» Home > In the News

Basque origins

9 September 2015

Not all the big discoveries are taking place in space – archaeology is having a nice plate full at the moment. At http://phys.org/print360840353.html … the Basques have usually been regarded as having the oldest European language and therefore, common sense would say they were descended from the oldest Europeans – the pre-farming population. Consensus comes and consensus goes – and in this instance the idea they represent people living in Iberia after the ice retreated, and therefore have a genetic link to the people of Ireland, which was recently discovered, now has a further twist as it seems Basque origins are with the early farmers and as a distinct genetic group they can hardly be anymore than five thousand years (as DNA shows mixture between early farmers and pre farming Iberians, coalescing in the Basque genome). They have the genes of migrant farmers from the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa – and genetics bites back once again, changing perceptions and established beliefs. The Basque genes seen in the Irish are therefore the genes of the early farmers that migrated along the shores of western Britain (Cornwall, Wales and the Isles as well as Ireland), the people we like to refer to as Celts (in the modern vernacular) but having roots much further away. This is reminiscent of a book I read many years ago by John Philip Cohane, 'The Key' – which sought to trace a migration out of the Levant that reached as far as the shores of Britain and Ireland (using a series of key words). His theory never caught on – but it was distinctly novel (too radical for mainstream). We should not forget it was easier to move great distances in a boat than it was to walk across the land and navigate forests and hostile tribes. It may be worth re-reading some literature on trade routes along the Atlantic shore to get a better handle on all this but there is plenty of evidence that farmers were active in western Ireland a long time ago, possibly considerably earlier than in eastern Britain. How does that affect the Celtic languages, such as Gaelic? They are distinct from Basque. 

This study was also published in the Sept 7th issue of the PNAS journal and involves farmers moving into Iberia and over the course of a couple of thousand years expanding their numbers and hybrising with the local hunter gatherer population. This still leaves open the question – where did the Basque language originate (in Europe or far away).

Skip to content