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The Celts or Kelts were an ethno-linguistic group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Medieval Europe who spoke Celtic languages and had a similar culture, although the relationship between the ethnic, linguistic and cultural elements remains uncertain and controversial. The earliest archaeological culture that may justifiably be considered as Proto-Celtic is the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture of central Europe from the last quarter of the second millennium BC. Their fully Celtic descendants in central Europe were the people of the Iron Age Hallstatt culture named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria. By the later La Tène period, this Celtic culture had expanded over a wide range of regions, whether by diffusion or migration: to the British Isles, France and The Low Countries, Bohemia, Poland and much of Central Europe, the Iberian Peninsula and northern Italy and following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC as far east as central Anatolia. In recent years, tentative evidence has been adduced for a Celtic language in the Tartessian inscriptions of south Portugal and southwest Spain. Up until then, the earliest direct examples of a Celtic language had been the Lepontic inscriptions, beginning from the 6th century BC. Continental Celtic languages are attested only in inscriptions and place-names. Insular Celtic is attested from about the 4th century in ogham inscriptions, although it is clearly much earlier. Literary tradition begins with Old Irish from about the 8th century. Coherent texts of Early Irish literature, such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge, survive in 12th-century recensions.
The Nuttall Encyclopedia
. The W. of Europe was in prehistoric times subjected to two invasions of Aryan tribes, all of whom are now referred to as Celts. The earlier invaders were Goidels or Gaels; they conquered the Ivernian and Iberian peoples of ancient Gaul, Britain, and Ireland; their successors, the Brythons or Britons pouring from the E., drove them to the westernmost borders of these countries, and there compelled them to make common cause with the surviving Iberians in resistance; in the eastern parts of the conquered territories they formed the bulk of the population, in the W. they were in a dominant minority; study of languages in the British Isles leads to the conclusion that the Irish, Manx, and Scottish Celts belonged chiefly to the earlier immigration, while the Welsh and Cornish represent the latter; the true Celtic type is tall, red or fair, and blue-eyed, while the short, swarthy type, so long considered Celtic, is now held to represent the original Iberian races.
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