Scientists have concluded that the Celts did not invade Ireland en masse, nor did they replace an earlier group.
Despite the widely held belief that the Irish are descended from Celts who invaded Ireland about 2,500 years ago, a 2004 genetic research study at Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) appears to argue against it.
The Celtic cultural heritage in Ireland is prolific and informs the common perceptions and beliefs about the national identity and its origins. From traditional cultural sources in language, legend and literature the Celtic influence is strong and can also be found in contemporary culture such as Enya and the Afro Celt Sound System. The research however suggests that our blood if not also some (at least) of our culture can or should be attributed to wider origins: Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia and North Africa.
The study, conducted by Dr. Dan Bradley and Brian McEvoy, a Ph.D student conducted this genetic study with the support of the Irish government to determine “whether there was a large incursion by Celtic people 2,500 years ago” as is widely believed.
The scientists compared the DNA samples of 200 volunteers from around Ireland with a genetic database of 8,500 individuals from around Europe. (The Celts came from Central Europe stretching as far as Hungary).
They found that the Irish samples matched those around Britain and the Pyrenees in Spain. There were some matches in Scandinavia and parts of North Africa.
The scientists concluded that ‘the Irish’ genetic makeup stems from the onset of an ice-age around 15,000 years ago that forced prehistoric man back into Spain, Italy and Greece, which were still fairly temperate. When the ice started melting again around 12,000 years ago, people followed the retreating ice northwards as areas became hospitable again.
The TCD study produced a map of Europe with contours linking places that are genetically similar. One contour goes around the edge of the Atlantic touching Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and includes Galicia in Spain as well as the Basque region.
Some archaeologists also doubt that there was a Celtic invasion because few of their artifacts have been found in Ireland.
“The primary genetic legacy of Ireland seems to have come from people from Spain and Portugal after the last ice age.â€ said McEvoy. â€œThey seem to have come up along the coast through Western Europe and arrived in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Itâ€™s not due to something that happened 2,500 years ago with Celts.â€ We have a much older genetic legacy.
The findings are published in The American Journal of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago.
Does this finally help explain the ‘dark Irish’ phenomenon?