An Alternative to ‘Celtic from the East’ and ‘Celtic from the West’

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This article discusses a problem in integrating archaeology and philology. For most of the twentieth century, archaeologists associated the spread of the Celtic languages with the supposed westward spread of the ‘eastern Hallstatt culture’ in the first millennium bc. More recently, some have discarded ‘Celtic from the East’ in favour of ‘Celtic from the West’, according to which Celtic was a much older lingua franca which evolved from a hypothetical Neolithic Proto-Indo-European language in the Atlantic zone and then spread eastwards in the third millennium bc. This article (1) criticizes the assumptions and misinterpretations of classical texts and onomastics that led to ‘Celtic from the East’ in the first place; (2) notes the unreliability of the linguistic evidence for ‘Celtic from the West’, namely (i) ‘glottochronology’ (which assumes that languages change at a steady rate), (ii) misunderstood place-name distribution maps and (iii) the undeciphered inscriptions in southwest Iberia; and (3) proposes that Celtic radiating from France during the first millennium bc would be a more economical explanation of the known facts
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-529
Number of pages19
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number3
Early online date02 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2020


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