The True Story of the Celts

I recently watched a three-part documentary on Curiosity Stream called “Celts: The Untold Story”. Like most Curiosity Stream videos, it is very interesting and entertaining. But like many Curiosity Stream videos, particularly those dealing with prehistory, its fundamental message is simply wrong.

One of the major points of this documentary was that the Celts began with the Hallstatt Culture as a community of humble salt-traders in a tiny Alpine village. This to me is blatantly, even ridiculously, false. Proposing this effectively ignores the continuity of the successive cultures of Central Europe from the Bell Beaker period of the early Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age La Tène Culture. It’s also suspiciously reminiscent of the story of the Roman Empire originating from a single settlement called Rome that was allegedly founded by the twins Remus and Romulus.

By the way, this particular documentary isn’t the only one on Curiosity Stream that I’ve strongly disagreed with. There is also one about the Egtved Girl that has everything to do with promoting a feminist message of empowerment for young women rather than presenting the truth. As if a young woman could have traveled by herself over hundreds of miles through deep forests in prehistoric Europe without dying one way or another…

Watching this “Celts: The Untold Story” documentary prompted me to produce a series of maps that show the original settlement of the Yamnayan Proto-Celts in Central Europe and the areas of the subsequent Celtic cultures in Central Europe from the early Bronze Age to the late Iron Age. These maps do not show the spread of the Celtoid offshoot of the Celts into northwestern Europe (see ), nor do they show the migration of Celts into Iberia that produced the Celtiberians, nor do they show the area of the Lepontians in northern Italy (I still have my doubts about these being Celtic).

Map 1 – The expansions of the South Indo-European Yamnaya ancestors of the Celts from the Pontic Steppe along the Danube River valley – c3100 to c2600 BC

Map 2 – The extent of the Eastern Bell Beaker Culture representing the origin of the Celts – c2600 to c2300 BC – (The earliest Italic peoples, of South Indo-European Yamnaya origin and thus closely related to the earliest Celts, probably occupied the lower portion of the Danube valley at this time) (Further expansions to the northwest during this period eventually produced the Celtoid offshoot of the Celts)

Map 3 – The extent of the Unetice Culture (north part) and the Danubian Early Bronze Age (south part) – c2300 to c1600 BC – (The Unetice Culture may have been the area in which South Indo-European Proto-Celts of the Bell Beaker Culture mixed with North Indo-European Proto-Balts of the Corded Ware Culture to form the Proto-Germanic people

Map 4 – The extent of the Tumulus Culture, showing a loss of territory in the north (this having become the original Proto-Germanic territory) but expansion both eastwards and westwards – c1600 to c1200 BC – (Celts expand into what is now eastern France)

Map 5 – The extent of most of the Urnfield Culture without the Northwestern and Transdanubian areas (possibly West Germanic and P-Italic respectively) – c1300 to c750 BC – (Celtic begins to replace Celtoid in southeastern Britain (i.e. Brittonic) and expands further into what is now northern France) (The Celtoid offshoot of the Celts occupies most of the area of the Atlantic Bronze Age during this period)

Map 6 – The extent of the Hallstatt Culture – c800 to c450 BC – (Celtic expands over most of what is now France, but without necessarily replacing Celtoid in most areas)

Map 7 – The maximum extent of the La Tène Culture – c450 to c1 BC – (Time of map c200 BC)

Grassmann’s Law in Greek

In the course of my research for my Indo-European conlang called Wôks Teuteka ( ), I have recently established a connection between Greek agathos, Proto-Germanic *gōdaz (English good) and Proto-Celtic *dagos (Welsh da) among others. Here is the entry for the word gado in my Wôks Teuteka wordlist as it now stands:

gado (gados; gadôs) : good [< *h2ghh2-dhos; Lat honor ‘honor, esteem, dignity’ < h2gh(h2)-dho-nos (h2gh(h2)-dho-nes-); PrCelt *dagos (< *h2dhh2-ghos, metathesis of *h2ghh2-dhos (?)) > OIr dag-, Welsh da; *PrGmc *gōdaz (< *h2gheh2-dhos) > Eng good; Gr agathós ‘good, brave, noble, moral’ < *h2(e)ghh2-dhos; PrSlav *godьnъ > Russ godnyj ‘fit, suitable, valid, appropriate’] {for Lat ho– < *ghdho– >>> gəmōn}

This led me to consider the effect of Grassmann’s law in Ancient Greek. The effect of this law is seen in both Ancient Greek and Sanskrit, and it consists of the deaspiration of one of two aspirated consonants in a word. In the case of Greek agathos, the g comes from a deaspirated *gh which normally would have become kh (i.e. **akhathos).

