Saturday, 25 February 2017

Global Britain? A brief chronology of an awareness of Britain's existence

The following quick post is really just a bit of fun, designed to look briefly at the potential evidence for a spreading awareness of Britain's existence outside of Northwestern/Atlantic Europe in the period through until the fourteenth century AD (just before the 'Age of Discovery'). The map below plots some of the possible evidence for such an awareness, both in terms of the earliest literary and cartographic references to Britain (in black) and some potential literary and archaeological evidence for the physical presence of people from Britain in those areas (in red).

Map showing some of the earliest literary and cartographic references to Britain (in black) and potential evidence for the physical presence of people from Britain in areas outside of Northwestern/Atlantic Europe (in red). Image: C. R. Green, using a base map from Wikimedia Commons.
600 BCMarseille and the Greeks. The earliest literary evidence for a wider awareness of Britain is usually thought to be an early Greek periplooi of perhaps around 600 BC that described the coast from Massalia—Marseille—to the English Channel. This 'Massaliote Periplus' seems to have mentioned the lands of the Hierni and Albiones (Ireland and Britain) and was preserved, via an intervening lost Hellenistic geographical work, in Avienus' fourth-century AD Ora maritima. How much earlier an awareness of Britain may have existed in the northern Mediterranean is impossible to say, but there are certainly items of Mediterranean origin known from Bronze Age Britain, such as a Sicilian strumento of c. 1200–1100 BC that was found on the sea-floor at Salcombe, Devon, along with other Bronze Age items from a probable twelfth-century BC shipwreck.
500 BCCarthage and the Phoenicians. The earliest textual evidence for a Carthaginian/Phoenician awareness of Britain relates to Himilco's voyage north from the Pillars of Herakles (Straits of Gibraltar) in around 500 BC, which is believed to have led to him visiting both Britain and Ireland. A record of Himilco's voyage is once again preserved in Rufus Festus Avienus' Ora maritima, who ascribes his knowledge of it to ancient Punic sources, and it is also very briefly mentioned in Pliny's Natural History (2.169). A variety of archaeological and place-name evidence is now available to support the idea of a degree of contact between pre-Roman Britain and the Carthaginians, as has been discussed in a number of earlier posts. How much earlier than c. 500 BC there was a Carthaginian/Phoenician awareness of Britain is open to question, but it is worth noting that several people buried in the ninth century BC on the Kent coast have oxygen isotope results strongly indicative of an early life spent in North Africa.
430–300 BCGreece and the eastern Mediterranean. Whilst a knowledge of the existence of Britain may well have spread to Greeks in the eastern Mediterranean from an early date, the earliest textual evidence for this comes from the late fifth or fourth centuries BC. The earliest potential reference is found in Herodotus of Halicarnassus' reference to the Kassiterides ('Tin Islands') in the far west of Europe in around 430 BC, assuming that this name does indeed refer to the Scilly Isles/Cornwall, as D. W. Roller has most recently suggested. Alternatively, a knowledge of Pytheas of Massalia (Marseille) and his account of his late fourth-century BC voyage to Britain was probably present in the eastern Mediterranean soon after its completion, as it is mentioned by Timaeus (b. c. 350 BC), who wrote his Histories in Athens, and Dicaearchus of Messana (d. c. 285 BC), who similarly lived and wrote in Greece.
A British enamelled terret ring from a horse harness, found at Fayum—ancient Crocodilopolis/Arsinoë—in Egypt (image: British Museum).
245 BCAlexandria, Egypt. The late fourth-century BC voyage of Pytheas of Massalia to Britain and beyond was apparently mentioned by Eratosthenes of Cyrene, a librarian at the Library of Alexandria, in his Geographika, published in c. 245 BC or after. As to whether there was any independent or earlier knowledge of Britain in Egypt, this is open to debate, but it is worth noting that one of the people buried on the coast of Kent in the ninth century BC and another buried there in the fourth century BC had oxygen isotope results that strongly suggest a childhood spent in the Nile Valley. Later evidence for a continuing awareness of Britain and/or presence of people from Britain in Egypt include a find of a British enamelled terret ring from a horse harness at Fayum, Egypt, thought likely to have been carried to Egypt by someone who served in a military unit in Britain during the second century AD; a Byzantine record of a seventh-century maritime journey from Alexandria to Britain and back (see below under 550 AD); and Benjamin de Tudela's medieval notice of the existence of a funduq or commercial inn for English merchants at Alexandria in the mid-twelfth century.
134 ADSyria. Titus Quintius Petrullus, a centurion from Britain, was buried at Bosra, southern Syria, sometime in the second century AD; he was probably posted here during the reign of Hadrian as a result of the Jewish War of 134 AD. It is likely that there was an awareness of Britain in the region of Syria well before this, given its pre-Roman Phoenician and Greek connections; certainly, Malcolm Todd has followed Milne and Goodchild in believing that Syrian/eastern Mediterranean merchants could well have occasionally visited and directly traded with pre-Roman Britain on the basis of a significant number of Seleucid and other eastern Mediterranean Greek autonomous coins found along the south coast of Britain.
175 ADMorocco. A centurion named Aurelius Nectoreca was based in Morocco in reign of Commodus (161-92 AD) and dedicated two altars there; he was a centurion in the vexillatio Brittonum stationed in Volubilis in Mauretania Tingitana, and both this posting and his name suggest that he was, in fact, a Briton. It is also worth noting that two very worn Flavian-era Romano-British brooches have been found at or close to the Roman cities of Volubilis and Thamusida in Morocco, as discussed in a previous post. Likewise of potential interest is the memorial set up to Titus Flavius Virilis by his wife Lollia Bodicca at Lambaesis, Algeria, in c. 200 AD, given that one or both of them are likely to have been British in origin. With regard to the possibility of earlier contacts between this area and Britain, we should note both the potential Punic links discussed above—under c. 500 BC—and the finds of second-century BC coins of the great Numidian kings Masinissa (202–148 BC) and Micipsa (148–118 BC) that have been found along the southern and western coasts of Britain, these being usually considered genuine pre-Roman losses in Britain.
Map of the Roman-era Periplus of the Erythraean Sea showing trade-routes down the African coast and across the Indian Ocean; the locations producing Anglo-Saxon-style beads are marked with stars and the location of the Tanzanian port of Rhapta has been updated from the original map as per Chami, 1994 and recent discoveries off the Tanzanian coast; for a larger version of this map, click here (image: C. R. Green, modified from a map on Wikimedia Commons by George Tsiagalakis, CC-BY-SA-4).
550 AD?Tanzania? A small number of beads have been found on the East African coast at Dar es Salaam and Kisiju, Tanzania, which have been considered to be early Anglo-Saxon in origin by a number of researchers, including Richard Hodges and Barbara Green, as was discussed in a previous post. Given their likely origin, their rarity within their local context, and their findspots on the coast in an area that had known trading links to the Mediterranean, it has been suggested by Joan Harding that that these beads could have been personal possessions carried by a small number of individuals from Europe, perhaps travelling back along the trade routes that brought elephant ivory, cowrie shells, garnets and other goods from the Red Sea and beyond to fifth- to seventh-century England, although this suggestion does need to be treated with a sensible degree of caution. In this context, it is perhaps worth noting that there is certainly evidence for the presence of people from the England in the Mediterranean region, at least, during the sixth century AD and shortly after, which may be relevant, including as part of a Frankish delegation to Constantinople in the mid-sixth century and as slaves at Rome and Marseilles in the later sixth century, whilst an Anglo-Saxon merchant named Botto was definitely based at Marseille during the eighth century AD (Annales Petaviani, s.a. 790). Likewise of potential interest is an increasing body of textual, archaeological and isotope evidence for the presence of people from North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean in fifth- to seventh-century Britain, including a reference in the seventh-century Life of St John the Almsgiver to a ship from Alexandria, Egypt, visiting Britain in around 610–20 AD and exchanging a cargo of corn for one of tin.
817 ADBaghdad, Iraq. Britain and Ireland are mentioned by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a Persian scholar working in Baghdad, in his Kitāb Ṣūrat al-Arḍ or Geography (a reworking and updating of Ptolemy's second-century Geography). According to D. M. Dunlop, this work was completed in around 817 AD and represents the earliest Arabic reference to Britain, with places mentioned including the island itself, London and York.
883 AD?India? According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 883 AD, King Alfred sent Sigehelm and Æthelstan with alms to the shrines of 'St Thomas in Indea [India] and to St Bartholomew', fulfilling a promise made 'when they besieged the raiding-army at London' (MSS D, E & F; also mentioned by William of Malmesbury and other later authors). This passage has, needless to say, been the subject of considerable interest. Some, following MSS B & C, have suggested that we might see the dominant form of India as a mistranscription of Judea. However, whilst possible, this is by no means certain nor is it the most common interpretation, and St Thomas and St Bartholomew were indeed commonly believed to have been martyred in India in tales that were current in Anglo-Saxon England, as the ninth-century Old English Martyrology attests. As such, the claimed visit to India by Alfred's men is cautiously included here.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 883 AD in MS F, Cotton MS Domitian A VIII, f. 55v, which refers to Alfred sending alms to the St Thomas and St Bartholomew in India (image: British Library).
