Celtic From the West 3

Full Title: Celtic From the West 3 – Atlantic Europe in the Metal Ages: Questions of Shared Language

Editors: John T. Koch and Barry Cunliffe in collaboration with Kerri Cleary and Catriona D. Gibson

Published: 2016

Publisher: Oxbow Books, Oxford

Pages: 539 including Index

Synopsis: The Celtic languages and groups called Keltoi (i.e. Celts ) emerge into our written records at the pre-Roman Iron Age. The impetus for this book is to explore from the perspectives of three disciplines archaeology, genetics, and linguistics the background in later European prehistory to these developments. There is a traditional scenario, according to which, Celtic speech and the associated group identity came in to being during the Early Iron Age in the north Alpine zone and then rapidly spread across central and western Europe. This idea of Celtogenesis remains deeply entrenched in scholarly and popular thought. But it has become increasingly difficult to reconcile with recent discoveries pointing towards origins in the deeper past. It should no longer be taken for granted that Atlantic Europe during the 2nd and 3rd millennia BC were pre-Celtic or even pre-Indo-European. The explorations in Celtic from the West 3 are drawn together in this spirit, continuing two earlier volumes in the influential series.”

Review: Celtic From the West 3 is the result of an interdisciplinary research project about shared language in Atlantic Europe during the Metal Ages. This study took place between 2013 – 2016. The Atlantic Europe during the Metal Ages project had two main aims: (1) gathering and interpreting archaeological evidence for inter-regional connections in Atlantic Europe during the Copper and Bronze Ages c. 2900 – 800; (2) gathering Ancient Celtic written evidence relevant to the reconstruction of Proto-Celtic.

The book is divided into three parts: Archaeology, made up of ten essays; Genetics, made up of two essays; and Linguistics, made up of four essays and two ancillary studies. The essays 1-16 are reflections of presentations given in the forum called “Ancient Britons, Wales, and Europe – New Research in Genetics, Archaeology, and Linguistics”, the forum called “New Light on the Ancient West – Recent work in Archaeology, Genetics, and Linguistics on Late Prehistory and Protohistory”, and the workshop and forum called “Atlantic Europe in the Metal Ages – Questions of Shared language”.

Each essay has footnotes and an extensive bibliography to expand ones research and reading, and to be honest these resources must be looked at to get the complete picture. The essays themselves have a lot of good information but to be honest I finished the book thinking so was it Celtic from the West or East? It could be that I just couldn’t grasp all that was being said. I definitely could have missed something while reading because this book has a LOT of information in it. Like I said though, I was still left wondering East or West.

Archaeologically speaking I learned a lot about the Bell Beaker material culture in the Atlantic. I could almost see a place where it might have been “Celtic from the West” but it was vague feeling and not something that I could point too and say THIS.

The two essays on genetics were mildly interesting and I will confess I was confused a lot in some places. Besides, genetics is the last this I would look at when it comes to the Celts (if I ever do consider looking at it.)

This brings us to the linguistic portion of the book and this was the part of the book that I found the most interesting. I did feel like they kind of when on a tangent in some cases like the essay that compared the Celtic languages to Arabic (and found similarities!). But to me the most informative essays in the linguistic section are J.P. Mallory’s Archaeology and Language Shift in Atlantic Europe because of the general hypothesis he put forward as to how a language shift can happen without a big influx of people which can show up in the archaeological record and the two ancillary studies which look at the Celtic language and where it may have come from. One of the ancillary studies says it could be in Italy citing the Leptonic language as being the oldest known Celtic language and the second supports the view that the Celtic language came via the more accepted hypothesis by archaeologists which is the Hallstatt/La Téne area.

I’m still giving this book a thumbs up simply for the shear amount of information it presents in the archaeological and linguistic sections which is enough to make it worth buying.


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