Although there is some dispute about how Grassmann’s law in Ancient Greek is related to Grassmann’s law in Sanskrit, my opinion is that Grassmann’s law operated in the common ancestor of Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, this common ancestor being the eastern variant of North Proto-Indo-European. (By the way, the effect of Grassmann’s law was “nullified” in Proto-Iranian because all aspirated consonants were deaspirated in this language.)

As I’ve indicated elsewhere ( ), I believe that Proto-Greek and Proto-Armenian derived from a fusion of the eastern variant of North Proto-Indo-European (Abashevo Culture > Potapovka Culture) with the South Proto-Indo-European that remained on the eastern Pontic Steppe in the Bronze Age (Poltavka Culture).

The common opinion among the experts is that Grassmann’s law must have operated after the devoicing of aspirated consonants in Proto-Greek (and must therefore have occurred after the ancestor of Ancient Greek separated from the ancestor of Sanskrit). The reason for this is that the reflex of the deaspirated consonant in Ancient Greek is usually voiceless rather than voiced. Three examples of this are given at the beginning of the Wikipedia article on Grassmann’s law:

I am of the opinion that Grassmann’s law operated on the ancestor of Proto-Greek before the devoicing of the aspirated consonants, and that the Greek agathos is one instance of the effect of this law being retained unchanged.

In my view, it simply would have seemed bizarre to speakers of Proto-Greek to keep a voiced consonant in forms of a word that otherwise has a voiceless consonant (for example, **drikhes instead of trikhes as a plural of thriks ‘hair’, or **daphos instead of taphos ‘grave’ compared to thaptein ‘bury’). In the case of reduplication in verbs, the levelling was done by analogy with verbs whose roots originally had a plain voiceless stop.

It seems quite likely to me that there was regular levelling of these odd voiced consonants in Proto-Greek. But in the case of agathos, the voiced g produced by Grassmann’s law remains because a levelling to a voiceless k was not necessary. There are no forms of agathos or derivatives of agathos that have kh instead of g.

A Celtic Calendar

Below is a PDF featuring my derivative of the Celtic Calendar found at Coligny in France in 1897. For a good article on the Coligny Calendar, see . And here’s a very interesting page on the Coligny Calendar from Caer Australis – .

The first page of the PDF explains the structure of the calendar as well as the calculations and modifications involved in it. I have used Celtic terms for “day”, “month” and “year”. For the 5-year cycle, I have opted for a (possible) Celtic cilcon based on Welsh cylch and Breton kelc’h. For the 30-year cycle, I have used saitlon (Welsh hoedl and Breton hoal), the Celtic equivalent of Latin saeculum.

I have not taken most of the various notations on the Coligny Calendar into account, including the reference to the TRINOVXSAMO (“Triply Most-High” – see  ) on the seventeenth day of Samonios. I have also disregarded other features of the Coligny Calendar – for example, I have made the regular months alternate regularly between 29-day and 30-day lengths.

I have made the months start (approximately) on the day of the new moon, meaning that the day of the full moon would be (approximately) at mid-month. I would also suggest that the days of this Celtic calendar be considered to start at sunset on the previous day of the Gregorian calendar (it was apparently customary among the Celts to consider sunset to be the end of a day and the beginning of the next day).

The solstices and equinoxes are indicated on the calendar, as well as the midpoints between these. These latter are given the reconstructed proto-Celtic forms of the names of the Irish festivals that fell on them. Note that Lugunats on the eleventh day of Riuros is short for Lugunatsaton. Note also that the name Samanis on the thirteenth day of Cutios is the true original form of Irish Samhain (see ).

I have taken the liberty of dividing the half-months into two weeks. In a half-month with 15 days, the second week has 8 days rather than 7. I have also taken the liberty of assigning names of Celtic Gods and Goddesses to the days of the week, these appearing in the genitive case (e.g. (Diion) Belinî = (Day) of Belinos).

The months included in the PDF cover the period from April 1st to November 22, 2022. The first month in the PDF (Cantlos) is the last month of a previous saitlon (30-year period). The second month (an intercalary month called Cuimonios) is the first month in the current saitlon, which I’ve defined as the first saitlon.