913 ADPersia. Ibn Rustah, a Persian scholar and geographer from Isfahan, Iran, includes a detailed passage on Britain in his early tenth-century Arabic Book of Precious Records. This passage was discussed at length in a previous post and arguably demonstrates a knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon 'heptarchy', early Byzantine contacts with Britain, and the Anglo-Saxon trading city of Lundenwic (London). Ibn Rustah's information on these matters derived ultimately from Harun ibn Yahya, a Syrian who was probably captured at Ascalon (Ashkelon, Israel) sometime around AD 886 by Byzantine pirates and was then kept prisoner at Constantinople for a period, before being released and subsequently travelling to Rome.
925 ADNovgorod, Russia. A Late Saxon strap-end has been excavated from an early to mid-tenth-century level at Riurikovo Gorodishche, near Novgorod, Russia which is virtually identical to examples from Whitby Abbey and is considered by Jonathan Shepard to be indicative of the presence of an Anglo-Saxon individual travelling along 'the Way from the Varangians to the Greeks' either to or from Constantinople. Certainly, there is textual evidence for the presence of people from the Byzantine Empire in tenth- and eleventh-century England, backed up by finds of coins and seals, and some of these may well have travelled by this route, whilst in the eleventh century several English royal exiles are known to have found their way to the royal court of the Rus', including the sons of King Edmund Ironside (d. 1016) and Harold Godwinson's daughter Gytha of Wessex. Other early evidence for the probable presence of people from Britain in what is now Russia includes the textual and place-name evidence for Anglo-Saxon exiles from Norman England having founded a 'New England' on the north-eastern Black Sea coast and Crimean peninsula at the end of the eleventh century; as was discussed in a previous post, this Nova Anglia potentially survived as late as the thirteenth or fourteenth century and the associated names continued to appear on maps of the region well into the eighteenth century
982 ADAfghanistan. The late tenth-century Persian Hudud al-'Alam, 'The Regions of the World', was written in 982 AD for a prince in north-western Afghanistan. In addition to a general statement that 'there are twelve islands called Briṭāniya, of which some are cultivated and some desolate. On them are found numerous mountains, rivers, villages, and different mines', the author of the Hudud al-'Alam also notes that Britannia (Bariṭīniya) is 'the last land (shahr) of Rūm on the coast of the Ocean. It is an emporium (bārgāh) of Rūm and Spain.' This text was discussed in a previous post and is mainly derivative of earlier Arabic works; however, the statement that Britain is an emporium of the Byzantine Empire (Rūm) and Spain is found nowhere else, suggesting that the author possessed additional sources of information now lost to us.
A mid-fourteenth-century depiction of the Battle of Legnica, 1241, fought between the Mongols and European knights in Poland (image: Wikimedia Commons).
1254 ADKarakorum, Mongolia. The Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer William of Rubruck (d. c. 1293) encountered a man of English origin whilst visiting Mongolia in 1254 AD. The man in question, named Basil, was living at Karakorum (near Kharkhorin, Mongolia), the capital of the Mongol Empire between 1235 and 1260, and is described as 'the son of an Englishman', although he himself was apparently born in Hungary; he is also probably the 'nephew of a bishop' that William later mentions that he met at Karakorum and who he states was captured by the Mongols at Belgrade. With regard to this, it is worth noting that Basil is not the only Englishman known to have been living among the Mongols during the mid-thirteenth century. Ivo of Narbonne, for example, reported in a letter copied by Matthew Paris in his Chronica maiora that the 'prince of Dalmatia' captured eight fugitives in 1242 during the surprise withdrawal of the Mongols from Central Europe, just as they were at the gates of Vienna, and that these captives included 'an Englishman' who
had twice come as an envoy and interpreter from the king of Tattars to the king of Hungary, and plainly threatened and warned them of the evils which afterwards happened, unless he should give up himself and his kingdom to be subject to the Tattars. 
This English envoy of the Mongols (Tatars/'Tartars') was apparently an exile from England who had lost all he owned to gambling at Acre, Israel, and then wandered 'in a shameful state of want' further east into modern Iraq and beyond before the Mongols persuaded him to join them due to his apparent skill with languages, at which point he then travelled with them until he was finally captured in Austria. Given his role as envoy and interpreter for the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, it seems likely that he was an earlier English visitor to the Mongol capital of Karakorum, Mongolia, than Basil, although no positive proof of this is currently available.
        In addition to individual English people who were living amongst the Mongols on their own account or as slaves, there were also direct diplomatic contacts between the Mongol rulers and the English during the thirteenth century which are of note in terms of demonstrating a Mongol awareness of England, although much of this evidence admittedly relates to the Mongol Ilkhanate that stretched from Iraq to northern Afghanistan. Of especial note here, perhaps, is the potential evidence for unidentified Mongol envoys ('Tartars') actually crossing the Channel to visit England in 1264, much to the apparent disgruntlement of the papal legate Guy Foulques—the future Pope Clement IV—who was left waiting in Boulogne for his own authorisation to cross! Likewise, in 1287–8 the Turkic/Chinese Christian monk and diplomat Rabban Sauma, originally from Beijing, China, visited Europe as an emissary of the Mongol Ilkhanate and met with King Edward I of England in Gascony, and yet another Mongol Ilkhanate envoy—a Genoese adventurer named Buscarello de Ghizolfi who had settled in Persia—visited London in January 1290, accompanied by three squires who were probably Mongols. Another envoy, sent in the opposite direction by the regime at Acre in 1260, was the English Dominican friar David of Ashby, who only returned from the Mongols in 1274, when he accompanied the Mongol embassy that attended the Second Council of Lyon in that year, and in 1291 Geoffrey of Langley was sent by Edward I with Buscarello de Ghizolfi to the Mongol Ilkhanate capital of Tabriz, Iran.
1313 ADBeijing, China. The date given here is that of a spring visit to England by an ambassador of 'the emperor of the Tartars', as described in the royal household records for Edward II. Jacques Paviot suggests that this Mongol envoy may have actually been representing the Great Khan in China, rather than the Middle Eastern Mongol il-khan, something supported by the fact that he was one William of Villeneuve (note, the Mongol Empire had included parts of northern China since the first half of the thirteenth century and had subsequently given rise to the Yuan Dynasty of China, 1271–1368, founded by the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan). This Franciscan missionary was one of seven suffragan bishops consecrated by Pope Clement V in 1307 to serve in the newly created archdiocese of Beijing, China (Khanbaliq), at the request of John of Montecorvino, the founder of the Chinese mission in the late thirteenth century. William is usually assumed to have made it to India but not to have carried on to China with the others, as he is said to be next recorded at Avignon, France, in 1318, but this seems not to take account of the English record of his activities, which indicate that he returned to Europe as a Mongol envoy in 1313, hence Jacques Paviot's suggestion. In this light, it is worth noting that Edward II sent letters to several eastern rulers in May 1313, including to the emperor of Cathay (China), in which he mentions and commends William of Villeneuve, something that would, of course, be of significant interest in the present context even if Paviot's suggestion regarding who William represented were to be rejected.
        As to whether there was any earlier awareness of England/Britain or of individuals from the British Isles in China, this is by no means impossible. Not only had the Mongol Empire—which clearly had at least some direct contact with individual English people alongside direct diplomatic relations with England, as noted above—controlled parts of China from the earlier thirteenth century onwards, but the establishment of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China also seems to have led to Islamic geographical knowledge becoming available in China (as witnessed by the lost early fourteenth-century Chinese map of Li Zemin and the derivative but surviving fifteenth-century Korean Kangnido map, which includes fairly detailed representations of Europe, Africa and the Middle East along with Chinese transcriptions of Persianized Arabic place-names marked in those regions). Needless to say, Britain was certainly known to Islamic geographers from the ninth-century AD onwards, as was noted above, just as it was too to the Christian missionaries who were present in China from 1294 until 1368, another potential conduit for an earlier awareness of Britain's existence. Whether there was any knowledge of the British Isles and/or individuals from them much earlier than this—in, say, the Roman and early Byzantine eras when there was a notable degree of contact between the Roman and Chinese empires—is impossible to say. However, there are certainly some possible burials of East Asian individuals known from Roman London which are potentially intriguing in this light.
Europe, North Africa (with a large central lake/sea) and the Middle East on the Honkōji copy of the Korean Kangnido map of 1402; 100 Chinese transcriptions of Persianized Arabic place-names are shown in Europe; note, the Mediterranean is not shaded on this map due to an error by a copyist at some point (image: Wikimedia Commons).

