Atlantean (documentary series)
Atlantean is a quartet of documentary films and accompanying book (The Atlantean Irish, Lilliput, 2005) by Irish film maker Bob Quinn. The films and book dismissed as myth the popular belief in origins of the inhabitants of Ireland and proposed instead that they are part of a common 'Atlantean' culture that includes the western seaboard of Europe and North Africa.
Quinn focused on various traditional aspects of Irish culture and argued for their non-Celtic nature. One aspect he stressed is the role of sailing in Connemara society, where his films were made, Quinn investigated the history of the Atlantic sea lanes from the Baltic Sea, Ireland, Britain, as far south as the Mediterranean and North Africa. Quinn suggested that Ireland's first inhabitants came by boat sometime after the end of the last ice age – probably from the warmer, more populous south. As navigation gave rise to coastal settlement over long periods of time, overseas trade and cultural exchanges continued until at least the North African pirates of the 17th century. These connections can be seen in ship building styles and sailing techniques, for example in similarities between the Galway Púcán and the Arab Dhow.
Another aspect focused on by Quinn is the Sean Nós or Old Style of Irish song and dance. The non-European feel of Sean Nós singing in particular has often been commented upon. Quinn originally proposed a North African origin for Sean Nós, but later agreed that it is shared by the Tatars of Tatarstan, thus an archetypal musical form older than the Book of Kells. The Irish language, music and art is related to ancient Iberian, Mediterranean and North African culture, in particular the indigenous Berbers of North Africa.
According to Quinn, the idea of "Celtic" origins was a Greek term – Keltoi (Κελτοί) – used to describe any "barbarian" who was not Greek. The Romans perpetuated the slur until 1707 when Edward Lluyd resurrected it as a compliment. It was taken for granted by Anglo-Irish antiquarians who found it a useful way of distinguishing themselves not only from the English but from the "mere Irish". The term also developed untermensch resonances (see Matthew Arnold).
Bob Quinn developed these ideas into a book: The Atlantean Irish: Ireland's oriental and maritime heritage. Barry Cunliffe, distinguished Professor Emeritus of European Archaeology and author of Facing the Ocean (2001) wrote the introduction to Quinn's Atlantean Irish'.'
The 'Celtic' Origin of the Irish has long been questioned by archaeologists. In recent years, the discovery of mitochondrial DNA has been used as a method to map the historical migration of mankind's genetic groups. Such genetic tests, conducted in Ireland in 2004, seemed to confirm that the theory of Celtic origins of Ireland's population were genetically unfounded but recent advances in genetic testing (especially recent Ancient DNA findings) are giving an almost opposite picture from the older testing interpretations. In earlier tests, Bryan Sykes, genetic scientist and author of bestseller The Seven Daughters of Eve, while analysing European DNA groups identified what he called the "Clan of Tara" – a genetic group that originated in what is now Tuscany, Italy 17,000 years ago during the Ice Age and that spread along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic seaboards of continental Europe, Ireland and Western Britain. Sykes did not conduct genetic tests in North Africa amongst Berbers.
The Atlantean thesis has not generally been accepted by the Irish academic establishment, who have criticised Bob Quinn for his alleged lack of scholarly methodology and the absence of hard evidence to back his theories. Quinn's response to this is to assert that traditional landlubber methods of scholarship ignore the maritime dimension of Irish history and can fail to recognise the deeper, more intuitive links that may exist between cultures and countries. He also asserts that a close-minded, elitist attitude among academics prevents a more sympathetic appraisal of his work. More controversially, he maintains that critics of his work are guilty of an unconscious racism, or in his own words, of being afraid of the idea that Irish people might have 'a touch of the tar' about them.
- Atlantean – WHO ARE THE IRISH? – "The Atlantean Irish" (NOW REVISED AND REPRINTED), Conemara (official Bob Quinn website)
- Bryan Sykes The Seven Daughters of Eve, pp299-308, London, 2001
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
- Really Bob, have we all got a 'touch of the tar' in us?, Cathal MacCarthy, Irish Independent, Sunday September 03 2006
- Bob Quinn (2005). The Atlantean Irish: Ireland's oriental and maritime heritage. The Lilliput Press. ISBN 1-84351-024-3.