The Word for “Sister” in Proto-Celtic and Proto-Germanic

The following table shows my reconstructions of some of the forms of the declension of the word for “sister” in Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Celtic and Proto-Germanic. I have included only the nominative, accusative, genitive and dative forms (singular and plural).

nsswesōrswesūr > sweūrswezōr > swestēr
asswesorṃswesoran > sweoranswezarų > swestrų
gsswesrósswerros > sweorosswestraz > swestres
dsswesréiswerrei > sweoreiswestrī
npswesoresswesores > sweoresswezarez > swestrez
apswesorṇsswesoras > sweorasswezarunz > swestrunz
gpswesróhxswerron > sweoronswestrǭ
dpswesṛbhósswerribos > sweoriboswezurmaz > swestrumaz

The declension table appearing on the Wiktionary page for PIE *swesōr follows the amphikinetic declension model according to which the oblique forms have the first syllable in the zero-grade (*sus– instead of *swes-). I understand that there must be a reason for reconstructing this type of declension model, but I don’t see it represented in the declensions of any of the reflexes of *swesōr. (For the genitive singular –ós instead of –és, see

In the Proto-Celtic declension, we see the sequence –sr– regularly becoming –rr– in the genitive and dative cases (singular and plural). This disappearance of the medial -s- in the genitive and dative caused the medial -s- to also be dropped in the nominative and accusative, resulting in *sweor– from *swesor– in the accusative singular and in the nominative and accusative plural (and possibly *sweūr in the nominative singular). The form *sweor– was then generalized to the entire declension. This form is represented in the Gaulish inscription found at Néris-les-Bains, in which the instrumental plural suiorebe (“with the sisters”) appears.

The Gaulish suiorebe has been used to support the idea that intervocalic -s- regularly disappeared in Celtic as it did in the Celtoid groups (Goidelic and Brittonic) but the disappearance of intervocalic -s- in this particular word is obviously exceptional. Two other words from Gaulish inscriptions that have been used to point to the possibility of intervocalic -s- regularly disappearing in Celtic are siaxsiou “I shall seek” (Châteaubleau line 6) and sioxti “possession” (?) (La Graufesenque – sioxti albanos pannas exra tuθ ccc).

The former word appears to be a reduplicated future of *sag– “seek” – *se-sag-sjō. The latter word may be from a reduplication of the PIE root *seghj– “possess, own, control” with the abstract nominal suffix –ti– – *se-sog-ti– (although it is hard to see how this interpretation can help the sentence make sense). In both of these cases, the disappearance of the second -s- is probably due exceptionally to the reduplication of a root beginning with s-.

Those who favor the idea that intervocalic -s- regularly disappeared in Celtic have to either find explanations for intervocalic -s- appearing in Gaulish (such as simplified -ns- and -ts-), or simply ignore instances of intervocalic -s- appearing in Gaulish. [Added on August 27, 2022: I am currently of the opinion that intervocalic -s- did disappear in Gaulish but that it was retained before consonantal -i- (i.e. the “y” sound). I haven’t taken the time to investigate this properly, but some examples I could mention of -s- being retained before consonantal -i- include sosio, dusios, marcosior…]

The declension of Old Irish siur shows a medial -th- instead of the original Proto-Celtic medial -s- in most forms (genitive singular, genitive and dative dual, all plural forms). Intervocalic -s- regularly disappeared in the Celtoid group (Goidelic and Brittonic), so it appears that the -th- in Old Irish resulted from the addition of -t- (probably in Proto-Goidelic) by analogy with other kinship terms like Old Irish athair “father”, bráthair “brother” and máthair “mother”. The addition of this -t- in Proto-Goidelic probably happened after the disappearance of the original intervocalic -s-.

In the Proto-Germanic declension, we see the regular development of –str– from –sr– in the genitive and dative singular and in the genitive plural. The form –str– was generalized to the whole declension with the exception of the nominative singular – this shows –stēr by analogy with other kinship terms like *fadēr “father”, *brōþēr “brother” and *mōdēr “mother” (similar to what happened in Old Irish). (But I think it likely that the accusative singular and the nominative and accusative plural had –star– intead of the –str– that appears in the table above.)

[By the way, the genitive singular –es ending in *swestres did not develop from the –az ending in *swestraz but resulted from the extension of the a-stem genitive singular ending to all consonant stems. This a-stem genitive singular ending –es was reduced from an earlier form –esja which resulted from the following development: –esja < –asja < –osjo. I treated this issue in the following article:]

On Proto-Celtic -akos

As I’ve mentioned a number of times in previous posts, I use Wiktionary extensively in the course of my etymological research. I recognize Wiktionary as a most valuable resource for finding reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Celtic and Proto-Germanic words. But I am often annoyed at the many instances of erroneous information presented in these reconstructions, some of which is due to the pronouncements of recognized experts.

One of the more annoying instances of erroneous information in etymological reconstructions is the idea that Proto-Indo-European ei became ē in Proto-Celtic. I’ve dealt with this bothersome error in this post: Another instance of erroneous information in etymological reconstructions that I find equally annoying is the Proto-Celtic –ākos adjective suffix. There is no doubt in my mind that this was most certainly –akos with a short a in Proto-Celtic. In fact, I see no good reason to believe that this Proto-Celtic suffix was –ākos rather than –akos.