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2017, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Some possible Phoenician/Punic names in Britain and Ireland

The current post follows on from a previous discussion of the potential Phoenician/Punic roots of the island-name Thanet and the linguistic, historical and archaeological context and support for such a suggestion. Needless to say, the aim of what follows is not to revisit in detail the arguments made in that post, nor the additional archaeological, isotopic and numismatic evidence for contact between North Africa/the Mediterranean and pre-Roman Britain discussed in three subsequent posts. Instead, the aim here is simply to offer, for the sake of interest, a map and list of all the British and Irish place-names that are currently thought by a number of linguists to be of potentially Phoenician/Punic origin, along with a few brief observations on these and their distribution.

British and Irish place-names considered to be of potentially Phoenician/Punic origin (image: C. R. Green).

The names listed below include some of the most obscure and difficult toponyms surviving from Britain, many of which have no satisfactory explanation aside from a potential Phoenician/Punic origin, as both Richard Coates and George Broderick have recently emphasised in their important discussions of this evidence.(1) The Phoenician language and its later, divergent form Punic are extinct Semitic languages that originated in the Near East and were spoken in antiquity across into North Africa and southern Iberia by Phoenician and Carthaginian traders and colonists. Needless to say, an origin for a number of British and Irish names in these languages is an intriguing possibility, and such a linguistic hypothesis does, in fact, have a potential historical context too. A degree of direct contact between the ancient Punic world and pre-Roman Britain has, after all, often been argued for since the sixteenth century on the basis of a small number of Classical sources that seem to point in this direction, and in recent years this notion has gained a degree of additional support from a variety of numismatic, isotopic, and archaeological evidence, as has been discussed in previous posts.(2)

With regard to the names themselves, several points can be made by way of a brief introduction. First and foremost, it is worth observing that they are all either coastal or island names, something that obviously accords well with the idea of them having Phoenician/Punic origins, given that any contacts between pre-Roman Britain and the Punic world of southern Iberia and North Africa are likely to have been primarily maritime in nature. Likewise, the suggested Proto-Semitic/Punic roots identified by Coates and others as potentially underlying these British and Irish coastal/island names are—importantly—plausible in terms of their lexical content too, referring to islands, the coast, cliffs/rocks, plants and animals, relative positions and/or compass points, culturally significant metals, and divine words or names.(3) In other words, the basic characteristics of the group as a whole, in terms of not only their general difficulty within the overall corpus of British names, but also their shared geographic characteristics and the range of meanings that they would possess, is credible and might inspire a degree of confidence.

Second, looking more closely at their geographic distribution, the names seem to fall naturally into two major groups. The first group is located in southern Britain from the Scilly Isles/Cornwall in the west across to the Isle of Thanet, Kent, in the east. Needless to say, such a southern group of Phoenician/Punic names in Britain would obviously accord well with the often-noted textual hints of Punic traders visiting pre-Roman southern Britain, primarily to obtain tin, a rare metal that was certainly exported to the Continent and Mediterranean from the Bronze Age onwards.(4) Indeed, in this context it is interesting to observe that several of these potential Punic names are, in fact, located at or close-by sites with links to the ancient tin trade and/or with evidence for significant pre-Roman Mediterranean contacts, as is discussed in more detail in the list below. The second group is located in the west, from Ram Head in Ireland up to the Outer Hebrides in the far north-west. The significance of this concentration of potential Punic island and coastal names is open to debate, although the well-known archaeological evidence for copper mining in Bronze Age Ireland is certainly worth noting with regard to the Irish names (see further below), as is the find of a North African Barbary ape skull from a probable third- to second-century BC context at Navan Fort, Northern Ireland. The fragmentary surviving records of the later fourth-century BC voyage of Pytheas of Massalia may also be relevant here too, given that they indicate the presence of at least some Continental traders along the west coast of Britain up to the area of the Hebrides and beyond by the fourth century BC.(5)

A trapezoidal lead core from a Mediterranean Type IIa wooden anchor of the fifth to second century BC that was found in Plymouth Sound, close to Rane Head, one of the potentially Punic names listed below; note, other finds of such early anchor stocks in Atlantic waters are usually thought to be of Phoenician or Punico-Mauretanian origin, see fn. 12 (image: ProMare, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Third and finally, it is interesting to note that a Punic origin has also been tentatively suggested for three major island names in the region as well as a number of more minor island and coastal names, the names in question being Britain, Ireland and Thule. Needless to say, these suggestions are perhaps the most contentious of all those outlined below, not least because Britain and Ireland already have frequently cited Celtic etymologies, in a notable contrast to the more local or regional names covered here, with Britain usually believed to derive from a word meaning 'the people of the forms' or 'the tattooed people', whilst Ireland (Éire) is often considered to mean 'the fat, or fertile, country'. However, as Broderick in particular has pointed out, these etymologies are not, in fact, wholly certain nor universally agreed upon, and neither are they totally without linguistic issues; moreover, it might be wondered how plausible some of the proposed meanings are as specific people-/country-names too (the use of tattooing and body art was not, for example, confined or specific to the Britons, but seems rather to have been fairly widespread in Iron Age Europe). In this light, it is intriguing to observe that Phoenician/Punic etymologies are also available for both of these major island-names, giving the ‘tin land’ (pretan, ‘tin’) for Britain (*Pritan-) and the ‘copper island’ (*’i: weriju:, ‘island of copper’) for Éire/Ireland (*Īweryon). As Richard Coates notes, these suggestions cannot be casually dismissed, especially in light of the likely presence of other Proto-Semitic/Punic island- and coastal-names in the British Isles. Indeed, the fact that the suggested Phoenician/Punic roots of these two names would actually complement each other remarkably well and are, moreover, semantically credible—making reference to key material resources that were certainly available and exported from these islands in the pre-Roman period—is notable.(6) In this context, it is worth observing that it has been recently independently argued from the available archaeological evidence that there existed a 'maritime' Atlantic network carrying metalwork and metal north from the Mediterranean/Iberia to Sweden via Britain in the Bronze Age and that, as part of this, 'ports in the British Isles acted as transit centres for copper from other parts of Europe as well as providing local tin ore', something that obviously offers a potentially significant degree of support to the above idea of Britain being originally known as the 'tin land'.(7)

In sum, the evidence relating to these names is undoubtedly intriguing and the case for at least a proportion of these names being genuinely Proto-Semitic/Phoenician/Punic in origin would appear to be worthy of some serious consideration. Obviously the suggested Punic etymologies for these island and coastal names are open to debate and potential alternative explanations might be advanced for them, with a greater or lesser degree of plausibility. However, what matters is not any individual name, but rather their collective weight and the fact that a Proto-Semitic/Punic origin both appears to be at least possible and appropriate for a small but significant number of otherwise often very difficult British coastal names.

