Mid Wales

Celtic heritage: Project wins funding to explore origins

Images of warriors from La Pimienta - an early proto-Celtic culture in Spain
Image caption Images of warriors from La Pimienta show Celtic culture existed in Spain, but its origins are obscure

The mystery surrounding the origins of the Celtic people could be unravelled by a new three-year project.

The University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth has received £690,000.

The centre said many still believed the Celts spread from Iron Age central Europe between 750 and 100 BC.

But it said there was more than one Celtic language in what is now modern day Spain, and it was a mystery as to how and when the Celts arrived there.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has awarded the project a total of £689,167.

The Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS) will work in collaboration with Oxford University, King's College London, Bangor University and the National Library of Wales on the "archaeological background of the emergence of the Celtic languages in western Europe".

CAWCS director Prof Dafydd Johnston said: "The funding will enable us to make a substantial contribution to the understanding of the cultural heritage of Wales and the other Celtic countries."

CAWCS said many still believed the Celts spread from Iron Age central Europe bringing Celtic speech with them, so earlier eras further west were non-Celtic by definition.

But a previous AHRC-funded project at CAWCS showed there was more than one Celtic language in pre-Roman Iberia - present day Spain and Portugal - but it remained an enigma as to how and when the Celts arrived there.

'Yesterday's theory'

Prof John T Koch at CAWCS, who is the project leader, said: "Pre-historians and historical linguists have a responsibility to Wales and the other Celtic countries, especially to people who speak and learn Welsh and the other Celtic languages.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionProf John Koch on the origins of the Celtic people

"They want to know how, where, and when these languages emerged, what the experts know and don't know.

"What are the viable models and the evidence favouring them? Otherwise, we are supporting cultural heritage with yesterday's theory."

Sir Barry Cunliffe, emeritus professor of European archaeology at Oxford University, is also working on the project.

He said the grant would make real progress in understanding "our Celtic heritage with linguists and archaeologists working closely together in a way never before possible".

The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth will host and maintain the project's website.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites