London’s Temple of Mithras to be listed
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I wonder why it is not listed Grade 1?
Salon 156: 15 January 2007
I wrote the following email to Britarch concerning theories byStephen Oppenheimer and Win Scutt that English may have been spoken in england before the Roman period.
1. Win Scutt should not really be the subject of the discussion - Win is, I think, taking his cue from
'The Origins of the British' by Stephen Oppenheimer.
It seems that hardly anyone on this list has read the book.
Oppenheimer's ideas are summarised in his Prospect article
His book is well worth reading and you do not have to accept his ideas on the origins of English to get something out of it.
But the argument should be about Oppenheimer not Win Scutt
2. John Briggs has an acerbic email style and is perhaps is a little blunt but it is just the way he is isn't it?
Back to Oppenheimer.
He uses genetic studies to give an insight into the genetic origins of people in the British Isles and speculates how this evidence might be matched with linguistic and archaeological evidence to give insight into the origins of Britain, the Celts and the English.
If you get nothing else from it - I think he makes a very good case that the geography and culture of Britain has been founded on two main zones of contact:
1. The Atlantic fringe from Spain to the western British Isles
2. Continental Europe to Eastern England
And, his contribution is to show that this split predates the Anglo-Saxon incursion by thousands of years
To me, no expert on the subject, it is a fascinating summary and provides plenty of food for thought.
As John Briggs suggests
'Is it my imagination, or does the 'new hypothesis' represent an unholy
Fusion of Barry Cunliffe's Atlantic Celts and Colin Renfrew's crumbling
He is strongly influenced by:
Cunliffe's ideas of the trading routes using the Atlantic routes from Spain and the writings of:
Stephen James (The Atlantic Celts - Ancient People Or Modern Invention?)
Frances Pryor (Britain A.D.)
John Collis (The Celts:origins, Myths And Inventions)
Colin Renfrew, (Archaeology And Language - The Puzzle Of Indo-European Origins)
Works of the geneticist Peter Forster
The book is not about German being spoken before the Roman period, it is about the genetic origins of the British.
He shows that genetic evidence suggests that since 12,000 years ago Britain has been affected by two main streams of genetic flow - one along the Atlantic from Spain, via the coast of France into the western British Isles (Atlantic archipelago) the other comes from continental Europe into Eastern Britain.
He suggests time scales when these genetic flows took place. The most important being that most of the genetic flow is as early as 12,000 BP which accounts for something like 75% of UK genetic material variation.
He is persuasive about these ideas and I would welcome comments as to whether Oppenheimer's genetic summary is based on sound research.
He then speculates. He does make it clear he is speculating. He makes it clear that there are archaeological, linguistic and genetic strands to his arguments, and that migrations, ethnicity may not match up with each or any of these strands.
He seems to hope that linguists can be persuaded to try and date language change independently of archaeology and I think is hoping that if genetic, archaeology and linguistics can develop separate methodologies that do not involve circular argument then our understanding of what may actually have happened will be enhanced.
His speculations include:
1. Cunliffe's Atlantic routes are very important to the settling of Britain.
2. As so much of our genetic material dates to the first settlement of Britain after the ice ages then all subsequent invasions/migrations/immigration is relatively small scale and does not replace our population.
3. Celtic origins are to be found in Southern France N. Spain
4. The Central European theory of Celtic Origins is completely wrong
5. Some genetic evidence in support of Renfrew's theory of Indo-European origins in farming
6. Genetic evidence suggests that the division between the West and the East of England does not begin with the Saxon Invasion but is a result of the 2 main routes of genetic flow - one up the Atlantic, the other from Continental Europe.
7. Scandinavia influences are stronger than suspected and maybe stronger than German.
8. The lack of Celtic influence on early English and the genetic split between East and West might be explained by an early introduction of English to Britain.
9. Classical sources make a distinction between Gallic/Celtic and Belgae. Some sources suggest the Belgae have a German origin. Various archaeological and linguistic evidence suggests evidence for Celtic in Belgic and Eastern England is weaker than in Gallic/Celtic or western Britain.
He reports work on linguistics which suggest
Indo-European languages began to fragment some 10,000 years ago, that Celtic split early than previously suspected and that English split from Germanic before the end of the Roman period.
I would recommend everyone to read the prospect article and read the book.
The parts of the book that deal with genetics are very heavy going and I have as yet found no simple explanation of how the genetic flows are dated.
I do not, however, think that Oppenheimer is a crank of the Hancock variety.
Thanks for reminding me of Richard's insightful paper.
This is the nub of the question and why it is at least worth looking at Oppenheimer's idea.
Pryor et al have come to the conclusion the archaeology shows continuity and does not support the wiping out of the Celts by the English
Genetic evidence, as cited by Oppenheimer, suggests the East/West division in the British Isles is a deep and early phenomena predating the Anglo-Saxon incursion
The linguistic evidence, as summed up by Coates the article mentioned below, suggests the lack of Celtic in English suggests the English did not have significant contact with the Celts.
"My inclination is therefore to accept the traditional view that in certain parts of what became England there were few visible Britons, and that this state might in principle have been achieved by emigration, annihilation or enslavement, for each of which there is evidence in English sources, though much hinges, of course, on whether these sources are viewed as credible witnesses."
Coates make it clear that his conclusion is based entirely on linguistic evidence.
This contradiction has to be resolved somehow, and Oppenheimer is offering a solution which at least explains why there is so few Celtic place names in the South and East and why there is so little Celtic in early English.
I have no idea whether it is true, it challenges long held views, but those views have been held because we all believe them to be true, so we have not actually examined the evidence we have just taken it for granted that the whole of Britain spoke Celtic. Maybe we need to check this assumption rests on good evidence.
This new idea offers a hypothesis that does explain the situation it is worth re-checking the evidence with this new paradigm in mind. If it does not fit the evidence we can move on and find the next idea.
As I said before the argument we should be having is not about the worth of Win Scutt's ideas but the ideas in Oppenheimer's book.
And to do that a few people on the list need to read the book.
Interesting stuff about London, Museums and HeritageHistory Museums London Archaeology Narrative Environments