The only modern Celtic language that appears to regularly show a reflex of –ākos is Welsh, which has –og. Its close cousins Breton and Cornish have –ek/-eg and –ek (respectively), these apparently being from Old Breton and Old Cornish –oc – a form which does apparently indicate a Proto-Brittonic –og (yet one would expect that –euk and –eug would be the regular reflexes of an original –ākos in Modern Breton).

Turning to Old Irish, we find that the cognate of Brittonic –og is –ach with a short a. Old Irish did also have a form –óg, but it is obvious (and commonly admitted) that this resulted from a borrowing of Brittonic –og. I’m quite sure that Old Irish –ach with a short a reflects –akos rather than –ākos; that is to say that I don’t know of any reason why –ākos would have resulted in –ach rather than –ách in Old Irish.

Outside of the Celtic branch, we find –agaz with short a in Germanic (as well as –igaz with short i), –icus with short i in Latin, and –ikos with short i in Greek. These suffixes and all other cognate suffixes in other Indo-European branches all begin with short vowels. Interestingly, the Wiktionary page on Proto-Celtic –ākos (ākos) gives Latin –ācus and –īcus as cognates, but the linked page for –ācus doesn’t exist (I wonder why) and the link for –īcus goes to a page that has only –icus, not –īcus.

The Wiktionary page for Proto-Celtic –ākos gives an interesting derivation from Proto-Indo-European –eh2-kos/-eh2-kjos with (presumably) the feminine ending –eh2 before the adjective suffix –kos/-kjos, but there is nothing like this anywhere in the rest of the Indo-European language family [*** but see the addendum below ***]. And in fact, it hardly makes sense since the vowel between the end of the word stem and the adjective suffix is not indicative of gender, gender endings being incorporated in the suffix itself (i.e. –kos, –keh2, –kom) (in fact, this vowel is essentially an epenthetic vowel).

The Proto-Brittonic –og could reflect an original –ākos; however, this –ākos could be a Brittonic innovation rather than a common feature of Proto-Celtic. But in fact, it seems to me that Proto-Brittonic –og resulted from an earlier Proto-Brittonic –āg that itself resulted from –akos that was stressed on the a (for example, *woltákos “hairy” > *gwoltāg > *gwaltog (Welsh gwalltog) – compare Old Irish foltach). [Note the change from oā to ao in this particular Brittonic word.]

It could be that stress on the penultimate syllable was a regular feature of the Celtic spoken in Britain in Antiquity (i.e. British Celtoid), and it may also be that this was a regular feature of Continental Celtic (i.e. Celtic properly speaking) – this being a possible instance of Celtic influence on British Celtoid (see  I speculate that the loss of final syllables in Proto-Brittonic might have caused the lengthening of short vowels in the still-stressed now-final syllables that were previously penultimate syllables – at least in some cases (other examples of this might be *epalos “foal” > Proto-Brittonic *ebāl (Welsh ebol), *olinā “elbow” > Proto-Brittonic *œlīn (Welsh elin) and *ongwinā “nail” > Proto-Brittonic *œ(ŋ)wīn (Welsh ewin)). I might speculate further that this might have happened in Continental Celtic as well if it had survived Antiquity and had also undergone the loss of its final syllables.

[Addendum – July 25, 2022]

In the third-last paragraph above in which I discussed the supposed *-eh2-ko– form that presumably produced the Proto-Celtic *-ākos suffix, I stated that “there is nothing like this anywhere in the rest of the Indo-European language family”. Well, it occurred to me this morning that there might be something like this in Latin, this being the –ōx suffix in the adjectives ferōx ‘fierce’ and atrōx ‘terrible’.

The usual explanation for this Latin –ōx suffix is that it represents *h3ekw-s ‘eye’, so that ferōx (gs ferōcis) and atrōx (gs atrōcis) would originally have meant something like “wild-animal eyed” and “fire eyed” (respectively). Although such an explanation is certainly not impossible, it has always looked like a silly folk-etymology to me, and I frankly have some difficulty taking it seriously. [The de-labialization of –kw– is obviously not an issue, this having happened in Latin vōx (gs vōcis) from *wōkw-s.]

What I propose instead as a possible explanation for this Latin –ōx suffix is *-oh1k-s. This suffix may also be found in reduced grade – *-h1k-s – in Latin senex ‘old’ and iūdex ‘judge’. A thematized form of this reduced grade *-h1k-s – *-h1k-os – may in fact be the origin of the Germanic *-agaz/*-igaz, Latin –icus and Greek –ikos mentioned above.