The list that follows contains all of the British and Irish names included on the map above, these having been identified as possibly or probably of Phoenician/Punic origin by Prof Richard Coates, Prof George Broderick and others.(8)
  1. The Isle of Thanet, Kent — TanatusTanatosTenetTanet, originally probably *Tanitā or similar. A difficult name with no credible etymology in insular languages and often considered inexplicable. However, it is readily explicable as a Phoenician/Punic island-name 'Y TNT, meaning the 'Isle (of) Tanit', the chief goddess of the ancient Phoenician mercantile power of Carthage, a name also seemingly applied to the island on which the Phoenician Atlantic colony of Cádiz was built (said by Pliny, Natural History, IV.36, to have been called by the natives the 'Isle of Juno', i.e. the 'Isle of Tanit', given that the Roman goddess Juno corresponded to the Phoenician Tanit under the interpretatio Romana). It has been argued that name could well have been transferred/applied to a secondary trading colony established in Britain from Cádiz in a similar geographic location to the original and as a result of Phoenician mercantile, colonial activities in the Atlantic, especially in light of the really quite exceptional concentration of Carthaginian coins in eastern Kent. See further the in-depth discussion of this name in a previous post.(9) In terms of the motivation for this name, it is worth emphasising that the Isle of Thanet in Kent has recently been independently identified as a potential key strategic 'Late Bronze Age trading centre' lying at a mid-point on a trade route between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean, acting as a 'transit centre' for metalwork from other parts of Europe as well as 'providing local tin ore' to these traders, a scenario strongly supported by both the presence of multiple people who grew up in North Africa and in Scandinavia within a ninth- to third-century BC cemetery discovered at Cliffs End, Thanet, and the recent isotopic analysis of a pure tin ring-ingot from  c. 950–700 BC found at Vårdinge, Sweden, which revealed that the tin in question did indeed come from Cornwall.(10)
  2. Rame Head, Cornwall — Rame in 1086 and thereafter. No credible etymology in insular languages; 'completely obscure' and 'unexplained'. However, would make good sense as a derivative of the Semitic height-word *rām, compare Ramat Gan, Israel, and Ramallah, Palestine (Proto-Semitic root *rwm), especially as it is the name of a conspicuous conical headland guarding the western entrance to Plymouth Sound.(11) Interestingly, not only is Rame Head located in Cornwall, an ancient tin-producing region, but a major excavated Late Bronze Age and Iron Age trading site, Mount Batten, lies within Plymouth Sound itself, just to the north-east of Rame. Barry Cunliffe has argued that this trading site can be plausibly identified as the pre-Roman British tin-trading centre of Ictis, mentioned in the fourth century BC by Pytheas of Massalia (via Diodoros), and it is especially intriguing in this context  to note that Plymouth Sound itself has actually produced a potentially Punic trapezoidal lead core from a Mediterranean Type IIa wooden anchor of the fifth to mid-second century BC too.(12)
  3. Sark — Sargia, Serc, Serk. No known etymology in insular/European languages. The only credible explanation is an origin in the Proto-Semitic root *śrq, ‘redden; rise (as of the sun); east’, compare Modern Arabic šarq, ‘east’, which would give good sense as Sark is the easternmost and outermost island of the Guernsey group.(13)
  4. Echri (Flat Holm, Severn Estuary) — The Welsh name for this island in the Severn Estuary, Echri, is apparently unexplained via insular languages, but a solution is possible if it is an island-name involving Proto-Semitic *’ħr, ‘behind, back’, meaning the 'rearmost island' or similar, which would be topographically appropriate given that Flat Holm is the last usable island encountered as one journeys up the Severn Estuary from the sea.(14)
  5. Isles of Scilly — Early spellings include SylinancimSully and Sullia. No good etymology in insular languages, with those that have been proposed having significant issues. The island-name could, however, plausibly reflect a Proto-Semitic root *s-l-, meaning 'rock, cliff', as found in Hebrew sela' (note, the -c- in the modern name is a post-medieval innovation). Alternatively, Richard Coates also compares the Punic site Zilis, modern Asilah, Morocco, which has been interpreted as meaning 'fishery'. Interestingly, the Atlantic Kassiterides, or 'Tin Islands', mentioned by Strabo and others have often been credibly identified with either the Isles of Scilly or Cornwall, with Strabo stating that 'in former times it was the Phoenicians alone', from their southern Iberian colony of Gades (Cádiz), 'who carried on this commerce'.(15)
  6. The Solent — Soluente in 737 and 890. Only debatable etymologies in insular languages, although an Indo-European root is possible. However, the Proto-Semitic root *s-l- (cf. Hebrew sela) meaning 'rock, cliff' would also potentially work, as Vennemann and Coates note, giving a topographically not-implausible meaning of ‘place of cliffs’ or, more likely, ‘the prominent cliffs’.(16)
  7. Uist — Scottish Gaelic Uibhist. No etymology in insular languages. The most credible solution, according to Richard Coates, is that it is identical in origin to the Mediterranean name Ibiza (Catalan EivissaEbusos/'Ebousos in Pliny and Diodorus Siculus), a Phoenician island-name possibly meaning 'island of some fragrant plant, e.g. balsam or pine', implying lush vegetation, with a final /t/ gained under influence from Old Norse. The name may have been directly coined as a Phoenican/Punic island-name meaning ‘the ?lush island’ or it may be the result of transference, with the island-name Uist consciously coined after Ibiza; compare the situation suggested for Thanet and the ‘island of Juno/Tanit’ on which the Phoenician colony of Cádiz was originally sited, above. The name is either Phoenician/Punic in origin, as outlined here, or inexplicable.(17
  8. Iona — Ioua, Old Irish Í. No good etymology in insular languages. The easiest and most credible solution is that the name simply represents the Punic/Phoenician for 'island, isolated place', 'y or iw. Both Coates and Broderick suggest that such a simplex name could have carried the sense of Iona as an ‘island of a special sort, a holy place’, something that perhaps underlies the island’s later religious significance. Broderick notes that the island-name Iona is either a Phoenician/Punic name meaning ‘the island (possibly of some special/religious significance)’, or it is impossible to satisfactorily explain. (18
  9. Islay — Gaelic Eilean Ìleach, earlier Ile/Ila/Ilea insula. Coates notes that there are only problematic etymologies for this island-name in insular languages and suggests instead that the most credible solution is to see the name as resulting from the Punic/Phoenician generic for island, 'y, in initial position + a form of root of the divine name seen in Phoenician 'l (cf. Hebrew ’Eloah, Biblical Aramaic ’Ĕlāhā and Arabic Aḷḷāh, < Proto-Semitic *al-’ilāh, 'the god, God'), passed through Gaelic: so 'island of the god' or similar (compare Thanet, above, probably originally 'Y TNT, ‘the island of the goddess Tanit’).(19)
  10. Southern Inner Hebrides (Islay, Colonsay, Jura) — EbudaeEboudai in Pliny and other classical sources. There is no etymology for this name available in insular or Western European languages; however, the name can be potentially explained as a Punic/Phoenician name meaning 'the sheep/lamb islands’. ‘Hebrides’ is either this Phoenician name or is impossible to satisfactorily explain.(20)
  11. Ram Head, Co. Waterford, Ireland — Gaelic Ceann or Carraig an Ráma. Richard Coates suggests that an origin identical to that of Rame Head, Cornwall (above), might offer a solution to this name, especially as it is ‘a seamark of the greatest conspicuousness and importance’ on the south-eastern Irish coast.(21)
  12. Rum — Ruimm in the Annals of Ulster (677). Once again, it is argued that there is no satisfactory explanation for this island-name in an insular languages. As with Rame Head and Ram Head, an origin in a Semitic height-word would give good sense, given its mountainous topography from all approaches and possession of the second highest mountain in the Western Isles; Broderick suggests Semitic *rūm, ‘be high’, would regularly give the name as recorded, with a later shortening of the vowel in the southern Hebrides. Otherwise, the name is inexplicable.(22)
  13. Bute — Botis in the Ravenna Cosmography. The name is root-identical with Proto-Celtic *butā, British *bot-, ‘dwelling’; however, Richard Coates considers the word *butā/*bot- to be, in fact, a direct borrowing from Proto-Semitic *but-, ‘hut’, and therefore suggests that this island-name could well be itself another surviving Proto-Semitic island-name in the Hebrides, meaning ‘dwelling island’ or similar, given the others discussed here.(23)
  14. Seil — Gaelic Saoil, earlier Sóil. Richard Coates compares Arabic sāħil, 'coast' from the Proto-Semitic root *šħl, considering the final form of the island-name to reflect this root under Gaelic influence. It is worth noting that a name derived from a Punic/Phoenician root meaning 'coast island' would be topographically appropriate here, as Seil/Saoil is separated from the mainland by a thin ocean channel spanned by the eighteenth-century Clachan Bridge.(24
  15. Britain & Éire/IrelandBritannia/Prydain/*Pritan- and Ivernia/Hibernia/*Īweryon. Celtic etymologies for both of these major island-names are often cited, although these are not certain (see further above). Broderick, Coates and Vennemann all argue that plausible Proto-Semitic roots for both names are also available, however, and would moreover offer good sense when taken as a pair, with Britain being the ‘tin land’ (pretan, ‘tin’) and Éire/Ireland the ‘copper island’ (*’i: weriju:, ‘island of copper’) on this basis. Needless to say, tin and copper together make bronze, and archaeological, literary and isotopic evidence all combine to suggest that not only was long-distance trading taking place in the Late Bronze Age between Britain, the Mediterranean and Scandinavia, but also that these metals were likely one of the key drivers of this trade.(25)
  16. Thule — An appropriate and credible Proto-Semitic etymology is available for this very difficult and often unexplained name in the root *ṯl, ‘become dark, shaded’, which would obviously work well for an island said to have been located in the far north where the ‘Arctic peculiarity’ of the Midnight Sun took hold, a phenomenon known to Pliny and other ancient authors.(26)
The Bronze Age 'Nebra sky disk' of c. 1600 BC; found near Nebra, Germany, & made using Cornish tin and gold (image: Wikimedia Commons).

