Even the Snails Came from Spain

Cepaea nemoralis snail

The legend among the Irish for the longest time was that they "came from Spain." You could say it was the mother of all family stories. Everyone in the family knew it was true, but everyone outside the family thought it was a lot of malarkey. It turns out that the Irish were right.

Scientists have even found DNA evidence linking snails in County Kerry, Ireland, to snails in the Pyrenees mountains in Northern Spain.  This article came out a while ago, but I was between websites and didn't have anywhere to post a link to it: Scientists Use Snails to Trace Stone Age Trade Routes in Europe.

I'm supposed to say "Amazing! Awesome! You just have to read this!" but I grew up in the twentieth century, not the twenty-first, and you really don't have to read it anyway.

If you are interested in more of the recent evidence for the Irish having arrived there by way of Spain and Northern Africa, look for the following:

Facing the ocean : the Atlantic and its peoples, 8000 BC-AD 1500, by Barry Cunliffe, published by Oxford University Press, 2001. If I remember right, it is a coffee table size book, but it is worth lugging home from the library.

If you have forgotten what a book looks like, try The Irish -- more Spanish than Celtic? or Researchers Trace Roots of Irish and Wind Up in Spain.  The scientific study referred to in the first article is at, I think, The Longue Durée of Genetic Ancestry: Multiple Genetic Marker Systems and Celtic Origins on the Atlantic Facade of Europe.

In Barry Cunliffe's book, or in some other book I read, there is a footnote reference to an unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, A typological evaluation of Celtic/Hamito-Semitic syntactic parallels by Orin David Gensler at University of California, Berkeley, which identifies something like thirty peculiarities found only in "Gaelic" and some North African languages.

That sets up these next two articles which were really interesting. Or awesome and amazing:

OUR ANCIENT COUSINS THE BERBERS by J. M. McGill, F.S.A. Scot. and Berbers and Irish Language: Historical accounts. 

This time I'll quote a bit of the first article, or you'll never click on an article about linguistics:

"Sometime at the end of the fourteenth, or it may have been in the early fifteenth century, a ship was wrecked on a spit of sand jutting out from the Moroccan Atlantic coast. The sole survivor scrambled ashore and fell into the hands of the Berbers whose clan name was the Beni M'Touga, and who inhabited that part of the country. The Berbers spared his life, which was unusual clemency on their part as they had a hatred for all strangers.  What was the reason for the unusual friendliness of these wild Berber tribesmen towards a shipwrecked sailor? One of the first steps towards amity between strangers is a knowledge of each other's languages and that is what most probably saved MacDowall."

So next time you doubt some family story that's been passed down for generations, just remember that even the snails came from Spain.


Image of snail from Wikimedia Commons/Mad_Max

My Old Ohio Home
Most of the information here is about my family or my wife’s, or about families with ties to Cleveland, Ohio, or the area near Rostrevor and Kilkeel in County Down, Ireland. There are also some unrelated families included that I came across. Whatever the case, I hope the material is helpful in your own research.
-- Ed Hamilton