Atlantic Europe

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Floristic regions in Europe

Atlantic Europe is a geographical and anthropological term for the western portion of Europe which borders the Atlantic Ocean. The term may refer to the idea of Atlantic Europe as a cultural unit and/or as an biogeographical region.

It comprises the Atlantic Isles (Great Britain and Ireland), Iceland, Belgium, the Netherlands, the central and northern regions of Portugal, northwestern and northern Spain (including Galicia, the Southern Basque Country), the southwestern and western portion of France (Northern Basque Country), western Scandinavia and northern Germany.

Weather and overall physical conditions are relatively similar along this area (with the exception of parts of Scandinavia and the Baltic), resulting in similar landscapes with common endemic plant and animal species. From a strictly physical point of view most of the Atlantic European shoreline can be considered a single biogeographical region.[1][2] Physical geographers label this biogeographical area as the European Atlantic Domain, part of the Euro-Siberian botanic region.[3]


The Atlantic Bronze Age is a cultural complex of the Bronze Age period of approximately 1300–700 BC, that marked the economic and cultural exchange between the current territories of Portugal, Spain, France, Great Britain and Ireland. Authors such as Mario Alinei, Francesco Benozzo, John T. Koch and Barry Cunliffe establish even earlier dates in the genesis of what would later become the Atlantic European Celtic Culture.[4][5][6] Some of this research and ideas feature prominently in the Paleolithic Continuity Theory.


Archaeologists have noted that the prehistoric peoples of Atlantic Europe presented common traits, as shown by artifacts, artistic and architectural styles found in the region which attest to at least some form of trade and/or cultural link.[7] In addition, a number of genetic studies seem to interrelate specific groups of population in parts of Atlantic Europe in contrast with, for example, Central or Mediterranean Europe.[8][9]

Some examples of early cultural contact are the European Megalithic Culture and the Atlantic Bronze Age, or "carp's tongue sword complex". This refers to an industry mainly based on the west coast of France and Brittany but which clearly had links with societies in Iberia and Britain, as evidenced by products such as the carp's tongue sword and the end winged axe, which were widely bought and sold along the routes of the Atlantic seaways.

Atlantic Europe is also a term often used in reference to the territory occupied by the Celtic-speaking peoples and Celtic influenced people of western Europe.[10]

Culture at present[edit]

Atlantic Europe
  Atlantic Europe
  Atlantic Arc[11]
  Rest of Europe

A number of authors have postulated that there still is a cultural continuum in Atlantic Europe, forming a cultural unit which has its roots in prehistoric times but remained until today mostly thanks to sea trade. Geographers also mention the influence of the natural environment in the construction of a similar cultural landscape along the western European coasts.

Some of the first geographers to consider this idea of Atlantic Europe were Otero Pedrayo and Orlando Ribeiro. Pedrayo stated in his studies about Galicia that this territory was marked by a strong "Atlantic character", not Mediterranean, despite the fact of being part of a Mediterranean state (Spain). On the other hand, while researching about his native Portugal, Ribeiro deepened the concepts of Atlantic Europe and Mediterranean Europe, linking southern Portugal more towards the Mediterranean culture and central and northern Portugal (together with Galicia and Asturias) to a pan-Atlantic European culture.

This idea would be further developed from the 1950s onwards by authors such as P. Flatrès, Emyr Estyn Evans, A. Bouhier, Meynier, J. García Fernández, Patrick O'Flanagan, Richard Bradley, Barry Cunliffe, Carlos Ferrás Sexto and Xoán Paredes, among others.

O'Flanagan, based on the theories of Pedrayo and Ribeiro, states that Atlantic Europe is a cultural reality that stretches along the coastal fringe of Europe, from Norway to South-Central Portugal (roughly down to the Santarém area), and including Britain and Ireland. With this in mind, Paredes affirms that there exists a cultural landscape common to Atlantic (namely Celtic) Europe, mainly based on the settlement pattern, use and shared perception of the lived space, thus evidencing in itself a social and cultural internal cohesion and continuity.[12][13]

Bob Quinn in his documentary series Atlantean speculates that western European Celtic culture is actually an earlier, pre-Celtic, Atlantic culture that included Atlantic Europe and people of the Maghreb such as Berbers and that it continues today.

