A Circle of Stones

According to AP, by way of Yahoo, Professor Judith S. Young, Department of Astronomy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has built a sun circle, a celestial computer along the lines of Stonehenge, or Avebury. I’ve taken pains to point out elsewhere that Stonehenge, like Avebury, or the passage tomb at Brugh Na Boine (that’s Newgrange, Ireland to you), wasn’t built by the Celts (its earliest stage predates their arrival in Britain by over a thousand years) but Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments are too deeply entrenched with things druidic and Celtic in the popular imagination to ever be disassociated.

Stonehenge looms large in our imaginations—even though Averbury—the largest such circle in Europe, is physically much larger, and Woodhenge, one of several circles at Stanton Drew, is older. Folklore names Stonehenge the “Giants Dance,” and credits Merlin as the chief architect, but those myths are comparatively recent. The circle has had a surprisingly small role in British myth, given its age and magnitude. The passage tomb at Brugh Na Boine, constructed to mark the solstice, plays a much larger role in Irish myth, and is featured in several of the tales that preface the Táin.

Galations: The Biblical Celts

Yes, that’s right, Galatia in Turkey. Those people in Paul’s New Testament Epistle to the Galations were Celts, from Gaul. These Continental Celts eventually arrived in Macedonia in 279 B.E., where they gathered under a tribal leader named Brennus. They intended to raid the rich temple of Delphi. Like their insular brethren, these Gauls were independent of thought, and the host split into two groups, one, under Brennus, marching south on Delphi: the other group, under Leonorius and Luterius, turned eastward and pillaged Thrace. They were joined by the small remnants of the army of Brennus, who was repulsed by the Greeks, and killed himself in despair. In 278 B.C.E., 20,000 Gauls, under Leonorius, Luterius, and fifteen other chieftains, crossed over to Asia Minor, in two divisions. The two groups joined, and hired out as mercenaries to Nicomedes I, King of Bithynia, to defeat his younger brother. Nicomedes rewarded them with land in the heart of Asia Minor, now known as Galatia. You’ll notice their territory includes the section of Turkey formerly known as Phrygia.

The Galations frequently worked as mercenaries in subsequent years, and were hired by Pompey in 64 B.C.E. Rome pretty much absorbed them politically after that; the Galatians’ last king, Amyntas, fought at Actium, 31 B.C.E., on the side of Mark Antony but at the last he supported Augustus. After the death of Amyntas, Augustus proclaimed the land of the exported Gauls the Roman province of Galatia. About 75 years later St. Paul wrote his Epistle the Galatians. If you want the gory details, you can read the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Gordian Project is a series of excavations at Gordian, in the Phyria region of Galatia. Gordian is the city associated with King Midas. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology is one of the participants in thse excavations. Recently, an article in Archaeology magazine suggested that Celtic descendent of the Gaulish settlers, were, in good Celtic traditions, engaging in human sacrifice. I’m not all that persuaded by the article, it’s a little too full of unsupported assertions, but as yet I’ve not seen anything in the academic press.

Celtic Tribal Maps

I’ve noticed several sites with maps of Celtic tribes’ locations, like this one of the Celtic tribes of Britain, or this, tribes of Britain and the Continent, or even the tribes of Wales. There are also some specialized maps, like this one, of the Celtic Tribes and Caesar’s Campaigns in Gaul (58-50 BC) . If you look at the area the Celts covered, from Ireland all the way to Egypt, it’s less surprising that Galatia is Celtic.