Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

EXTENSION

OF THE CELTS.

13

makes evident. Moreover, we have seen that a great variety is observable in the graves of the second period. And, as will appear subsequently, Celts from Denmark did arrive in the British Isles.

When the Indo-Europeans entered Europe, they came in contact with Tatár tribes on the north, and with Basques, Etruscans and Illyrians on the south. At the dawn of European history, we find the Celts widely spread through the continent, and especially in possession of all the northern and western coasts. That they should leave unexplored the shores of Denmark, is what we cannot reasonably suppose, seeing that they held possessions in Gaul, Spain, Italy and the Low Countries. In the south we find them in contact with, and a terror to, the Greek-Latin race, in Spain mixing with the ancestors of the Basques, where they were known as the Celtiberians. And as various evidences tend to show, in the north they were mixed with the Tatár people of the Stone age of Denmark. On the east of the Celts pressed the Goths, and behind these, but with the interposition of Tatár and some other peoples, came the Slaves and Lithuanians.

CHAPTER III.

THE FIRST COLONISATION OF THE BRITISH ISLES.

WHEN Cæsar arrived in Britain, he found it a thickly populated country; and this alone may account for the unsatisfactory information he has transmitted to us concerning the people. He divides the natives into two parts: the inland people, or aborigines, and the inhabitants of the coast, whom he apparently supposes to be all Belgæ. It is quite probable that some of the tribe named did migrate to the opposite shore, but, beyond a doubt, all authentic traditions of this nature had disappeared long before the visit of the Roman general to Britain.

Our British ethnography has remained to the present day in the same rude state in which we received it from Cæsar-the conjectures of Tacitus concerning the Silures and Caledonians notwithstanding. On historical grounds, we believe the first inhabitants of Britain to have been Celtic-using the name in rather a vague sense; and yet limiting our argument even to the monuments of the country, it will be seen that this current view is open

to much doubt. Burial-places and giants' chambers precisely similar to those of the Stone age of Denmark have been found in these islands, if not numerous, at least very widely spread. It must be remembered that we have no systematic account of these antiquities in Britain, and that before any record of them was made, numbers may have been destroyed. The sepulchres of this class are known as “cromlechs;" they are so called in Ireland and Wales, and the name is current in the archæology of England.

STONE GRAVES OF BRITAIN.

15

The description of a burial-place in Pembrokeshire called Y Gromlech, leaves no doubt of its identity with the Stone chambers. It consists of “ several rude stones pitched on end in a circular order; and in the midst of the circle, a vast rude stone placed on several pillars. The diameter of the area is about fifty feet. The stone supported in the midst of this circle is eighteen feet long and nine in breadth; and, at one end, it is about three feet thick, but thinner at the other. There lies also by it a piece broken off, which seems more than twenty oxen can draw. It is supported by three large rude pillars about eight feet high; but there are also five others which are of no use at present, as not being high enough to bear any weight of the top stone. Under this stone the ground is neatly flagged, considering the rudeness of monuments of this kind."'*

Several monuments of this description are mentioned in the same work. St. Iltut's hermitage in Brecknockshire, is constructed of three large stones fixed in the ground, with a fourth for a cover, and forms an “oblong hut,” open at one end, about eight feet in length, four in width, and nearly the same in height. This seems to be most generally the present shape and size of such chambers. Arthur's Stone in Glamorganshire belongs to the same class. Cromlechs are found in Anglesey, and in some other counties in Wales, of which two in Denbighshire are improperly called kist vâen, or stone chests. And most probably the “Picts' houses” of the Orkneys, described as "overgrown with earth," are sepulchres of the Stone age.

The latest and most reliable work on the ancient burial-places of the British Isles,* unfortunately shows that this department of archæology is yet in its infancy. From the subject as it there stands, no safe conclusions can be drawn. Ireland must, however, have many cromlechs; and a giant's chamber is described as having been discovered at New Grange, near Drogheda. The

* Camden's Britannia.

† Archæological Index, by J. Y. Ackerman, 1847.

“grottoes and covered alleys” of the work referred to, are Stone sepulchres; Wayland Smith's cave at Ashbury, Berks, and Kit's Coty House in Kent, belong to the same class.

Are we now to conclude that the people of the Stone age of Denmark found their way hither, and explored the seas and channels of which the Romans showed so much fear, in canoes made by the process of hollowing single logs with fire and flint ? Much more probable is it that they only reached these islands in company

with the Celts, after having obtained metal weapons, and having learned the construction of some better kind of boat. Moreover, no trace of any language older than Celtic has been found in Britain, the peculiar sepulchres do not appear in one district only, but are thinly scattered through the islands, and modern Irish, therefore Hiberno-Celtic,-shows a strong phonetic tinge, not belonging to the original stock, which exists to some extent in all the modern Tatár languages. These evidences strongly support the conjecture, that the unknown people were a Tatár tribe, and were mixed with the earlier division of the Celtic immigrants.

It has always been supposed that the earliest inhabitants of Britain were Cambro-Celtic, in other words, that British and Welsh are identical. This erroneous opinion leads deeper into

The oldest remains of the Celtic languages show clear traces of the distinction now represented by Welsh and Irish. Whatever the Gallic tribe, it was either Cambro-Celtic or HibernoCeltic. Why should the former tribes alone find their way into Britain ? They were in fact in a minority in Gaul, and still more so in these islands.

The descendants of the first colonists of Ireland, who certainly proceeded direct from the continent, are the people of Connaught. The manners of this district differ widely from those of the rest of the country, and the language preserves the normal state from which the other dialects have developed themselves. This separation soon deprived them of their share in the collective nationality of the island. The river that bounded their district, the Shannon (Senus), was therefore named by their successors on the east, and

error.

HIBERNO-CELTS IN BRITAIN.

17

furnishes us with the name of the people on the west-the Senones. Thus we have in Connaught a portion of the tribe that lived about the Sequana in Gaul, and at a later period invaded Italy under Brennus (a mountain torrent), and attacked Rome at the time when the capitol was only saved from surprise by the cackling of the sacred geese.

Comparing the language of the west of Ireland with the oldest names belonging to the ancient history of the east of Britain, we find that the first inhabitants of both islands were the same people. And in fact all the seafaring tribes of the west and north of Europe, for a considerable period, were Hiberno-Celts. The five great headlands of Britain, on which are situated the modern counties of Kent, Lincolnshire, Haddingtonshire, Aberdeenshire, and Caithness, were originally called Kent, the head (modern Irish cean), as appears from the names of the tribes, the Cantii, Iceni, and Cantæ, and from Cambridge (Cantabriga), Canty bay and Pentland hills in Haddingtonshire, and Pentland frith, the two latter of which are transformations from Kentland hills, Kentland frith.

The same name was introduced into the west of Scotland by some of the latest immigrants, and is found in Cantyre (cean tir), the head of the land.

At a very early period the word kent (pr. kant) was changed into pen by the Cambro-Celts; but was applied by them to hills, and never to promontories. Pembroke was previously Kentbroke; and in the transformation of such names, we have evidence of the later arrival of the Cambro-Celts. The tradition still exists in Wales, especially in the north, that the original inhabitants were Gwythelians (Irish); and many of the unacountable antiquities (chambers, etc.) are popularly ascribed to them as Cytian y Gwyzelod, Irish cots. The foxes and polecats, it is said, were their domestic dogs and cats.* These traditions seem to have migrated northwards from South Wales. On the other hand, the CambroCeltic term for capes was corn, a horn, as in Cornwall.

Amongst the latest of the Hiberno-Celtic colonists, prior to the

* Owen's Welsh Dictionary.

с

« ForrigeFortsæt »