliest Bell Beaker settlers. There is no reasonable scenario to expect a Carpathian Basin–North Alps or Carpathian Basin–Italy migration route for proto-Celtic based on the paternal frequencies of R1b-P312.[/FONT]
[FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Indeed if we consider Celtic and Italic are descendants of BB’s dialects evolved later, effectively we do’nt need later arrived tribes from East ; but it doesn’t exclude the ancestors of these BB’s (grand fathers of both) came through there. I think (without true proof it’s true) the Celts as a linguistic group are older than IA. I place them in BA, after the BB’s CA and born from a part of these last ones. I consider that P- Celtic and P-Italic groups of same basic origin than Bronze ones came with IA, from more eastern positions for both*. The fact British BB’s are almost all of them L21 and that their ancestors came rather from today Netherlands exclude that the cradle of P312 and all other downstream SNP’s could have been there.[/FONT]
[FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]*: Since long ago I bet that the Qw- to P- phenomenon is not born independently in the diverse languages of Europe : How ? Influence of bilingual elites (Urnfields?) ? Common important substratum ? The place of propagation could be around northern Balkans south Hungary ??? The principal difference between Qw- Celtic and Qw- Italic is thatthe first was largely spread westwards when the second stayed a long time somewhere I place rather between N-E Italy, S-Austria and N-Croatia (Pannonia), roughly said.[/FONT]
[FONT=ff2, Times New Roman, Times, serif]British Isles Bell Beaker samples cluster with modern Northern European populations, whether today Germanic or Celtic speaking[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]. It is also notable that most distances are below 10.00 that means, [/FONT][FONT=ff2, Times New Roman, Times, serif]these modern populations are direct autosomal descendants of Bell Beaker groups, without any admixture break, testifying the North to South and West to East direction of gene [/FONT][FONT=ff2, Times New Roman, Times, serif]fl[/FONT][FONT=ff2, Times New Roman, Times, serif]ows in the Bronze and Iron Ages.[/FONT]
[FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]I find these statements a bit simplistic. I’m sure the today population of the Isles is not directly or totally issued from the BB’s. It has been increased by new colonisations at celtic times [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]without to speak of Anglo-Saxons[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif], [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Celts were [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]newcomers with a less steppic input [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif](the [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Hallstatt & [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]La Tène ones at least) [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]but stayed close to BB’s people [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]so they leave this impression of unbroken continuity; but anthropologic typology submitted to finer and faster evolutions than auDNA shows there has not be a so evident continuity[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]. The BB’s demic expansion, for me, has proceeded from Central Germany on every direction, not truly from West [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]only[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]. [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]For the Isles the most passed through Lower Rhine, OK. [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]BB’s could [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]IMO [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]have spread close IE dialects which evolved later by [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]partial [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]sedentism (without exclude [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]diverse[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif] exchanges). Proto-Celtic could have covered a huge territory or [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]dominated [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]this territory as kind of lingua franca (At[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]l[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]antic Bronze?). Proto-Italic was more eastern. The specifically Italic [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]dialects seems to me evolved spoken by tribes which had contacts with proto-Germanics if I rely on some linguistic conclusions. The phonetics of Italic(s) seems to show ties with both Hellenic and Rhaetic-Etruscan but here it’s only [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]personal [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]guess, [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]and the Etruscan traits could have been taken in [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]northern [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Italy, not during proto-Italic phase [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]more around Austria/Croatia ? [/FONT]
[FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]ATW concerning[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif] [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Y-haplos, I suppose Y-R1b-U152 [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]e[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]x[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]pansion [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]is more closely tied to Hallstatt [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]&[/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif] La Tène periods and in a more eastern sphere. Its strong presence among Qw-Italics could be due not so specifically to Italics but [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]also [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]to Italicised tribes ([/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]close to [/FONT][FONT=ff4, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Ligurians ?).[/FONT]
Tibor Fehér: Celtic and Italic from the West – the Genetic Evidence, Academia Letters, July 2021.

Celtic studies in the last two decades lead by John T. Koch and Barry Cunliffe have questioned the validity of the long-time theory “Hallstatt Iron Age = proto-Celtic culture”, arguing for an early Celtic Atlantic Bronze Age in their “Celtic from the West” series. 1 The argument goes that Gündlingen type swords originated in the late Bronze Age Britain and Low Countries and have later spread from the West to East to spread further from the Halstatt Alpine Iron Age. The Celtic nature of Tartessian from pre-Iron Age South-Western Iberia also testifies the early Atlantic origin of proto-Celtic. Y-DNA (inherited only through the male line) and autosomal ancient DNA results increasingly support the “Celtic from the West”, going even further this paper argues for an “Italo-Celtic” from the North-West.

What do you think?

A few notes here:

The assertion that "autosomal ancient DNA supports an origin from the West" is circular reasoning in my opinion. Autosomal would suggest that, yes, the pre-Celtic population of the Atlantic region is... Atlantic. It's a tautology, especially as we have y-chromosomal evidence that clearly points us towards a steppe origin. The underlaying problem - essentially unsolved by the "Celtic-from-the-West" hypothesis is that yes, Proto-Indo-European originated in the East. The reversal of expansion direction is difficult to reconcile. Just like you said:

Recent archaeogenetic studies 2 proved that R1b-M269 males, today dominant lin- eage in Central and Western Europe originate from the Pontic-Caspian Steppes that is today’s Ukraine and Southern Russia. A pre-M269 but non-M73 male, i.e. leading from P297 towards M269 ancestor was found in Samara culture on the Volga River living around 5500 BC. It was also confirmed that the Kurgan-building Yamnaya steppe herders and their eastern offshoot Afanasievo culture (probably proto-Tocharian) belonged predominantly to Haplogroup R1b-Z2103.

