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Left: Pictish warrior (public domain) Right: Scythian Warrior with Axe, Bow, and Spear.

Piecing Together the Origins of Ancient Near East Names in Scotland


Thinking of Scotland, as I do from the somewhat similar mountains of northern India, which has been my home for nigh on twenty years, I do so from a rather Indian perspective; I think of families, clans, and tribes living on land that they consider to be their ancestral land. However, they have an understanding, kept alive in stories from both manuscript and memory, that those same ancestors had themselves migrated from their ancestral lands in a far off past.

What began as a fascination with the origins of the peoples of the Himalayan ranges led quite naturally to an interest in where we all come from, our origins. The Indians of course, as the most ancient of civilizations, had an understanding of the world, when and how it was made, and, more importantly for this piece, who populated it and where they settled.

David Allan (Scottish painter 1744-1796), ‘The Highland Wedding’, 1780. Source: Public Domain

David Allan (Scottish painter 1744-1796), ‘The Highland Wedding’, 1780. Source: Public Domain


The Code of Manu

One of the more ancient of the Vedic texts that form part of the ‘liturgy’ of the Hindus (which we were all, at one time, in our human history) is the code of Manu, the lawgiver; not coincidentally similar to Maru, the lawgiver of Japanese culture, or Minos of Crete, or Moses (who we are perhaps more familiar with). The laws of Manu tell that from the caste of the kshatriyas sprung the peoples they knew as Yavanas and we know as Greeks; the Pahlavas or Persians, and others who would eventually form the cultures of Siam, China, Burma, and Tibet, and the people known to us as Scythian but called Saka to the Sanskrit writers .

The Scythians are mentioned in the Old Testament too, as are many of the same names of the nations of people described and located in other contemporary texts and tablets. The Egyptians and the Hittites of Anatolia being the two others who were to play leading roles in helping us to make significant strides in understanding the ancient and transcendental culture that was to become Scotland.

Accounts of Ancient Inhabitants

In the Scottish peoples Declaration of Arbroath , which our readers will no doubt be familiar with, the authors gave a brief history of their forefathers and their journeys and the Europe of that time. Although it was written in the 14th century, the document is remarkably similar to the stories written centuries before by Greeks, Romans, and the English writer, Bede, to name but a few.

The seventh century Saint Isidore, writing in his Encyclopaedia of Knowledge , drew from ancient Latin and Greek sources and recorded that the ancient inhabitants of what is now Spain and Portugal and was then known as Iberia, were the war-like Haspernians, a name not too dissimilar to the Hibernians of Hibernia or Ireland.

The Tyninghame Copy of the Declaration of Arbroath (1320). (Public Domain)

The Tyninghame Copy of the Declaration of Arbroath (1320). ( Public Domain )

We know that the Atlantic seaboard provided the route for genes to move from south to north as northern Europe was repopulated after the ice that had marked that age had receded and reshaped the land and sea. The genes had names and names tell stories - even if they change after generations of whispers.

The Scots of Ulster and Dal Riata asserted that they had hailed from the marriage of an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter, Scota, and a Scythian general of her father’s army - who had refused to pursue the Israelites as they fled across the Red Sea. They settled in exile with their entourage in Ulster as the Scots and gave the country their and her name.

Scota and Gaedel Glas in a 15th century manuscript of Bower’s Scotichronicon. (Public Domain)

Scota and Gaedel Glas in a 15th century manuscript of Bower’s Scotichronicon. ( Public Domain )

In the old German spoken in ancient times, the word for Scotland and for Scythian is the same, Scutten. The Scythian peoples dominated the steppe north of the Black Sea at that time. A matrilineal culture in which people painted their bodies and had developed an extraordinarily high standard of craftsmanship with metal, particularly gold, they faded from history at about the time that scholars first begin to describe another matrilineal, body painting, metal working people - the Picts. Were they the same people?

Curious Caithness

Pictland was an amalgamation of minor kingdoms, the northernmost being Cait, that eventually would give its name to the county we know as Caithness. To the Gaelic speakers of Dal Riata and Ireland, the part of Pictland known as Cait was known as cataibh, meaning ‘among the cats’, and to the Norse speaking Orcadians it was called Katanes, ‘headland of the cats’.

According to the seventeenth century historian Sir Robert Gordon, in 82 AD, two boatloads of warriors had arrived in Caithness from their lands in Friesland, Batavia, known as the Netherlands these days. They had made their home after retreating there from the southern part of the Roman province of Germania, in the area of modern day Hesse, which had been occupied by the legions of Rome in the decades that had preceded.

Ruins of Badharigo farmstead, Osclay, Caithness. (Claire Pegrum/CC BY SA 2.0)

Ruins of Badharigo farmstead, Osclay, Caithness. (Claire Pegrum/ CC BY SA 2.0 )

These people were the Catti. History goes on to tell us that the chief of the Catti had married a daughter of the Pictish King Brude, and by the time of Kenneth Mac Alpin, King Alpin had joined the Scottish and Pictish thrones, and the Senachies had named Gilli Chattan Noir as the chief of the Catti. Clan Keith are descended from him, as well as the clans of MacKenzie, MacPherson, Sutherland, and Davidson - known as the confederation of Clan Chattan.

How the Hittites Fit in

In old German, Hesse was known as Hatti, the same name that they gave to the Hittites of Anatolia to the south of the Black Sea, and the same name the Hittites knew themselves by. The Egyptians knew the Hittites as the Kethi. The emblem of both the Hatti (Kethi) and the Catti ( Hatti) was the black cat. The black cat remains on the banners of the Earls of Sutherland and Clan Chattan, each themselves descendants of the Catti /Pictish nobility.

Arms of the captain or chief of the Chattan Confederation. (Czar Brodie/CC BY SA 3.0)

Arms of the captain or chief of the Chattan Confederation. (Czar Brodie/ CC BY SA 3.0 )


The Indo-European Hittites had been amongst those at the forefront of the civilizations of the time. Pioneers of the Bronze Age’s technological advancements, they were the first to introduce codified civil and criminal law. Indeed, the first example of an international peace treaty to conclude a war is between the Hittites and the Mitanni of northern Mesopotamia, signed by their leaders under oath before the Indic Gods Varuna, Indra, Mitra, and Nasatya. A copy of this legal first adorns the United Nations building in New York City as a testament to what can be achieved by mediation rather than militarism.

Red Hair and Blue Eyes

Scotland was populated from the collapsing civilizations of the Mediterranean and the near east; from the Hittites and Scythians of the Black Sea, the Egyptians, and dare I say, some of the sons of Esau who had married into both Hittite and Egyptian royalty and whose genetic characteristics of red hair and blue eyes are still disproportionately found in the blood of the Scots.

Around the globe, between one and two percent of people have red hair, a figure that rises to thirteen percent in Scotland, with almost 40 percent being carriers of the allele. In the Ashkenazy Jewish community, significantly higher than average levels of red hair are detected, but not nearly to the same level found amongst the modern-day Scots and Irish. Indeed, in eastern Europe and Russia, red hair was associated with Jewish people, and in Spain during the inquisition, red hair could be a death sentence based on the same prejudice.

13% of Scottish people have red hair and blue eyes. (Public Domain)

13% of Scottish people have red hair and blue eyes. ( Public Domain )

Freedom and Independence

The building of Hadrian’s wall guaranteed that those families on the northern side were isolated and the distinctive system of clans that would come to define the country could develop. The ancient bloodlines that had long before sought refuge and sanctuary on the fringes of the known world could bond and maintain themselves as a united collective amidst the mayhem and murder that would come to mark the Dark and Middle Ages.

The fact that these people remained out of the formal Roman Empire meant that they could define themselves as being free and independent, as well as maintain their distinctive culture until the union with England in 1603. Indeed, Samuel Johnson, the doctor of letters who gave the world the first English dictionary and who was the preeminent English academic of his time, had lamented that with a Stuart on the throne in London the Jewish habits of the Scots had infiltrated and polluted the good Christian peoples of his green and pleasant lands.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1720 - 1788. Eldest son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart. (Public Domain)

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1720 - 1788. Eldest son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart. ( Public Domain )

Perhaps these habits stemmed from those early settlers from the Middle East who gave us the contents of their memory and their minds, as well as the confidence that emanates from a successful, proven people. It is this ancient heritage, embedded in the subconscious of our people, which means that to this day we will always consider ourselves as being free and independent - irrespective of our circumstances - and as being Scots from Scotland.

Top Image: Left: Pictish warrior ( public domain ) Right: Scythian Warrior with Axe, Bow, and Spear. ( Public Domain )

By Steven Keith


“The Laws of Manu” , Wendy Doniger, published by Penguin

“The Declaration of Arbroath” ,1320, Sir James Fergusson (1970)

Etymologiae” (Encyclopaedia of Knowledge) , Saint Isidore, circa AD 700

Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland, from its Origins to the year 1630” , Sir Robert Gordon edited by Henry William Webber, published in Edinburgh 1813

The Sun King and Dasharatha” , Subash Kak,



the Greeks from Western Anatolia were known as Ionian Greeks Javan in Latin is Iavan and in Hebrew its Yavan. (the J to I to Y connection is fairly standard) Manu's three sons have similar names to Noah's three sons. "Manu was said to have three sons before the flood – Charma, Sharma, and Yapeti, while Noah also had three sons – Ham, Shem, and Japheth" Interesting almost coincidence.

The Jewish historian Josephus states the founder of the Greeks was Javan, son of Japhet, son of Noah. Interesting that Manu, the Flood survivor calls the Greeks Yavanas!

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Steven Keith

I am a Scotsman, from the north east of that mystical land although I have spent all of my adult life in the Indian Himalaya, further educating myself and being guided by the myriad perspectives offered to one who is... Read More

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