How genetic studies will change views on prehistoric Brittany

Geneticists who study ancient DNA from skeletons’ teeth can trace human groups and their migration across the planet. These groups also called haplotypes have specific DNA mutations. The mutations are transmitted from generation to generation but sometimes there are not.

Genetic studies, in particular those conducted by David Reich of Harvard University, show that there was a rupture with the DNA transmission at the end of the Bronze Age in Europe 5000 years ago. Biologists have put forth the idea of a plague, based on analyses of skeletons containing DNA from the Yersinia pestis bacterium. The plague is believed to have spread notably through the domestication of horses in the steppes of Kazakhstan around 3500 BC. On this subject, there is a publication from the European community. Barry Cunliffe argues that there still aren’t enough samples to confirm the disappearance of the heritage of hunter-gatherers and early farmers from the area known today as Turkey. In his view, this heritage still persists.

In the video interview above, we have questioned the British archaeologist about the claim made by Breton archaeologist Yannick Lecerf that Bretons are not Celts. The French press seized this opportunity to denigrate the identity of the peninsula. The main regional newspaper Ouest-France wrote an article on the same subject.. Not to mention an exhibition at the Museum of Brittany in Rennes in 2022, suggesting that the Celtic roots of the Bretons are simply the result of 19th-century Celtomania, followed by 20th-century Breton nationalist movements.

Sir Barry Cunliffe responds that the La Tène Celts did not actually come to Armorica, as not only were the Armorican people already Celts, but they were at the heart of this Celtic civilization of Western Europe . The migration likely occurred from west to east, contrary to previous beliefs. In his book, Barry Cunliffe questions the increasingly problematical scenario in which the story of the Ancient Celtic languages and that of peoples called Keltoí Celts are closely bound with the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures of Iron Age west-central Europe. The Celtic from the West proposal was first presented in Barry Cunliffe’s Facing the Ocean (2001) and has subsequently found resonance amongst geneticists.

According to Sir Barry Cunliffe, genetic studies will completely overturn conventional ideas and the way history is taught. The prehistory of Europe will be based on archaeology, linguistics, toponymy, documents, and genetics.

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