The Irish Are Not Celtic!

I am not certain if I believe this or not. However, it certainly is an interesting claim. Slashdot has an article that claims, “The discovery of a burial site in Ireland has thrown into doubt all theories concerning the Celtic origins of the Irish. ‘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. DNA research indicates that the three skeletons found behind McCuaig’s are the ancestors of the modern Irish and they predate the Celts and their purported arrival by 1,000 years or more. The genetic roots of today’s Irish, in other words, existed in Ireland before the Celts arrived. The article is quite detailed, and outlines the overall scientific problem of the Celts: [namely that it] is now quite unclear who they were, where they came from, and where they went. In related news: Scientists have found new evidence of a human presence in Ireland as far back as 12,500 years ago.”

The article is available in The Washington Post at


For an accessible recent (2015) take on the Celts read “The Celts – search for a civilisation” by Professor Alice Roberts. It ties into a BBC television series of the same name, and associated exhibition at the British Museum.

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The Irish always said they came from Spain and no one believed them.

I came across Barry Cunliffe’s book a few years ago, along with other pieces of evidence that early settlers of Ireland had come through the Mediterranean and up the western coast of Europe. — Why walk all the way across the continent when you can sail around it a lot faster?

I pulled a few links together, mainly for my own benefit, but also in the hopes that someone might one day be interested in the article. It is at


My GG GPs Archibald McKinley (son of John McKinley & Mary Weir) & Ann Morrison were born ca. 1805 on Rathlin (roots said to be in Scotland). With all 16 GG GPs born in Ireland, I wasn’t surprised to see my ethnicity (per Ancestry autosomal) at 95% Irish, but I was surprised to see 4% Finland/NW Russia & only 1% Iberian Peninsula. It will be fascinating to follow this research, regards, Mary


I am one quarter Scottish and as we all know the Scots are simply the Irish who moved over to the next island. (The word Scot is derived from the word Scotus which was Latin for Irish.) Thus I too was surprised, or not, to see the my DNA was on the order of 19% Iberian. It is true that the Irish claimed they immigrated from Spain in about 2000 BC and this all seems to back it.


    I would suggest that the name given by the Romans to the inhabitants of Ireland – Scotus – came from the name the Irish gave themselves rather than the reverse. I.e. they didn’t call themselves Scots because the Romans called them Scotus, but the Romans called them Scotus because they called themselves Scot.


According to AncestryDNA, I’m 43% Irish, mostly from my dad’s side. All of us (Ward/Hurney descendants) are brunette S. My dad used to say that we were “Black Irish,” i.e. “out of Spain.”


My Y-DNA is the most common one in Ireland and most of Britain. Many of my 12-loci exact matches are from Spain (or Spanish descendants from New Mexico). I think the theory that the British Isles were populated by people moving upward from the Iberian Peninsula after the ice melted is a good one.


Ireland has had a variety of migrants over the centuries (English, Scots, Vikings, etc.). I don’t see why the fact that there were pre-Celtic folk in Ireland does not mean that there wasn’t a Celtic migration and assimilation.

I believe that there are Neolithic remains that predate the earliest reference to Celts (there are some who posit an earlier arrival for the Celts, but they are a minority view). This appears to be consistent with my understanding of Irish history.

So I guess it comes down to what one means by Irish being Celtic. Celts may not have arrived first, but they made an indelible impact.

(Large scale migration has been part of the human experience since before history.)


My wife’s mother was 100% Irish — in that all of her ancestors came from Ireland — but her AncestryDNA test showed 43% Ireland and 10% Iberian Peninsula (her father was Czech, so the rest is pretty distinct). Half of my 2nd-great grandparents were also from Ireland and my DNA test came back 55% Ireland, with no Iberian Peninsula. (Given the red hair in my family, I expected some Viking influence, but didn’t see it in the DNA results.) I suspect it’ll take a while and a lot more people having DNA tests done before scientists sort this out. We think of migration as a feature of the modern world (say, from the 17th century on), but clearly, people have always been on the move.


People please keep in mind that according to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), Ancestry’s ethnic breakdown is the least accurate of the big three companies – 23andMe being the most accurate. Take your ethnic breakdowns with a BIG grain of salt.


Absolutely right, and we’ve known this for a while. The DNA signatures found in Irish bones – including the famous R1b – are the same as those today. But the bones pre-date the Celtic culture by 2,500 years or thereabouts. So whoever the people were who migrated to and became the predominant population of Ireland (and later became the Gaelic Scots), they are not “Celts”.
Remember also, please, “Celtic” is not an ethnicity, but a culture-and-language group composed of a number of ethnic groups in central Europe ca. 600 BC to its peak in 275 BC.
In fact the whole Celtic thing was a bit of a con-trick dreamed up 300 years ago by a Welshman who wanted to make the case for the Welsh being ethnically and culturally different from the English, and we’ve all sort-of bought into it since then.
It was given an extra spin during the Romanticist Celtic Revival

Of course, I don’t really care, because I’m a Pict, and we were in Scotland long before these Johnny-come-lately Irish-Gaels. Ha!

Bruce Durie


It’s important to note that “Celtic” designates a cultural thing. Many genetic populations “carried” the title. That said, the areas that have the strongest association with these historical groups are in Iberia, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Northern Italy, some of Eastern Europe, and Central Anatolia. I believe it’s Spain and Italy that have the largest Celtic festivals. The British Isles may have adopted Celtic culture to some extent, but this says little as far as ethnicity goes.

See what I mean?

Some of my ancestors come from the Celtic heartland (Southern Germany). Their traditional attire alone shows echoes of the ancient La Tene culture. Not to mention how different the Swabian language is from other Allemanic dialects. Some of us do have red hair, and all have fair skin. Red hair and fair skin are traits that come from Asia, which is the origin point of part of both the Germanic and Celtic peoples. None of that says much, though. Again, my point is that genetics do not define Celtic identity.

In the end, it shouldn’t really matter. If we’re going to get all nitpicky, though, people from the actual Celtic homelands should have the right to claim the title of “Celtic”. Not the British.


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