Ancient Britain and the Atlantic Zone (Ireland, Armorica, and the Iberian Peninsula) 

The research initiative recognizes a potential paradigm shift in Celtic studies. Arguments based in archaeology and genetics have recently been put forward in favour of Celtic origins in the Atlantic Bronze Age rather than the central European territories of the early Hallstatt and La Tène archaeological cultures of the Iron Age. However, a hypothesis of ‘Celticization from the West’ has yet to be fully formulated or tested in detail from the perspective of Celtic and Indo-European historical linguistics. Professor John T. Koch’s  recent research on the Tartessian language of the Early Iron Age in southern Portugal and south-western Spain has now suggested similar preliminary conclusions. In its abundance, diversity, archaism, antiquity, and geographic and cultural remoteness from Hallstatt and La Tène, the Hispano-Celtic linguistic evidence sits more comfortably with a theory of Atlantic Bronze Age Celtic origins than with the established central-European model. Celtic scholars, especially in the English-speaking world, have not yet completely ‘factored in’ this material and its implications. Accordingly, the agenda of the project includes collecting, updating, and resifting evidence of the Bronze and Iron Age (third to first millennia BC) to evaluate the case for emergence of the Celtic subfamily of Indo-European in the west.

Under the leadership of Professor John T. Koch  the research team combines a breadth of multidisciplinary strengths and interests. Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe was Director of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford, from 1972 until his retirement in 2008. He has published prodigiously on periods from later prehistory to Roman times in Britain, Armorica, the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Europe generally. Dr Dagmar S. Wodtko  is an Indo-Europeanist with special interests in Celtic and the pre-Roman languages of Spain and Portugal. She has published extensively on Celtiberian, Old Irish, and Proto-Indo-European. Dr Catriona Gibson  is a specialist in the Bronze Age of the western Iberian Peninsula with background in field archaeology in Britain, Portugal, and Turkey. Professor Raimund Karl, Bangor University, was formerly a Research Fellow at the Centre. His research interests and publications deal with the Iron Age in Wales and Austria, Celtic social structure, and the Celtosceptic controversy.

Koch is working in the following subject areas: Tartessian, the Brittonic of the ancient and early medieval periods, and the origins of the Irish language and literary tradition. Co-investigator Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe’s input to the project concerns the Bronze Age in the Atlantic Zone. Professor Raimund Karl is contributing on the Irish Sea Region in the Iron Age to Early Middle Ages. Project publications will also include contributions by external experts in Linguistics, Archaeology, and Genetics. The first of these will be a collaborative volume to be published in 2010, edited by Koch and Cunliffe and supported by a British Academy Grant, which will include the papers presented at the forum ‘Celticization from the West’.