Atlantic Europe in politics[edit]

There is a multi-national association of regions, which acts as a co-ordinator of Atlantic European regions and its interests. This is the Atlantic Arc Commission.[14] Operative since 1989, it includes 26 regions from four member States - Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. The Atlantic Arc Commission is one of the seven Geographical Commissions in the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe.[15]

Some cities[edit]

Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, Belfast, Dublin, Rennes, Brest, Nantes, Bordeaux, San Sebastián, Bilbao, Gijon, A Coruña, Porto, Lisbon


  1. ^ Indicative map of the European biogeographical regions 2005. Archived July 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Map of the biogeographical regions of Europe
  3. ^ Map of the floristic regions of Europe
  4. ^ Benozzo, F. and Alinei, M., 'The Atlantic Celts. Cumulative Evidence of Continuity from Palaeolithic', 2011 (last access February 24, 2018)
  5. ^ Cunliffe, B. and Koch, J.T., Celtic from the West: Alternative Perspectives from Archaeology, Genetics, Language and Literature. Oxbow books, 2012.
  6. ^ "F. Benozzo: 'A Galiza e Norte de Portugal são a origem da celticidade europeia'", interview with Francesco Benozzo in Diário Liberdade, 2016 (last access August 08, 2017).
  7. ^ Bradley, R. (1997): Rock Art and the Prehistory of Atlantic Europe. Routledge
  8. ^ Brian Donnelly (2004): "We are not Celts at all but Galicians; DNA research links the Scots, Irish and Welsh to north-western Spain", The Herald (Glasgow - UK), p. 15.
  9. ^ Salas, A; Comas, D; Lareu, MV; Bertranpetit, J; Carracedo, A (1998). "mtDNA analysis of the Galician population: a genetic edge of European variation". Eur J Hum Genet. 6 (4): 365–75. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5200202. PMID 9781045. 
  10. ^ "Modern Celtic realm - National Geographic". 
  11. ^ Atlantic Arc Commission
  12. ^ Paredes, X.M. Bases do Atlantismo Europeo Galego. Unha visión desde a Xeografía Cultural e Histórica. Tese de Licenciatura. Dept. de Xeografía, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 1999
  13. ^ Paredes, X.M.,"A utilidade do celtismo. Celticidade galaica no S.XXI", in proceedings of Jornadas das Letras Galego-Portuguesas 2012-2014, DTS and SAGA. p. 175-190, 2015.
  14. ^ Atlantic Arc Commission.
  15. ^ Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions

See also[edit]


  • Orlando Ribeiro, Portugal o Mediterrâneo e o Atlântico, Lisboa, 1945.
  • Emyr Estyn Evans, The Atlantic Ends of Europe, Advancety Offsiders, London, 1958.
  • H.N. Savory, "Serpentiforms in Megalithic art: a link between Wales and the Iberian NW", in Cadernos de Estudos Galegos no. 84, p. 80-89, Santiago de Compostela, 1973.
  • Patrick O'Flanagan, "La Europa Atlántica: Pasado y presente. Una revisión del concepto y de la realidad'", in proceedings of Congreso Internacional: A periferia Atlántica de Europa: o desenvolvemento e os problemas socioculturais, Universidade de Santiago Compostela, 1992.
  • Patrick O'Flanagan, "Galicia en el marco geográfico e histórico de la Europa Atlántica", in Xeográfica no. 1, p. 115-133, 2001.
  • Barry Cunliffe, Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples, 8000 BC to AD 1500, OUP, 2001.
  • Francesco Benozzo and Mario Alinei, "A área galega na prehistoria lingüística e cultural de Europa", in A Trabe de Ouro, no. 71, p. 13-39, Santiago de Compostela, 2007.
  • Barry Cunliffe. and John T. Koch, Celtic from the West: Alternative Perspectives from Archaeology, Genetics, Language and Literature, Oxbow books, 2012.
  • Xoán M. Paredes, "A utilidade do celtismo. Celticidade galaica no S.XXI", in proceedings of Jornadas das Letras Galego-Portuguesas, 2012-2014, DTS and SAGA, p. 175-190, 2015.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°00′00″N 2°00′00″W / 48.0000°N 2.0000°W / 48.0000; -2.0000