[By the way, I don’t agree with the etymology *jouoz-dik-s for Latin iūdex, *-dik– presumably being from *deikj– ‘point to, indicate’. Again, this looks to me like a silly folk-etymology. Instead, I suggest *jouz-dhh1– “right-put” (the reduced grade of *dheh1– ‘put, place’ being regularly used as a suffix) with the *-h1k-s suffix – *jouz-dhh1-(h1)k-s.]

[Another supposed instance of *h3ekw-s used as a suffix is represented by Latin antīquus ‘ancient’ and Sanskrit antika ‘vicinity, proximity’, both presumably coming from *h2enti-h3kw-o-. Whereas the Sanskrit reflects the original sense of *h2enti– ‘against, adjacent’ (derived from *h2en– ‘on’), the Latin antīquus clearly reflects the shift in meaning of Latin ante ‘before’. In any case, it’s hard to see how either “against-eye” or “before-eye” can be equivalent to “ancient”. So, although the *h2enti-h3kw-o– etymology is not impossible, I much prefer to propose *h2ent-h1k-o– (“adjacent, close”) as the origin of Sanskrit antika and *h2enti-h1k-wo– (“being of before”) as the origin of Latin antīquus.]

Turning back to the presumed Proto-Celtic *-ākos suffix, it may be that this in fact existed and that it was related to the Latin –ōx suffix. What we might have here is *-oh1k-s becoming *-ōks, then being thematized to *-ōkos and finally becoming *-ākos in Celtic. [The thematization of this suffix obviously occurred before *-ks– became *-xs.] Given the possibility that reflexes of this *-oh1k-s suffix are found in both Italic and Celtic, I propose that it might have been a common South Proto-Indo-European innovation.

So, I might well have been mistaken in suggesting that the *-ākos suffix didn’t exist in Celtic. However, I suspect that *-akos with a short a probably also existed in Proto-Celtic given that corresponding forms with short vowels existed throughout the Indo-European language family, including the other South Proto-Indo-European groups (Italic, Germanic (partly) and Greek (partly)). I might further admit the possibility that the *-ākos form eventually replaced the *-akos form entirely in Celtic, and that this also happened in Brittonic Celtoid under the influence of Celtic, but that it didn’t happen in Goidelic Celtoid, Old Irish having –ach instead of **-ách.

Illyrians and Albanians

In my post called “The Movements and Expansions of Indo-European Language Groups” – , I suggested that there was an Italo-Illyric group of languages that included the Italic languages (such as Latin, Oscan, Umbrian, etc.) and the Illyrian languages. I have since developed the view that the Illyrian languages were not only not closely related to the Italic languages, but that they were in fact derived from a form of Proto-Indo-European other than the Proto-Indo-European of the Yamnaya Culture.

A culture called the Sredny Stog Culture (c4500-c3500 BCE) developed in what is now Ukraine by about 4500 BC. Its origins seem to be in the Dnieper-Donets Culture (c5000-c4200 BCE) that preceded it in that region. The Dnieper-Donets Culture was related to the Samara Culture that developed on the Volga to the east by about 5000 BCE. The Khvalynsk (c4900-c3500 BCE) and Repin Cultures eventually developed from the Samara Culture, and the Yamnaya Culture (c3300-c2600 BCE) eventually emerged from the Khvalynsk and Repin Cultures.

The Suvorovo Culture (or Suvorovo Group) (c4500-c4100 BCE) of southwestern Ukraine, southern Moldova and eastern Romania may have been an early migration from the Khvalynsk Culture. Whereas the Suvorovo Culture had kurgans like the Khvalynsk Culture, the Dnieper-Donets Culture, the Sredny Stog Culture and the Cernavodǎ Culture did not. But the Suvorovo Culture seems not to have maintained itself nor to have migrated elsewhere or developed into any other culture – it seems to have been a dead end.

All of the cultures mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs probably spoke forms of a common language, this common language being a major dialect of Proto-Indo-European that I call South Proto-Indo-European (or Steppe Proto-Indo-European). The other major dialect of Proto-Indo-European was the North Proto-Indo-European (or Forest Proto-Indo-European) dialect spoken largely in the area of the Comb Ceramic Culture (or Pit-Comb Ware Culture) – this dialect being ancestral to the Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages, and partly contributing to the formation of the Germanic languages and of the Greek, Phrygian and Armenian languages.

It is probable that there were some notable differences between the western forms (Dnieper-Donets, Sredny Stog) and eastern forms (Samara, Khvalynsk, Repin) of South Proto-Indo-European. It was the eastern form of South Proto-Indo-European that was the language of the Yamnaya Culture, and that produced the Celtic and Italic language groups, as well as partly contributing to the formation of the Germanic languages and of the Greek, Phrygian and Armenian languages. But the western form is not without descendants…

By about 4000 BC (after the Suvorovo Culture), a culture called the Cernavodǎ Culture (c4000-c3200 BCE) appeared in what is now eastern Romania, replacing the Early European Farmer culture called the Karanovo Culture. According to the Wikipedia article on the Cernavodǎ Culture, its pottery and burials show similarities to those of the Sredny Stog Culture. It is quite likely that the Cernavodǎ Culture represents an expansion of the Sredny Stog folks westwards (perhaps following the example of the Suvorovo Culture).

