Scientists have established the origin of Asterix and Obelix

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The new work challenges traditional ideas about where the Gauls came from.

The Iron Age on the territory of modern France is the subject of many scientific discussions. The fact is that the Gauls, who inhabited these lands at that time, are regularly presented as the direct ancestors of the modern French. Gauls are Celtic tribes who, according to one hypothesis, came to Europe from the Black Sea region. The second hypothesis speaks of their autochthonous origin in the territory between the Rhine and the Danube. However, even within its framework, the ancient ancestors of the Celts still came from the east.

The Celts who inhabited the territory of modern France were called Gauls by the Romans who encountered them in the IV century BC. Then the tribes under the command of the chief Brenna opposed the Roman Republic so successfully that they sacked Rome. And even after its conquest by Caesar, Gaul remained a great problem for the Roman rulers for centuries.

Gthe Allas knew not only how to fight, but also how to make exquisite objects. This is a carnix, an Iron Age wind instrument found in a Gallic sanctuary in France / ©wikipedia

Recently, a significant number of scientific works have appeared in which Iron Age communities are described through material culture and funerary practices – and the authors of these works often say that the tribes of Gauls were strongly disjointed, had different cultures and were not completely related.

French scientists led by Claire-Elise Fischer conducted a genetic analysis of the remains of 49 people dated to the Bronze and Iron Ages. The samples were taken from burials located in various regions of modern France. The results are presented in the paper, published in the journal iScience.

Comparing the genomes of Iron Age and Bronze Age humans is important for the following reasons. The Gauls are traditionally associated with the spread of the Hallstatt culture to the west of Europe, which is traditionally attributed to the Iron Age. But for quite some time now, archaeological findings have changed the perception of Hallstatt, and it became clear that its first two periods (A and B – according to the periodization made by the German archaeologist Reineke at the beginning of the 20th century) belong to the Bronze Age.

Researchers considered three populations as the ancestors of the Gauls: Western European hunter-gatherers of pre-Neolithic times, early Neolithic farmers, and Black Sea steppe people, whose genes were brought to western Europe by representatives of the bell-shaped cup culture.

Scientists did not find significant differences in the last two components between the populations of the Bronze and Iron Ages from the south and the north of modern France. At the same time, they exist at the regional level — but only among Iron Age people.

In other words, the analysis showed the absence of a major genetic gap between the groups of the Bronze and Iron Ages. At the same time, samples belonging to the Iron Age have noticeable regional differences.

Genes characteristic of the population of Britain were found in the genome of people who lived in northern Gaul. And in samples from the south – genes typical for Iberians. It is interesting that archaeological finds confirm such a connection with neighbors. For example, burials in the north are similar to those typical of Britain (so-called round houses).

Despite such regional variations, the researchers came to the conclusion that there was no significant influx of “foreign” genes and the transition from bronze to iron was carried out by the Gallic tribes independently, contrary to earlier hypotheses. They attribute this cultural transition to progressive local economic changes rather than to a mass influx of allochthonous (foreign-born) groups.

Unfortunately, the authors of the work do not comment on the fact that weapons and objects of material culture, typical of Gaul of the early Iron Age, first appear to the east of it, gradually moving from the territory of modern Bohemia to the west.

The work is interesting in that genetic homogeneity among regional groups characterized by different archaeological cultures has been established for the first time. This genomic homogenization is probably related to the mobility of people between regions, as well as to the influx of genes from Britain and Iberia.

Thus, the results generally confirm the origin of the modern French from the Gauls and their ancestors, and up to the Bronze Age.

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