The Portuguese are a Southwestern European population, with origins predominantly from Southern and Western Europe. The earliest modern humans inhabiting Portugal are believed to have been Paleolithic peoples that may have arrived in the Iberian Peninsula as early as 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. Current interpretation of Y-chromosome and mtDNA data suggests that modern-day Portuguese trace a significant amount of these lineages to the paleolithic peoples who began settling the European continent between the end of the last glaciation around 45,000 years ago.
Distribution of R1a
(purple) and R1b
(red). See also this map
for distribution in Europe.
Northern Iberia is believed to have been a major Ice-age refuge from which Paleolithic humans later colonized Europe. Migrations from what is now Northern Iberia during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic, links modern Iberians to the populations of much of Western Europe and particularly the British Isles and Atlantic Europe. Recent books published by geneticists Bryan Sykes, Stephen Oppenheimer and Spencer Wells have emphasized the large Paleolithic and Mesolithic Iberian influence in the modern day Irish, Welsh and Scottish gene-pool as well as parts of the English. Indeed, Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b (of Paleolithic origin) is the most common haplogroup in practically all of the Iberian peninsula and western Europe. Within the R1b haplogroup there are modal haplotypes. One of the best-characterized of these haplotypes is the Atlantic Modal Haplotype (AMH). This haplotype reaches the highest frequencies in the Iberian Peninsula and in the British Isles. In Portugal it reckons generally 65% in the South summing 87% northwards, and in some regions 96%.
The Neolithic colonization of Europe from Western Asia and the Middle East beginning around 10,000 years ago reached Iberia, as most of the rest of the continent although, according to the demic diffusion model, its impact was most in the southern and eastern regions of the European continent.
Starting in the 3rd millennium BC as well as in the Bronze Age, the first wave of migrations into Iberia of speakers of Indo-European languages occurred. These were later (7th and 5th Centuries BC) followed by others that can be identified as Celts.
Urban cultures eventually developed in southeastern Iberia, such as Tartessos, influenced by the Phoenician colonization of coastal Mediterranean Iberia, which later shifted to Greek colonization. There is very little or no evidence of settlements in Portugal by either Greeks or Phoenicians despite some statements to the contrary.
Ethnographic and Linguistic Map of the Iberian Peninsula at about 200 BC.
These two processes defined Iberia's, and Portugal's, cultural landscape—Continental in the northwest and Mediterranean towards the southeast, as historian José Mattoso describes it.
Given the origins from Paleolithic and Neolithic settlers as well as Indo-European migrations, one can say that the Portuguese ethnic origin is mainly a mixture of pre-Roman, pre-Indo-Europeans (such as, in other parts of Iberia, the Iberians, Aquitanians), and pre-Celtics or para-Celts such as the Lusitanians of Lusitania, and Celtic peoples such as Calaicians or Gallaeci of Gallaecia, the Celtici and the Cynetes of the Alentejo and the Algarve.
The Romans were also an important influence on Portuguese culture; the Portuguese language derives mostly from Latin.
Other minor influences included the Phoenicians/Carthaginians (small semi-permanent commercial coastal establishments in the south before 200 BC), the Vandals (Silingi and Hasdingi) and the Sarmatian Alans (both migrated to North Africa, while some were partially integrated by the Visigoths and Suebi), and the Visigoths and Suebi (including the Buri, permanently established in the early 5th century). The Moors ruled from 711 until the Reconquista of the Algarve in 1249. In the 9th and 10th centuries small Viking raids and settlements also occurred in the North coastal regions of Douro and Minho.
For the Y-chromosome and this one.
Portuguese have also maintained a certain degree of ethnic and cultural specific characteristics-ratio with the Basques, since ancient times. The results of the present HLA study in Portuguese populations show that they have features in common with Basques and some Spaniards from Madrid: a high frequency of the HLA-haplotypes A29-B44-DR7 (ancient western Europeans) and A1-B8-DR3 are found as common characteristics. Many Portuguese, and Basques do not show the Mediterranean A33-B14-DR1 haplotype, confirming a lower admixture with Mediterraneans.
The Portuguese have a characteristic unique among world populations: a high frequency of HLA-A25-B18-DR15 and A26-B38-DR13, which may reflect a still detectable founder effect coming from ancient Portuguese, i.e., Oestriminis and Cynetes.