By the way, I do not believe that the Cernavodǎ Culture had anything at all to do with the Anatolian languages. As I’ve explained before (, I do not view the Anatolian group as originally Indo-European. Instead, I see it as an Indo-Europeanized group that developed in the Novotitorovka Culture (c3300-c2700 BCE) that existed in the northern Caucasus region adjoining the Yamnaya Culture, and that eventually migrated southwards into Anatolia around the eastern side (not the western side) of the Black Sea.

It appears that the Cernavodǎ Culture gradually expanded westwards through the northern Balkans, probably mixing considerably with the Early European Farmer groups of the region. A result of this western expansion of the Cernavodǎ Culture seems to be the Kostolac Culture of northern Serbia and western Romania. And a derivative of the Kostolac Culture was the Vučedol Culture (c3000-c2200 BCE) that covered most of the northwestern Balkans.

It seems likely to me that the Vučedol Culture was the original culture of the Illyrian peoples, and that the roots of the Illyrians therefore lie mainly in the Sredny Stog Culture. So, although the Illyrians were Indo-European, they weren’t Indo-European in the same way as the Yamnaya ancestors of the Celtic and Italic folks who passed by between c2900 and c2600 BCE. And it seems likely to me that the Albanian language, which is Indo-European but considerably unique compared to the other Indo-European languages, is descended from an Illyrian language.

Samain and Samonios

Much confusion reigns regarding the origin of the name of the day called Samhain (traditionally November 1st) in Irish.

The Irish name Samhain comes from the Old Irish Samain, which in turn would have developed from Proto-Celtic *Samanis, which in turn reflects a possible Proto-Indo-European *Som-h2nis, this being an o-grade derivative of *sem– ‘single’. Germanic cognates of Proto-Celtic *Samanis include Gothic samana, Old Norse saman, Dutch samen and German zusammen, all derived from Proto-Germanic *samana and all meaning “together”. A further cognate is Sanskrit samana which also means “together”.

It is rather clear to me that the word Samain originally had a meaning “together” and denoted a gathering. Indeed, the main feature of Samain is the gathering together of the living with their departed ancestors. It is also rather clear to me that the word Samain has nothing at all to do with the Gaulish month name Samonios.

It is usual to see Old Irish Samain incorrectly derived from the term Samonios which is found on the Celtic Coligny Calender (see for example ). The big problem with this is that Samonios would have given *Samuine in Old Irish. Although the forms Samuin and Samfuin are found in Old (or Middle) Irish texts, these are most likely due to a false interpretation of the word’s origin by medieval Irish monks. In any case, there certainly are no instances whatsoever of an –e at the end of the word.

The Celtic month name Samonios is clearly derived from the Proto-Celtic word for summer, this being *samo– from an original *sṃh2o-. This interpretation of Samonios is undoubted due to the existence of another Celtic month called Giamonios six months away from Samonios, this other month name being clearly derived from the Proto-Celtic word for winter: *giamo– The Germanic words for summer (such as English summer) are all related to Proto-Celtic *samo-, these all coming from Proto-Germanic *sumaraz, which developed from an original *sṃh2o-ros.

By the way, there are some who would interpret Samonios and Giamonios as meaning “end of summer” and “end of winter”, as if the –ni– element meant “end”, this ostensibly being derived from the Proto-Indo-European preposition *ni meaning “down”. Much more likely is that the two month names have n-stem forms of the words for “summer” and “winter” (*samon– and *giamon-) followed by the common relative suffix –ios meaning “the one of/relating to”.

But interpreting Samonios as “summer’s end” allows people to (mis-)associate the month Samonios with the Irish Samain, making Samonios an October/November month (and Giamonios an April/May month). This interpretation causes the month Ogronios (four months after Samonios) to be a February/March month, which suits the usual interpretation of Ogronios as the “cold month”.

One problem with this is that the word for “cold” in Proto-Celtic (yielding Old Irish úar and Welsh oer) is usually given as *ougros, not *ogros (but then, the Coligny Calender contains numerous instances of a serious incapacity to get orthographies straight…). Moreover, I don’t even believe that *ougros was the original word for “cold” in Proto-Celtic, but rather *usaros (see the commentary to the entry for uar in my Vindonian wordlist at As for Ogronios, I see a clear connection to Proto-Germanic *akraną (which came from *ogronom and which gave English acorn) and to the Celtoid word *agrenios meaning “plum” which became eirin in Welsh and airne in Irish, further connections being Lithuanian uoga “berry” and Russian jagoda “berry”.