Notes

1.     R. Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', in W. Ahrens et al (edd.), Names in Multi-Lingual, Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Contact: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, August 17-22, 2008 (Toronto, 2009), pp. 228–42 at pp. 234–5; R. Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, Nomina 35 (2012), 49‒102; G. Broderick, 'Some island names in the former "Kingdom of the Isles": a reappraisal', Journal of Scottish Name Studies, 7 (2013), 1–28; and G. Broderick, ‘The names of Britain and Ireland revisited’, Beiträge zur Namenforschung, 44 (2009), 151‒7. See further C. R. Green, 'Thanet, Tanit and the Phoenicians: place-names, archaeology and pre-Roman trading settlements in eastern Kent?', 21 April 2015, blog post, online at http://www.caitlingreen.org/2015/04/thanet-tanit-and-the-phoenicians.html; T. Vennemann, 'The name of the Isle of Thanet', in A. J. Johnstone et al (edd.), Language and Text: Current Perspectives on English and Germanic Historical Linguistics and Philology (Heidelberg, 2006), pp. 345–74; and T. Vennemann, ‘Remarks on some British place-names’, in G. F. Carr et al (edd.), Interdigitations: Essays for Irmengard Rauch (New York, 1999), pp. 25‒62.
2.     See Avienus, Ora Maritima, LI.108-119; Strabo, Geography, 3.5.11; and especially D. W. Roller, Through the Pillars of Herakles: Greco-Roman Exploration of the Atlantic (London, 2006), pp. 12–14, 27–9. See also D. W. Roller, 'Himilco the Navigator', in E. K. Akyeampong & H. L. Gates Jnr. (edd.), Dictionary of African Biography, 6 vols. (Oxford, 2012), III.70; T. Vennemann, 'The name of the Isle of Thanet', in A. J. Johnstone et al (edd.), Language and Text: Current Perspectives on English and Germanic Historical Linguistics and Philology (Heidelberg, 2006), p. 356 and fn. 40; G. Broderick, ‘The names of Britain and Ireland revisited’, Beiträge zur Namenforschung, 44 (2009), 151‒7; and C. R. Green, 'Thanet, Tanit and the Phoenicians: place-names, archaeology and pre-Roman trading settlements in eastern Kent?', 21 April 2015, blog post, online at http://www.caitlingreen.org/2015/04/thanet-tanit-and-the-phoenicians.html.
3.     Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, passim.
4.     Strabo, Geography, 3.5.11; D. W. Roller, Through the Pillars of Herakles: Greco-Roman Exploration of the Atlantic (London, 2006), pp. 12–14; T. Vennemann, 'The name of the Isle of Thanet', in A. J. Johnstone et al (edd.), Language and Text: Current Perspectives on English and Germanic Historical Linguistics and Philology (Heidelberg, 2006), p. 356 and fn. 40; G. Broderick, ‘The names of Britain and Ireland revisited’, Beiträge zur Namenforschung, 44 (2009), 151‒7. On the export of British tin to the Continent and Mediterranean from the Bronze Age through to the medieval era, see for example J. Ling et al, 'Moving metals II: provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotope and elemental analyses', Journal of Archaeological Science, 41 (2014), 106–32; M. Hausten et al, 'Tin isotopy – a new method for solving old questions', Archaeometry 52.5 (2010), 816–32; B. Cunliffe, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek: The Man Who Discovered Britain, rev. edn (London, 2002); and B. Cunliffe, Britain Begins (Oxford, 2013), pp. 319–21. The continuance of this trade into the medieval period is confirmed by a number of sources, including (a) the seventh-century Byzantine Life of St John the Almsgiver, which tells of a ship from Alexandria that visited Britain around AD 610–620 and exchanged a cargo of corn for one of tin, and (b) the thirteenth-century Arabic account of Sa'id al-Maghribi, preserved in the early fourteenth-century Geography of Abu'l-Fida, who mentions the export of 'tin and copper... from the island of England and island of Ireland' to Alexandria, Egypt: Leontius, Life of St John the Almsgiver, chapter 10; C. A. Snyder, An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Britons, AD 400–600 (Stroud, 1998), p. 152; C. J. Salter, 'Early tin extraction in the south-west of England: a resource for Mediterranean metalworkers of late antiquity', in M. M. Mango (ed.), Byzantine Trade, 4th–12th Centuries: The Archaeology of Local, Regional and International Exchange (Farnham, 2009), pp. 315–22 at p. 320; and D. N. Dunlop, 'The British Isles according to medieval Arabic authors', Islamic Quarterly, 4 (1957), 11–28 at p. 25. Note, although tin is only found in the south-west of Britain, the spread of names all along the south-coast through to Kent does not conflict with the idea of some connection between them and the tin trade. For example, the Isle of Thanet in Kent has recently been identified as a key strategic 'Late Bronze Age trading centre' lying at a mid-point on a trade route between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean and acting as a 'transit centre' for metalwork from other parts of Europe as well as 'providing local tin ore' to these traders (Ling et al, 'Moving metals II', p. 126. See also J. Ling & C. Uhnér, 'Rock art and metal trade', Adoranten, 21 (2014), 23–43, and T. Earle et al, 'The political economy and metal trade in Bronze Age Europe: understanding regional variability in terms of comparative advantages and articulations', European Journal of Archaeology, 18.4 (2015), 633–57, esp. pp. 642–4).
5.     On the Barbary ape from Navan Fort, Northern Ireland, see, for example, I. Armit, Headhunting and the Body in Iron Age Europe (Cambridge, 2012), pp. 72–3, and K. A. Costa, 'Marketing archaeological heritage sites in Ireland', in Y. M. Rowan and U. Baram (eds.), Marketing Heritage: Archaeology and the Consumption of the Past (Walnut Creek, 2004), pp. 69–92 at p. 73. On Pytheas of Massalia, see especially B. Cunliffe, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek: The Man Who Discovered Britain, rev. edn (London, 2002) and B. Cunliffe, Britain Begins (Oxford, 2013), pp. 319–21.
6.     See especially on the etymology of Britain, Ireland and Thule G. Broderick, ‘The names of Britain and Ireland revisited’, Beiträge zur Namenforschung, 44 (2009), 151‒7 and R. Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, Nomina 35 (2012), 49‒102. For the scientific analysis confirming the presence of Cornish tin on the Continent and in Scandinavia, see M. Hausten et al, 'Tin isotopy – a new method for solving old questions', Archaeometry 52.5 (2010), 816–32, on the Bronze Age Nebra sky disk found near Nebra, Germany, and J. Ling et al, 'Moving metals II: provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotope and elemental analyses', Journal of Archaeological Science, 41 (2014), 106–32, on the pure Cornish tin ring-ingot found at Vårdinge, Sweden, which is dated to c. 950–700 BC. See, for example, Cunliffe, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, on Iron Age references to this trade and Sa'id al-Maghribi's medieval account of its continuance into the thirteenth century, cited in note 4 above.
7.     J. Ling et al, 'Moving metals II: provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotope and elemental analyses', Journal of Archaeological Science, 41 (2014), 106–32; J. Ling & C. Uhnér, 'Rock art and metal trade', Adoranten, 21 (2014), 23–43; T. Earle et al, 'The political economy and metal trade in Bronze Age Europe: understanding regional variability in terms of comparative advantages and articulations', European Journal of Archaeology, 18.4 (2015), 633–57, esp. pp. 642–4.
8.     The following list is based primarily on the four papers by Richard Coates and George Broderick cited in note 1, above, supplemented by a number of important papers by Theo Vennemann, cited in the footnotes to the list; note, Vennemann identifies a significant number of potential Punic names in Britain, but these are only listed below if they are discussed and endorsed by Coates and/or Broderick. All names and vocabulary discussed in the papers by Coates and Broderick are listed here, excluding the Isle of Mull, suggested as possibly Punic by Coates but rejected as probably Celtic by Broderick, 'Some island names', p. 13.