The Lusitanians (or Lusitānus/Lusitani in Latin) were an Indo-European speaking people (likely Celtic) living in the Western Iberian Peninsula long before it became the Roman province of Lusitania (modern Portugal, Extremadura and a small part of Salamanca). They spoke the Lusitanian language, of which only a few short written fragments survive. Most Portuguese consider the Lusitanians as their ancestors. Although the northern regions (Minho, Douro, Tras-os-Montes) identify more with the Gallaecians.
It has been hypothesized that the Lusitanians may have originated in the Alps and settled in the region in the 6th century BC. Some modern scholars consider them to be indigenous and initially dominated by the Celts, before gaining full independence from them. The archaeologist
Scarlat Lambrino proposed that they were originally a tribal Celtic group, related to the Lusones.
The first area settled by the Lusitanians was probably the Douro valley and the region of Beira Alta; then they moved south, and expanded on both sides of the Tagus river, before being conquered by the Romans.
The original Roman province of Lusitania was extended north of the areas occupied by the Lusitanians to include the territories of Asturias and Gallaecia but these were soon ceded to the jurisdiction of the Provincia Tarraconensis in the north, while the south remained the Provincia Lusitania et Vettones. After this, Lusitania's northern border was along the Douro river, while its eastern border passed through Salmantica and Caesarobriga to the Anas (Guadiana) river.
Map showing the main pre-Roman tribes in Portugal and their main migrations. Turduli
movement in red, Celtici
in brown and Lusitanian in a blue colour. Most tribes neighbouring the Lusitanians were dependent on them. Names are in Latin.
The Lusitanians were a single large tribe that lived between the rivers Douro and Tagus. As the Lusitanians fought fiercely against the Romans for independence, the name Lusitania was adopted by the Gallaeci, tribes living north of the Douro, and other closely surrounding tribes, eventually spreading as a label to all the nearby peoples fighting Roman rule in the west of Iberia. It was for this reason that the Romans came to name their original province in the area, that initially covered the entire western side of the Iberian peninsula, Lusitania.
Tribes, often known by their Latin names, living in the area of modern Portugal, prior to Roman rule:
- Bardili (Turduli) – living in the Setúbal peninsula;
- Bracari – living between the rivers Tâmega and Cávado, in the area of the modern city of Braga;
- Callaici – living along and north of the Douro;
- Celtici – Celts living in Alentejo;
- Coelerni – living in the mountains between the rivers Tua and Sabor;
- Cynetes or Conii – living in the Algarve and the south of Alentejo;
- Equaesi – living in the most mountainous region of modern Portugal;
- Grovii – a mysterious tribe living in the Minho valley;
- Interamici – living in Trás-os-Montes and in the border areas with Galicia and León (in modern Spain);
- Leuni – living between the rivers Lima and Minho;
- Luanqui – living between the rivers Tâmega and Tua;
- Lusitani – being the most numerous and dominant of the whole region comprising most of Portugal;
- Limici – living in the swamps of the river Lima, on the border between Portugal and Galicia);
- Narbasi – living in the north of modern Portugal (interior) and nearby area of southern Galicia;
- Nemetati – living north of the Douro Valley in the area of Mondim;
- Paesuri – a dependent tribe of the Lusitanians, living between the rivers Douro and Vouga;
- Quaquerni – living in the mountains at the mouths of rivers Cávado and Tâmega;
- Seurbi – living between the rivers Cávado and Lima (or even reaching the river Minho);
- Tamagani – from the area of Chaves, near the river Tâmega;
- Tapoli – another dependent tribe of the Lusitanians, living north of the river Tagus, on the border between modern Portugal and Spain;
- Turduli – in the east of Alentejo (Guadiana Valley);
- Turduli Veteres – the "ancient Turduli" living south of the estuary of the river Douro;
- Turdulorum Oppida – Turduli living in the Portuguese region of Estremadura;
- Turodi – living in Trás-os-Montes and bordering areas of Galicia;
- Vettones – living in the eastern border areas of Portugal, and in Spanish provinces of Ávila and Salamanca, as well as parts of Zamora, Toledo and Cáceres;
- Zoelae – living in the mountains of Serra da Nogueira, Sanabria and Culebra, up to the mountains of Mogadouro in northern Portugal and adjacent areas of Galicia.