One more thing to address: the existence of the terms Trinvxsamo and Trinosam on the Coligny Calender. These terms have been taken to be abbreviations of *Tri-noxtion-samoni, which is interpreted as the “Three Nights of Samain”, this corresponding quite nicely with the Irish festivity. One important problem is that the first term has –nux– rather than –nox-, but that could just be an orthographic problem, especially since the second term does have –nos– (again, we are dealing with a very substandard orthography…). A much bigger problem is that the term Trinvxsamo only appears in the month called Samonios. As mentioned above, the name of this month literally means “the one of summer” and it most probably occurred in what we call June and July – nowhere near the beginning of November.

In any case, I am rather partial to interpreting the term Trinvxsamo as *Trin-ouxsamo– meaning “Triply Most-High”. This would be a Celtic equivalent of the Roman Ter Maximus “Thrice Great”, an epithet of Mercury, which in turn is a calque of Greek Trismegistos “Thrice Great”, an epithet of Hermes. My opinion is that the Celtic God Lugus may well have been identified as Trinouxsamo “Triply Most-High” (cf. the Irish epithets Ildanách “Many-Skilled” and Samildanách “Equally Many-Skilled” for the Irish God Lugh).

Having said all this, I wouldn’t say that there was no equivalent to the Irish Samain among the Celts. But I doubt it. I will also say that I honestly believe that people who try to find connections between the Celts and the Irish often end up promoting things that simply aren’t true.

The Non-Indo-European Hittites

Wherever the Hittites and their Anatolian relations are discussed, the claim that they were Indo-European peoples is always stated quite matter-of-factly. This claim is based exclusively on the fact that the Anatolian languages had some vocabulary and grammatical forms which were evidently related to Proto-Indo-European in some way. But apart from this apparent Indo-European component of the Anatolian language group, there is nothing at all to indicate that the Anatolian peoples were in fact Indo-Europeans.

It is interesting that there are hardly any documents to be found on the Internet that discuss the obviously non-Indo-European aspects of the Anatolian languages, including clearly non-Indo-European vocabulary. So far, all that I have found on this is an article called “Possible Non-Indo-European Elements in Hittite” by J. Dyneley Prince that dates from 1921: . But of course, there are a number of researchers diligently trying to produce Indo-European etymologies for Hittite vocabulary.

One of the more intriguing features of the Hittite language is its relatively uncomplicated verb compared to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European verb – among other things, the Hittite language lacks any subjunctive or optative forms. This is usually explained by saying that the Anatolian languages lost much of the Proto-Indo-European forms that their (supposedly) Indo-European ancestors had used. I think it much more likely that it was due to the ancestors of the Anatolians borrowing only the forms of the Proto-Indo-European verb that corresponded with their original non-Indo-European verb forms.

Just looking at the proper names of the Hittites and their gods gives one the clear impression that there is a blatantly non-Indo-European nature to them. It would be interesting to see Indo-European etymologies for proper names like Suppiluliuma or Telipinu (cf. Hattic pinu ‘child’), but I’m not holding my breath on that. I think it rather odd that an Indo-European people would have a total dearth of Indo-European names – especially their kings. Indeed, the names of the Hittite kings have more than a passing resemblance to the names of the Gutian Kings that appear on the Sumerian King List (compare Hittite Suppiluliuma and Gutian Elulumesh, or Hittite Arnuwanda and Gutian Yarlaganda), and I don’t mind suggesting that the ancestors of the Anatolian peoples and the Gutians were possibly related.

Aside from language, genetic analysis of the Hittites and other Anatolians would be very nice to see. But for some odd reason, it seems that looking at the genetics of the Hittites isn’t a high priority for genetic researchers. There simply isn’t any information at all on Hittite genetics as far as I can tell. By now, most Wikipedia articles on ancient peoples and cultures have a subsection on genetics, but there is no genetics subsection for the Hittites…

Of course, if the Hittites really were Indo-Europeans, the prevalent Y-DNA haplogroup among them would have to be R1b (or perhaps R1a, although that would be unlikely given that the distribution of R1a folks was more northerly than that of R1b folks). It’s probably safe to assume that the prevalent Y-DNA haplogroup among the Anatolian peoples was something quite other than R1b; my guess is that it was probably some clade of Y-DNA haplogroup G, a haplogroup which is quite common among the folks of the Caucasus region, and well-represented in Turkey as well as northwestern Iran.