9.     C. R. Green, 'Thanet, Tanit and the Phoenicians: place-names, archaeology and pre-Roman trading settlements in eastern Kent?', 21 April 2015, blog post, online at http://www.caitlingreen.org/2015/04/thanet-tanit-and-the-phoenicians.html; T. Vennemann, 'The name of the Isle of Thanet', in A. J. Johnstone et al (edd.), Language and Text: Current Perspectives on English and Germanic Historical Linguistics and Philology (Heidelberg, 2006), pp. 345–74, especially pp. 345–8, 357–9; R. Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', in W. Ahrens et al (edd.), Names in Multi-Lingual, Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Contact: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, August 17-22, 2008 (Toronto, 2009), pp. 228–42 at pp. 234–5; R. Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, Nomina 35 (2012), 49‒102. Note, the notion that the name Thanet derives from Greek thanatos, 'death', is a learned folk-etymology, see V. Watts, The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (Cambridge, 2004), p. 606; R. Coates in R. Coates et alCeltic Voices, English Places: Studies of the Celtic Impact on Place-Names in England (Stamford, 2000), p. 32; and A. L. F. Rivet & C. Smith, The Place-Names of Roman Britain (Cambridge, 1979), pp. 70, 469.
10.     See the references cited in note 7, above. For a brief discussion of the burial site on the Isle of Thanet, see C. R. Green, 'Some oxygen isotope evidence for long-distance migration to Britain from North Africa & southern Iberia, c.1100 BC–AD 800', 24 October 2015, blog post, online at http://www.caitlingreen.org/2015/10/oxygen-isotope-evidence.html, and 'A Mediterranean anchor stock of the fifth to mid-second century BC found off the coast of Britain', 29 August 2015, blog post, online at http://www.caitlingreen.org/2015/08/a-mediterranean-anchor.html. Full details of the site and the burials are available in J. I. McKinley et al, 'Dead-sea connections: a Bronze Age and Iron Age ritual site on the Isle of Thanet', in J. T. Koch & B. Cunliffe (eds.), Celtic from the West 2. Rethinking the Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe (Oxford, 2013), pp. 157–83, esp. pp. 166–8, and J. I. McKinley et alCliffs End Farm, Isle of Thanet, Kent. A Mortuary and Ritual Site of the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon Period with Evidence for Long-Distance Maritime Mobility (Salisbury, 2014).
11.     O. J. Padel, Dictionary of Cornish Place-Names (Penzance, 1988), p. 147; Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', p. 237; Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, pp. 80‒1.
12.     On the anchor, other finds of such early anchor stocks in Atlantic waters are usually thought to be of Phoenician or Punico-Mauretanian origin: so, a similar Type IIa lead anchor core found at Ras Achakar, Morocco, on the Atlantic side of the Straits of Gibraltar, is thought to have been lost by a Punic ship en route to the important Phoenician settlement of Cádiz, and another Type IIa anchor has been recovered from Cap Spartel, Morocco, that almost certainly dates from the fifth century BC and is similarly though to be from Phoenician/Punico-Mauretanian ship. See further C. R. Green, 'A Mediterranean anchor stock of the fifth to mid-second century BC found off the coast of Britain', 29 August 2015, blog post, online at http://www.caitlingreen.org/2015/08/a-mediterranean-anchor.html. On the Moroccan examples of Type IIa Mediterranean anchors, see A. Trakadas & E. Erbati, 'Lead anchor elements from Tangier, Morocco', Bulletin D'Archeologie Marocaine, 21 (2009), 250–67 at pp. 253–4, 256; A. Trakadas, 'Morocco Maritime Survey: the 2002 season', The INA Quarterly, 30 (2003), 12–21, esp. pp. 18–20 on a radiocarbon-dated Type IIa anchor. See also A. Trakadas & S. Claesson, 'On the shores of the Maghreb-al-Asqa: the 1999 survey of Tangier Bay, Morocco', The INA Quarterly, 28 (2001), 3–15; A. Trakadas, 'Morocco Maritime Survey: 2003 season', The INA Quarterly, 31 (2004), 3–9, especially pp. 8–9; and E. Erbati & A. Trakadas, The Morocco Maritime Survey (Oxford, 2008), for example p. 63. A fifth-century date for the Cap Spartel anchor core is based on a combination of the general chronology of Type IIa anchors, that is fifth to mid-second century BC, and the fact that the core still had some of its original wooden stock attached which has been radiocarbon dated to 785–400 cal BC. On Mount Batten and Plymouth Sound/the Tamar Estuary, see E. Wilkes, Iron Age Maritime Nodes on the English Channel Coast: An Investigation into the Location, Nature and Context of Early Ports and Harbours, 2 vols. (Bournemouth University PhD Thesis, 2004), I.139–42, II.466–7; A. Firth et alTamar Estuaries Historic Environment: A Review of Marine and Coastal Archaeology (Plymouth, 1998); B. Cunliffe, Mount Batten, Plymouth: a Prehistoric and Roman Port (Oxford, 1988).
13.     Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', p. 235, and Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’.
14.     Broderick, 'Some island names in the former "Kingdom of the Isles": a reappraisal', p. 11; Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', p. 237; Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, pp. 80‒1.
15.     T. Vennemann, ‘Remarks on some British place-names’, in G. F. Carr et al (edd.), Interdigitations: Essays for Irmengard Rauch (New York, 1999), pp. 25‒62 at pp. 40‒2; Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’; Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', p. 234. On the identification of the Atlantic Kassiterides with the Scilly Isles, see especially D. W. Roller, Through the Pillars of Herakles: Greco-Roman Exploration of the Atlantic (London, 2006), pp. 12–14.
16.     R. Coates, ‘Periplus: a voyage round The Solent’, in R. Coates, Toponymic Topics: Essays on the Early Toponomy of the British Isles (Brighton, 1988), pp. 1‒20; Vennemann, ‘Remarks on some British place-names’, pp. 38‒40; G. Broderick, ‘The names of Britain and Ireland revisited’, Beiträge zur Namenforschung, 44 (2009), 151‒7.
17.     G. Broderick, 'Some island names in the former "Kingdom of the Isles": a reappraisal', Journal of Scottish Name Studies, 7 (2013), 1–28 at pp. 8‒9; R. Coates, ‘Uist ‒ Ibiza’, in R. Coates, Toponymic Topics: Essays on the Early Toponomy of the British Isles (Brighton, 1988), pp. 21‒3; Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, pp. 63‒5.
18.     Broderick, 'Some island names in the former "Kingdom of the Isles": a reappraisal', pp. 13‒15; Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, p. 66; Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', p. 234.
19.     Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', pp. 233‒4; Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’; Broderick, 'Some island names in the former "Kingdom of the Isles": a reappraisal', pp. 15‒16.
20.     See especially Broderick, 2013, pp. 4‒5; also Coates, 2009, p. 234; Coates, 2012, pp. 70‒1; and Vennemann, ‘Remarks on some British place-names’, p. 46.
21.     Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', p. 237; Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, pp. 80‒1. This name is otherwise described as 'derivation unknown', following P. Power, The Place-Names of Decies (London, 1907), p. 68, although an Irish root has been suggested by Terry O'Hagan (@VoxHib).
22.     Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, pp. 80‒1.
23.     Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, p. 81, although see Broderick, 'Some island names in the former "Kingdom of the Isles": a reappraisal', pp. 19‒20.
24.     Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’; Coates, 'A glimpse through a dirty window into an unlit house: names of some north-west European islands', p. 233.
25.     See especially G. Broderick, ‘The names of Britain and Ireland revisited’, Beiträge zur Namenforschung, 44 (2009), 151‒7, who gives a thorough survey of the ancient textual evidence for the tin trade too; also Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’, and T. Vennemann, ‘Zur Etymologie von Éire, dem Namen Irlands’, Sprachwissenschaft, 23.4 (1998), 461‒9. See further the following on Phoenician traders/colonists and the early trade in British tin: D. W. Roller, Through the Pillars of Herakles: Greco-Roman Exploration of the Atlantic (London, 2006), pp. 12–14, 27–9; D. W. Roller, 'Himilco the Navigator', in E. K. Akyeampong & H. L. Gates Jnr. (edd.), Dictionary of African Biography, 6 vols. (Oxford, 2012), III.70; Vennemann, 'Name of the Isle of Thanet', p. 356 and fn. 40; J. Ling et al, 'Moving metals II: provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotope and elemental analyses', Journal of Archaeological Science, 41 (2014), 106–32; J. Ling & C. Uhnér, 'Rock art and metal trade', Adoranten, 21 (2014), 23–43; and T. Earle et al, 'The political economy and metal trade in Bronze Age Europe: understanding regional variability in terms of comparative advantages and articulations', European Journal of Archaeology, 18.4 (2015), 633–57, esp. pp. 642–4.
26.     See further the discussion in Coates, ‘A toponomastic contribution to the linguistic prehistory of the British Isles’.

