Γαγγανων ακρον

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,3 Γαγγανων (or Ιαγγανων) ακρον

Where:  The Llŷn peninsula of north Wales, with its western tip at Braich y Pwll, SH135256, is the “Land's End of Wales”.  It was presumably inhabited by people like those named by Ptolemy 2,2,5 as Γαγγανοι living in south-west Ireland, in modern county Clare between the Shannon and Galway Bay.

Name Origin:  PIE *ghengh- ‘to go, to walk’ seems the most likely source.  That root developed strongly, and close to Γαγγανοι, in Germanic languages, for example to OE gangan and to modern gangway.  Celtic languages have more figurative senses, such as Welsh cangen ‘branch’ or Old Irish cingid ‘to step’ and hence words for a warrior leader as someone who strides in front.  Also from that root is the Indian river name Ganga, better known (via Greek) as Ganges.  Alternatively, a seaside tribe might become known from Greek γαγγαμευς ‘fisher’ and γαγγαμον ‘fishing net’ (of uncertain derivation).  Or the peninsula's shape might resemble Sanskrit jangha ‘shank’.

Notes:  Many of Ptolemy's tribal names were outsiders' descriptions of geography or lifestyle rather than insiders' descriptions of political units, so there is no need to postulate (as here, for example) relatively recent migrations to explain why tribes in widely separate locations bore similar names.  One obvious common feature of the two present regions is that they would have been settled by sea relatively soon after the last Ice Ages.  It they remained culturally different from peoples to the east, as shown by their abundant megaliths, they might have become described as ‘gone away’ people.  That hypothesis might also fit the Koncani of Goa, India, and the Concani of northern Spain.

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Last Edited: 22 October 2016