Plus one continuing problem is: Proto-Celtic is too young, how can you have common words for 'sword' and 'iron' if swords or iron melting have not been invented yet?

With respect for Tartessos, keep this in mind: the inscriptions are roughly contemporary (within a century or so) with the Lepontic inscriptions from the Alps (Golasecca culture), though in my opinion the SW language is non-Indo-European (there may be Celtic personal names in it, but the language itself is non-IE). It's clear that there was a Celtic presence in the SW of Iberia around 400 years later, when the Romans conquered the area... but does this help us?

For me "Italo-Celtic" would solve the problem to a degree because you would automatically look at an older time slice - Proto-Italo-Celtic would arguably be in the better time frame when we take beaker-bell.
Concerning Tartessos and the languages spoken in it, Donal BUCHANAN has made a translation of diverse texts he considered and "translated" as Celtic; I spoke myself of Celtic in Tartessos but in fact only2 texts were in S-W-Spain, the most of them (in seemingly same language) were in Algarve, S-Portugal, in the territory of the Conii close to Tartessos. So the presence of Celts in Tartessos lands is not so surprising (it was late: perhaps between200 BC and 200 AD), but the principal Tartessos language was not Celtic nor close to.
Here under my amateurish points:
Concerning the argument based on words like Iron and sword it isn't decisive for me: technics travel, the words linked to them travel too, are loaned and submitted to phonetical evolution as (but not identically!) older words of the "original" lexicon; sometimes, words pre-exist to new technics or founds, and are semantically adapted or "twisted" (analogy or?) and it doesn't imply loanwords by force, but also internal creations; it's all the question of proto-languages reconstructions. Question of classification: some words are older than an ethnolinguistic stage and other words are younger; the same applies to dialects of a same rather homogenous group. Even in a small linguistic group (at least for a short time) all the speakers don't have a completely identical lexicon at hand.
If we want, let's say IA Celtic with these words by instance succeeded to a pre-IA Celtic being kind of an evolved proto-Celtic, and very close, iron or not.
What I wrote above, evidently, doesn't support some of the FEHER paper arguments, and doesn't support any of the preceding "Celtic of West" theories forms (KOCH etc...)
What I wrote above, evidently, doesn't support some of the FEHER paper arguments, and doesn't support any of the preceding "Celtic of West" theories forms (KOCH etc...)

Moesan, let me expose some personal views about the topic (and also recall that I am not an expert, so completely open to assimilate other forumer's ideas).

The arrival of the indo-european to western europe from the east is consistent with the possibility of celtic coming from the west. The map below shows the sudden appearance of R1b men (supposedly Indo-European (IE) arriving from east Europe) in Iberia spanning a time 2500-2000 BC. The data is:
Late Chalcolithic (Red star)
l YTree: R1b-P310 (R-L51>R-L52), 2350 BCE. Asturias, Spain, OlaladeScience2019
l YTree: R1b-U152, 2127 BCE. Burgos, Spain, OlaladeScience2019
l YTree: R1b-P312 (R-L51>R-L52>R-L151>R-P312), 2417 BCE. Burgos, Spain, OlaladeScience2019
l YTree: R1b-L51, 2171 BCE. Burgos, Spain, OlaladeScience2019
l YTree: R1b-PF6658, 2250 BCE. Madrid, Spain, OlaladeNature2018
l YTree: R1b-P310, 2250 BCE. Madrid, Spain, OlaladeNature2018
l YTree: R1b-P312, 2250 BCE. Madrid, Spain, OlaladeScience2019
l YTree: R1b-P310, 2124 BCE. Ciudad Real, Spain, OlaladeScience2019

The map also shows (in yellow) the Celtic territory in the last centuries of the I millennium BC in the Iron Age (IA). This culture entered from the east about 1500 or 2000 years later.
The offshoot of the first Indoeuropean-R1b had time to develop their language in a territory with non-IE people with p-less languages (Iberian/euzkera) as a creole language (lost its p*). They inherited the maritime connexions of the previous population and were able to move out of Iberia via Atlantic Ocean. In my opinion, the IE-R1b were able to reach Iberia by sailing in the same form that reached the British Isles and Ireland by sailing. The "Celtic from the West" was published more than 10 years ago and genetics knowledge has advanced, but some Cunliffe and Koch proposals are reasonable, i.e., the common family of "Celtic" languages of these Atlantic people, the existence of Celtic (or proto-Celtic) languages in the Iberian Peninsula (Atlantic) before the arrival of the IA culture. Honestly, I am an observer here and not qualified to debate with more expert forumers about the possible influence or not of these "Atlantic Celts" on the Central Europe Celtic cultures.
Thank you for your posts. I appreciate very much your comments.


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I have no time just now to answer the above post, that I found interesting.
Just atfirst sight: the P- lost question is not so easy to resolve but Basques aren't the first candidate for this lost, spite they seem having had no P- or F- in their natural phonetics (I am not a basque specialist, so what I say here...);
Surely a stratum played a role in this change. But in Iberia we had (at IA at least) a Lusitanian language close enough to Celtic and Italic, but with conservation of the P-; I am not aware either of a P- lost in surely BA Ligurian, spite they were living more south than Celts as a whole. And the Hercynia/Orkunia name of the Bavarian territory in a Celtic region which mirrors a proto-Celtic *Perkw- = oak (Lat. Quercus); some etymologies propose the name of the Hercuniates or Hercinians tribe, Belgae, but it doesn't contradict this (Belgae or some of them are supposed by some scholars to be come from Bavaria/Bohemia); the fact is that the P- lost could have had its origin more in East. I 'll come back here soon.

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