Were the ancient Bretons Atlanteans?

by R. Cedric Leonard

"Everything you know about British and Irish ancestry is wrong. Our ancestors were Basques, not Celts. The Celts were not wiped out by the Anglo-Saxons, in fact neither had much impact on the genetic stock of these islands." (Oppenheimer, 2007)

A startling statement made by Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer, professor of genetics at Oxford University, blowing the lid off of major historical and linguistic myths concerning the origins of the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles. In the process Prof. Oppenheimer also opened another "can of worms"—blunders committed by professional historians, linguists, and archeologists concerning the seat of the Keltic people, an error still being perpetuated to this very day.

Sculpture of The Lady of Elche

Ancient Sculpture from Iberia known as The Lady of Elche (A.K.A. Lady of Elx). Popular legend has it that the sculpture was found on 4 August 1897, by a young worker, Manuel Campello Esclapez. This version of the story differs from the official report by Pere Ibarra (the local keeper of the records) which states that it was Antonio Maciá who found this now famous pièce d'art. The initial discovery of The Lady of Elche provoked a popular interest in pre-Roman Iberian culture. It now resides at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain. Locals call her "An Atlantean priestess from Spain".

The following is taken from an article by Prof. Oppenheimer written for Prospect Magazine (2006). In it the author points out how modern archeologists, linguistists and historians have for decades worked on a false premise, introduced by a single error made by the ancient historian Herodotus.


Prof. Oppenheimer has some important things to say in regard to the origin of the Bretons, i.e., how the British derive from a "former ice-age refuge in the Basque country". Interested individuals are urged to read his entire presentation in Prospect Magazine. We will take up the "can of worms" mentioned in a moment.

"The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language." (Oppenheimer, 2006)

For decades it was believed that the Kelts were the earliest inhabitants of the British Isles; but that was before archeologists made the now famous discoveries at Swanscombe Halt (Howells, 1959) and the later Cro-Magnon finds known as Azilian. Archeologist Frank Hibben writes;

"In the Mesolithic period the British Isles received three streams of migration. . . In the north, the Maglemoseans . . . From the east the Tardenoisians . . . In the southeast, the Azilians also crossed to British shores from southern France. The Azilian apparently scattered from southwestern England to Scotland." (Hibben, 1958)

This is in agreement with recent genetic findings suggesting that the people now inhabiting the British Isles (including Irish, Welsh, Scots, Basques and Bretons) are a remnant of groups of people who "left Spain between 18,000 and 12,000 years ago and spent 6,000 years isolated from Europe before returning, bringing the Megalithic culture to coastal Europe." (Recent NOVA interview with Dr. Dennis Stanford and Dr. Bruce Bradley of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History)

According to a BBC News interview (3 April 2001), genetic scientists at University College London reported a genetic connection between the Kelts of the British Isles and the Basques of northern Spain. The study, conducted by Prof. David Goldstein and James Wilson (along with colleagues at Oxford University and the University of California), established that Welsh and Irishmen are "genetic blood-brothers" of the Basques of southwestern Europe. Since that time genetic studies are demonstrating a genetic link going back "tens of thousands of years" between Kelts and Basques.

"The findings provide the first direct evidence of a close relationship between the people known as Celts and the Basques. The gene patterns of three races passed down through the male line are all strikingly similar, researchers concluded. Basques can trace their roots back to the Stone Age and are one of Europe's most distinct people, fiercely proud of their ancestry and traditions." (NOVA interview)

Other genetic studies show that the Kelts, Basques, and Berbers are all related. But since Atlantis is not a part of the modern anthropological thought-process, they are alleged to have "left Spain" (or some say "left France") for the British Isles, where they became isolated from Europe with the rising of the sea levels at the end of the Ice Age. (This line of thinking falsely assumes that Ice Age man also possessed no nautical technology or expertise 15,000 years ago.)


So now, what about the "can of worms" opened up by Prof. Oppenheimer's discovery that the Keltoi of classical writers did not originate in central Europe at all, but were situated in the regions of Gaul and Iberia (France, Spain and Portugal). For generations historians, linguists and ethnologists have written, talked and taught about the brachycephalic, stocky-built "Celts" stomping around central Europe.

It seems Prof. Oppenheimer has uncovered a gross ethnographical blunder being perpetuated by scholors for centuries, due to a particular error made by the ancient historian Herodotus. This error led our modern scholars into assuming a central European origin for the so-called "Celts"; and until lately nobody (historian, linguist, ethnologist, archeologist nor anthropologist) has had the foresight to question it. That is, until Oppenheimer, who was led to the discovery by genetics. He writes:

"There is absolutely no evidence, linguistic, archaeological or genetic, that identifies the Hallstatt or La Tène regions or cultures as Celtic homelands. The notion derives from a mistake made by the historian Herodotus 2,500 years ago when, in a passing remark about the 'Keltoi,' he placed them at the source of the Danube, which he thought was near the Pyrenees. Everything else about his description located the Keltoi in the region of Iberia." (Oppenheimer, 2006)

Not only did 19th century scholars blunder by not taking the whole of Herodotus' statement into consideration, they fed the fiasco by ignoring all other ancient writers, such as Livy, Plutarch, Strabo, Polybius, Pausanius, Aristotle, Avienus and Pliny, all of whom consistantly placed the Kelts in the westernmost portion of Europe alongside the Basques, Aquitanians, Iberians and Lusitanians.

