Attested: Ptolemy Δουμνονιοι; AI iter 15 Isca Dumnoniorum
civi dumnonio; inscription civitas dumnon; inscription civitas dumni;
RC Scadumnamorum; TP Iscadumnoniorum; Gildas Damnonia
Where: A people in the West Country with settlements at Ουολιβα (probably Falmouth), Ουεξελλα (probably Launceston), Ταμαρη (probably Mount Batten), and Ισκα (Exeter).
Name Origin: R&S presented Celticist thinking about *dubno- ‘deep’ and *dumno- ‘world’, without really suggesting how that was relevant to the Dumnonii. Maybe therefore these people were really *Damnonii, named after the rocky Lizard peninsula, and Gildas was using their correct name instead of indulging in his customary word-play. Or maybe their name was related to Δουμνα island and referred
to banks of cloud (or smoke). None of these ideas seems really satisfactory, leaving the way clear for a hypothesis that the Dumnonii were ‘darkies’, because the fundamental meaning of dumno- was ‘dark’, as discussed here. Tacitus famously remarked (Agricola 11) that the Silures (in south Wales) had brownish faces and curly hair, because ancient Iberians had crossed the sea to settle.
Notes: Back in Roman times, most peasants lived and died close to home, so gradients of skin and hair colour would have been relatively sharper than now, so it is entirely possible that future Cornish speakers were visibly darker, in complexion and/or hair, than future English speakers living further east.
Last Edited: 22 June 2016