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Friday, 21 October 2016

Ludford, Tealby and the Taifali: a major Late Iron Age to early post-Roman settlement on the Lincolnshire Wolds

The following post is intended to offer a brief introduction to the archaeology and early history of Ludford, Lincolnshire, along with some thoughts on its Late Roman and post-Roman significance. Although Ludford is nowadays simply a village on the road from Louth to Market Rasen, sitting atop the Lincolnshire Wolds, in the Late Iron Age, Roman, and possibly early post-Roman eras it appears to have been a site of some considerable significance.

The major Late Iron Age settlements of northern Lincolnshire and their suggested territories, after May, 1984 (image: C. R. Green)

A Late Iron Age gold coin of the local Corieltavi tribe, South Ferriby type, dated c. 45 BC–10 BC, found at Ludford (image: PAS)

The earliest evidence for significant activity at Ludford comes from the Late Iron Age, with a large number of brooches and other items recorded from here on the Portable Antiquities Scheme and elsewhere, including 80 gold, silver and copper-alloy coins, all of which were mostly found just to the east of the current village in fields near to Ludford Grange. The impressive concentration of Late Iron Age coinage in particular has led Jeffrey May to identify Ludford as one of a small number of major Late Iron Age settlement found spread fairly evenly across the landscape of northern Lincolnshire, each probably controlling a substantial territory 15–20 miles or so across, the suggested extent of which is depicted on the map above.

This first phase of occupation at Ludford continued into the early Roman period and was followed by a second, even more intensive phase of occupation in the third and fourth centuries. Extensive finds of Roman pottery, coins, burials, building materials and other artefacts from the area around Ludford Grange and the head of the River Bain indicate that Ludford was probably functioning as a 'small town' in that period and, as such, is likely to have continued to control a significant territory all around it, something supported by the fairly wide and even spacing of such major Roman-era settlements in Lincolnshire (see the map below). These indications of a significant degree of activity at Ludford in the Late Iron Age and Roman eras are reinforced by extensive cropmarks observed in this area by the RCHME and the results of fluxgate gradiometer surveys, which demonstrated that there was intensive activity in several phases at the site even in areas where no cropmarks are now visible.

The major settlements and forts of Roman Lincolnshire, set against the probable late/post- Roman landscape and certain major Roman-era routes (image drawn by C. R. Green after Green, 2012, fig. 4, with additions). Note, both Caistor and Horncastle were Late Roman forts with impressive stone walls, and linguistic and historical evidence combine to suggest that there may well have been another Roman walled fort at Skegness that was destroyed by the sea around 500 years ago. Also shown are the locations of three earthen fortifications that are thought to date from the late/post-Roman periods, at Yarborough, Yarburgh and Cun Hu Hill (Grimsby); these are depicted by an 'open square' symbol.

A late fourth-century Roman adjustable silver bracelet from Ludford (image: PAS). Another Roman precious-metal item of jewellery from this site is a gold and garnet earring of the second or third century. 

It is thus clear that Ludford was a locally important settlement and 'central place' within Lincolnshire in both the Late Iron Age and Romano-British eras, and it seems likely that this local importance was maintained into the very late Roman period and potentially a little beyond too. Perhaps the most interesting evidence in this regard comes in the form of a later fourth-century gold coin and three Late Roman spurs that have been found at Ludford 'Roman small town'. Such artefacts have a very similar distribution within the Lincoln region and have been considered indicative of the final stage of official Roman military activity in this region, which was arguably focused on creating a defensive 'ring' around the Late Roman provincial capital and episcopal see of Lincoln, with troops apparently primarily stationed not in the walled forts of the region, but instead at rural strategic sites close to major routeways and/or the coast. Certainly, such a scenario accords well with the fact that the Late Roman field army appears to have been normally billeted in civilian towns rather than assigned to specific military forts, and Ludford was clearly both a civilian 'small town' and a strategic site, being located on top of the Lincolnshire Wolds on a Roman road that ran from the east coast to Lincoln (Margary 272) and also very close to the crossing point of this road with the north–south road linking the Roman walled forts of Caistor and Horncastle (Margary 270).