I'm not singing the praises of Dr. Oppenheimer because he agrees with me (I didn't even know about this); rather, it is because after checking out his assertions his conclusions turn out to be undeniably and absolutely correct. It takes courage to stand up in the face of established authority, and he is to be admired for his boldness as well as his expertise. So where did the Kelts really dwell?


After reading what Oppenheimer had to say about this alleged error, I decided to research Herodotus, as well as other ancient writers, and here's what I found. In Herodotus' second book (Euterpe), he began his discussion of the Keltoi by mentioning the Danube river, which he correctly described as running "through the middle of Europe"; but he misidentified the location of its source. He thought it began near "the city of Pyrene" in "the country of the Keltoi," which is far to the west in Basque country.

His reference to the "city of Pyrene" illustrates his confusion. The Pyrenees Mountains divide Spain and France—so Herodotus was totally mistaken about the source of the Danube River. But then continuing, he correctly described the Kelts as dwelling west of Gibraltar, placing them alongside the Cynesians (Kynesioi). Here is his description (omitting his error regarding the source of the Danube):

"The Keltoi dwell beyond the pillars of Hercules, being neighbors of the Kynesioi, who are the westernmost of all nations inhabiting Europe." (Herodotus, History, Bk II, 33)

Avienus, even though writing at a much later time, is still considered reliable as a source for the period with which we are dealing. He names two Keltic tribes, the Cempsi and the Sefes, who lived in the area of the Iberian Peninsula next to the Atlantic Ocean. His own words describe them as being located:

    Where the sidereal light fades (in the west),
    Standing proud at the far end of Europe
    Facing the salty waters of the Ocean.
    (Avienus, Ora Maritima, 195-204).

Also Ephorus, an even more ancient but highly respected geographer, divided the known world into four parts, assigning the western portion to the Kelts. (Strabo, Bk. i.) Virtually all the classical writers, Livy, Pliny, Plutarch, Polybius, Pausanius, Diodorus, Aristotle and Strabo, place the Kelts in southwestern Europe.

Strabo habitually uses the term "Keltica" or "Land of the Kelts" for Gaul, which corresponds generally to modern France. For some reason he excludes Iberia (Spain-Portugal) from Keltica, noting, "The Pyrenees chain . . . divides Keltica from Iberia"; even criticizing his predecessor Ephorus for "extending the size of Keltica too far, including within it what we now designate as 'Iberia' as far as Gades [Cadiz]." (Geography, Bk. i, iii, 1, 3 and Bk. iv, 4, 6.)

Yet Strabo, in his description of the western portions of the Iberian peninsula, mentions the Kelts and Lusitanians of northern Iberia as living side by side:

"Both rivers flow from the eastern regions; but the Tagus, which is a much longer stream than the other, flows straight westwards to its mouth, whereas the Anas (Guadiana) turns south, and marks off the boundary of the inter-fluvial region, which is inhabited for the most part by Celtic peoples, and by certain of the Lusitanians who were transplanted thither by the Romans from the other side of the Tagus." (Geography, Bk. iii, 1, 6)

Of course we know the Lusitanian people lived in the far northwest corner of the Iberian peninsula, just north of modern Portugal. So we see that modern historians, linguists and ethnologists have been wrong in locating the ancient Kelts in the area of the Danube River in central Europe. And other evidence does seem to favor Oppenheimer's postulate: that the Basques of Iberia and Gaul may be the primary ancestors of the British people. (Oppenheimer, 2006)


In his book, The Origins of the British (2007), he: (1) traces the Ice Age Bretons back into Basque country; (2) establishes the true location of the Kelts; and (3) demonstrates that the Keltic, and all subsequent "invasions," were minor events as far as the overall genetic makeup of the present-day British people.

A picture eventually emerges whereby the later dark-ages invasions of England and northeastern Britain are more like minority elite additions than overpowering replacements, somewhat akin to the earlier and larger Mesolithic intrusions from the same places. These were more cultural than genetic in nature, leaving the genetic makeup of the pioneer Bretons (Basques) basically intact. (Oppenheimer, 2007)

And while the professor seems to make little attempt to exploit an obvious connection between the Basques and Kelts—other than their living close to one another—several recent genetic studies show them to be linked rather strongly. The Cro-Magnons settled the British Isles toward the end of the Ice Age, but they were eventually joined by physically and genetically similar Kelts from the same general area of western Europe, which is significant. In conclusion, Oppenheimer observes:

"So, based on the overall genetic perspective of the British, it seems that Celts, Belgians, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings and Normans were all immigrant minorities compared with the Basque pioneers, who first ventured into the empty, chilly lands so recently vacated by the great ice sheets." (Oppenheimer, 2006)

On other pages of this web site we have strongly asserted, with valid anthropological and linguistic support, that the Berbers, Iberians, Basques, Mauritanians, Lusitanians, Aquitanians were all Ice Age refugees from Atlantis—and there seems to be very strong evidence that the Bretani also originated in Atlantis. Thus the possibility remains that during Ice Age times they all hit the European and African shores directly from Atlantis, and didn't need a land bridge between Europe and the British Isles to get there. On this last point Oppenheimer and myself most likely differ.


Hibben, Frank, "Prehistoric Man in Europe," University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1958.
Howells, William, "Mankind in the Making," Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, 1959.
Oppenheimer, Stephen, "Myths of British ancestory," Prospect Magazine (Special Report), No. 127, October 2006.
Oppenheimer, Stephen, "Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story," Constable & Robinson, London, 2007.

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Latest update: 10 Apr 2010.
by R. Cedric Leonard.