Another thing that could help in more securely categorizing the Hittites as Indo-Europeans would be clear links between their culture and the culture of known Indo-European groups. I haven’t seen much about this apart from the apparent connection between the Hittite god Illuyanka and the Proto-Indo-European “Dragon Slayer” myth (a connection featured in Calvert Watkins “How to Kill a Dragon”). But it should be mentioned that the “Dragon Slayer” myth is not unique to the Indo-European peoples. And even if the “Dragon Slayer” myth among the Hittites was of Indo-European origin, it could easily be a result of borrowing (as was also the case with the Indo-European elements of the Hittite language).

Even though the Hittite language and other Anatolian languages did undoubtedly have an important Indo-European component, I frankly don’t believe that the Hittites and other Anatolian peoples were Indo-Europeans, and I have yet to see anything to make me believe otherwise. At most, I would admit only that the Hittites and other Anatolian peoples were somewhat “Indo-Europeanized”. In my post called “The Movements and Expansions of Indo-European Language Groups” (, I suggested that the Anatolian language group “is the result of the (partial) adoption of South Indo-European by the non-Indo-European speakers north of the Caucasus who had produced the Maykop Culture”. But I now think it more likely that it was the Novotitorovka culture instead of the Maykop culture in which the Anatolian language group developed in contact with the South Indo-Europeans (or Steppe Indo-Europeans) of the Yamnaya culture.

The Reflexes of Proto-Indo-European h1ensus / h1onsus and h1onsuros

Proto-Indo-European *h1ensus / *h1onsus (i.e. *hensus / *honsus)

Proto-Indo-European *h1onsu-ros (i.e.*honsu-ros)

Sanskrit asu ‘life, vigor, vital force, breath’

Sanskrit asura ‘supernatural’

[The Asuras were originally primordial forces of Nature in Vedic mythology, not unlike the Titans of Greek mythology, but generally tended to be regarded as evil in later Hindu mythology in opposition to the Devas who were generally regarded as good (Nature vs. Civilization dichotomy)]

Avestan ahu ‘lord’

Avestan Ahura Mazda

[Whereas the Asuras came to be regarded as generally evil and the Devas came to be regarded as good in Hinduism, the opposite happened in Zoroastrianism (i.e. Mazdaism), with Ahura Mazda “Wise Lord” being considered the good God above all and the Daevas being considered demons.]

[By the way, I consider it likely that the name of the chief god of the Assyrians – Aššur – resulted from a borrowing of Indo-Iranian *Ansuros.]

Greek Ouranos < *Osur-anos < *Onsur-h2enos (?)

[Ouranos is from *onsur(os) extended with the “divinising” suffix –h2enos (a form which would account for the -a- rather than -o- : Ouranos). Ouranos is not cognate with Sanskrit Varuna < Proto-Indo-European *Werl-ṃnos > Celtic Vellaunos & Greek Hellēnes – see for a further discussion of this name.]

Hittite ḫaššuš ‘king’

[See which suggests that Proto-Indo-European *h1 may sometimes be reflected as ḫ in Hittite.]

Proto-Germanic *ansuz > Old English ōs (as in Oscar, Oswald, Osbert, Osmond) & Old Norse áss (pl æsir)

[The Aesir in Norse mythology are the gods of the Norse peoples, whereas the Vanir may either represent the primordial gods of Nature or the gods of the folk inhabiting Scandinavia before the arrival of the Proto-Germanic peoples – a dichotomy resembling the Asura/Deva and Ahura/Daeva dichotomies among the Indo-Iranians.]

Celtic Esus < Proto-Celtic *Essus < *Ensus

[The similarity of Celtic Esus to Latin Iēsūs < Greek Iēsous < Hebrew Yēšûa is most unfortunate. All efforts to connect the Celtic god Esus with the mythical Christian godman Jesus merely on the basis of the similarity of their names (which have entirely different etymological origins) are simply outrageous.]

Latin erus ‘master’ < Proto-Italic *ezus < *esus < *ensus

[Although declined as a second-declension noun, this word may originally have been a u-stem – Proto-Indo-European & Proto-Italic o-stem endings becoming -us and -um in Latin, thus causing confusion between second declensions and fourth declensions (cf. Latin domus which has both second-declension and fourth-declension forms).]

It appears that there are no reflexes of PIE *h1ensus / *h1onsus or *h1onsuros in Baltic and Slavic.

A Cladogram of Simiinae

Below is a cladogram of the Primate subfamily which is currently called Homininae but which I prefer to call Simiinae. See my previous post relating to that:

The cladogram attempts to show the evolutionary relationships between gorillas (genus Gorilla), chimpanzees and bonobos (genus Pan), and human beings (genus Homo). It also suggests approximate times for the evolutionary divergences.

(Right click and choose “Open image in new tab” to see full size image)