As to who these cavalry troops potentially billeted and losing spurs at Ludford might have been, one reasonable possibility is that they were members of the very late Roman Equites Taifali. This cavalry unit was probably established between 395 and 398 from the Taifali of northern Italy and Gaul and is known to have been in Britain under the command of the Comes Britanniarum ('Count of the Britains') in the very late fourth to early fifth centuries. Perhaps most significantly, however, it just so happens that a neighbouring parish to Ludford, Tealby, actually bears an originally Old English name that almost certainly derives from the continental tribal-name Taifali and means '(the settlement of) the Taifali', to which the Old Norse for village, -bȳ, was added in the Anglo-Scandinavian period (Tealby < Tavelesbi/Teflesbi < Old English *Tāflas/*Tǣflas + Old Norse , with *Tāflas/*Tǣflas being the Old English form of the tribal-name Taifali). Needless to say, such a coincidence is highly suggestive, and it has furthermore been argued that the presence of this tribal-name in Lincolnshire is difficult to explain in a convincing manner without recourse to the Equites Taifali.

The location of Tealby in relation to Ludford and key Late Roman sites & routeways; fortified sites are indicated by an open square around a filled square. Image: Green, 2014, fig. 1, with additions; the latter being the two probable earthen fortifications at Yarburgh, near Louth, and Cun Hu Hill, Grimsby, that potentially date from the late/post-Roman period (depicted as open squares).

If Ludford at the very end of the fourth century and beginning of the fifth potentially played host to at least elements of the Equites Taifali, what then of it in the post-Roman period? With regard to this, several points can be made. First, the nature of the place-name evidence from neighbouring Tealby is such that, if the name does derive from members of the Equites Taifali (as seems most most likely), then it would require that descendants of former members of the Equites Taifali were still living on the Lincolnshire Wolds in the post-Roman era and retained a separate identity for at least part of that period. This is, needless to say, intriguing in itself, and it is worth noting here that the idea that some members, or former members, of the Equites Taifali might have stayed in this region rather than returning to the continent in the early fifth century could well find an explanation and context in the evidence for the Late Roman provincial capital of Lincoln being able to defend and maintain a significant territory all around itself into the sixth century. In other words, it is possible that the apparent presence of Taifali in the area around Ludford in the post-Roman period resulted from the clear need, apparently successfully met, of those in charge of the provincial capital at Lincoln to employ defenders for their territory as official Roman military activities in Britain drew to a close.

Second, there are two deserted medieval villages named East and West Wykeham that lie within Ludford parish and near to the site of the Romano-British town. This place-name derives from Old English wīchām, which in turn comes from Latin vicus + Old English hām. Such names are generally considered to derive their Latin first element from their close proximity to a significant Romano-British settlement that was known as a vicus in the Late and post-Roman periods, with vici in this context being probably Romano-British settlements that functioned as local administrative centres, a description which would seem to fit Ludford well. Most important of all, however, is the fact that names in wīchām have often been plausibly considered both to date from the fifth or sixth centuries and to be indicative of some sort of administrative continuity between the Late Roman and 'early Anglo-Saxon' periods, a point of considerable significance in the present context.

Taken together, the above points suggest that the Romano-British small town at Ludford and its immediate surrounding area may have continued to be of some local significance into at least the early part of the post-Roman era, that is into the fifth century and perhaps also the sixth. However, when we look beyond this, into the 'Anglo-Saxon' period proper for Lincolnshire, the situation looks somewhat different. For example, Ludford lies not at the heart of one of the recorded Anglo-Scandinavian wapentakes of Lincolnshire, but instead at the junction of three separate wapentakes (Louthesk, Wraggoe, and Walshcroft), suggesting that by the later Anglo-Saxon era any local administrative role and territory for Ludford had been lost and divided. Similarly, whilst the archaeological material recovered from the site of the Romano-British 'small town' and its immediate environs indicates that there was probably a degree of activity hereabouts in the pre-Viking period, there is nothing to really make us think that the site retained any of its earlier importance at that time.

A copper-alloy annular brooch of the seventh century, found in Ludford parish to the south- east of the small town (image: PAS)

The territorial context of the South Elkington-Louth early Anglo-Saxon cremation cemetery. Shown here are the cemetery, the later wapentake boundaries of Louthesk (in grey), relevant place-names, and the suggested extent of a pre-Viking territory focused on the Louth cemetery (image: Green, 2012, fig. 43).

As to both when and why Ludford's apparent Iron Age–early post-Roman local administrative role and territory ended and was divided, this is open to debate. It has been argued that many of Lincolnshire's Anglo-Scandinavian wapentakes had their ultimate origins in the pre-Viking period, and a study of Louthesk wapentake certainly indicates that this wapentake could well have had its roots in a territory associated with the important and massive fifth- to sixth-century cremation cemetery at South Elkington–Louth. This cemetery probably functioned as a funerary, social and sacred 'central place' for the surrounding region in the early Anglo-Saxon period, and was established at a site overlooking the Lincolnshire Marshes and the east coast by 'Anglian' immigrants to the region in the fifth century, who, like the Taifaliwere arguably initially used by the post-Roman Britons of Lincoln for the defence of their territory (indeed, they may well have been somehow associated with the possible late/post-Roman coastal fortification at nearby Yarburgh). Furthermore, the Old English place-name 'Ludford' is suggestive too, as not only does it appear to be, in type, a potentially early pre-Viking coinage, but it is also probably best interpreted as meaning 'the ford belonging to Louth', indicating that Ludford had actually come to be under the control of Louth in this period, perhaps lying on the very western edge of its territory.

On the basis of the above, it seems likely that the process of Ludford losing at least some of its local centrality and any associated administrative role/territory that had survived into the post-Roman era was already begun by the end of the sixth century. Moreover, it can be suggested that this loss of centrality and division of its probable administrative territory could have been a direct result of the foundation of a new, Anglo-Saxon 'central place' at a strategic site only a few miles to the east of Ludford in the fifth century. In this light, an acceptable hypothesis that accounts for all of the material discussed above might be that Ludford and its immediate environs retained a degree of local centrality into the fifth and sixth centuries, so long as the Britons were still in at least nominal charge of the Lincoln region. However, when the 'Anglo-Saxon' immigrant groups gained control of the region in the sixth century, Ludford's status and centrality precipitously declined in favour of the immigrants' own, already-established regional centre a few miles to the east at South Elkington–Louth.

Tealby All Saints' church (image: Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0)

If Ludford itself and the eastern parts of any territory it administered in the late and post- Roman periods may thus have come under the control of the early 'Anglian' immigrant group that was seemingly based a few miles to the east at South Elkington–Louth in the sixth century, what then of the rest of Ludford's 'territory' and, indeed, the Taifali? With regard to this question, it is worth noting that the whole area to the north and west of Ludford lay within the Walshcroft wapentake by the Late Saxon period, with this district including within its bounds not only the modern village of Tealby—'(the settlement of) the Taifali'—but also its neighbouring village of Walesby. Given that there is a case to be made for both the place-name Walesby (DB Walesby) and the wapentake-name Walshcroft (DB Walescros) having derived from Old English Walas, 'the Britons, the Welsh-speakers', it might well be wondered whether Walshcroft wapentake could not have somehow derived from a portion of the territory associated with Ludford that remained, at least nominally, in British/Taifali hands, for a period at any rate? Of course, such a suggestion can only be very tentatively made, but it is an interesting possibility nonetheless.

In sum, the archaeology, history and place-names of Ludford and its immediate surroundings suggest that it was of some considerable significance in the past. It was clearly once the site of a major Late Iron Age settlement and Romano-British 'small town' that probably functioned as a local administrative centre for the surrounding region. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that at the very end of the Roman era the small town here was home to cavalry troops of the Late Roman military, quite possibly of the Equites Taifali, some of whom may have stayed on in this area to help protect the territory of the former provincial capital of Lincoln into the fifth century, their continued presence arguably underlying the name of a neighbouring parish, Tealby. Finally, it can be cautiously argued that Ludford and its immediate environs may have retained a degree of local centrality into the fifth and sixth centuries, but with this perhaps only lasting so long as the Britons were still in at least nominal charge of the Lincoln region. Certainly, it seems likely that Ludford itself had lost its centrality at some point in the early Anglo-Saxon period to the new Anglo-Saxon 'central place' of South Elkington–Louth, a few miles to the east, although it can be tentatively suggested that the later wapentake of Walshcroft could represent a surviving rump of Ludford's territory that remained nominally under British and Taifali control, at least for a time.

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