In Ptolemy's Geography (Book II, Chapter 2)
"Next to the Damnoni, but more toward the east near
the Epidium promontory are the Epidi and next to these the Cerones;
then the Carnonacae, and the Caereni but more toward the east."
Cerones (or Creones), Carnonacae and Caereni?
Ptolemy was probably doing the best he could but that seems to be far too
coincidental. What three tribes would sit side by side and calmly tolerate
nearly identical names? Given Celtic pride issues, that would be absurd.
Three more likely possibilities present themselves:
- The three have a common origin as a single
tribe. They knew they had a common origin, and didn't mind the similarity
in names because they knew they were all one tribe under different rulers.
- The area north from Argyll was occupied by
one single tribe, not three. Due to
variations in pronunciation by everyone involved, Ptolemy
misunderstood his data and wrote down the three versions he
received as three tribes, not one.
- The tribe(s) lived in a region which
already had such a name, and adopted it
in various pronunciations.
If one reads Ptolemy and places the tribes on a map
you get a series of four, not three, tribes with similar sounding names (south
to north up the western coast of Scotland): Cerones/Creones, Carnonacae,
It seems highly possible that the Cornavii were probably
a branch of the same tribe that inhabited western Cornwall and a district in Britanny.
Not far from them, Ptolemy reports a tribe of Decantae (of, or from, the Cantae, a
possible offshoot of of the Cantiaci in Kent). If one reads historical records of
the migrations of German tribes that split into fragments and travelled all the way
from one end of Europe to the other, and farther, then it is no stretch of the
imagination to assume that the Cantiaci could have done the same.
The tribal area would approximately encompass the
north-west Highlands, starting around northern Argyll and Mull, and
extending some distance up the coast (perhaps opposite Skye and
including Skye itself), and an unknown distance eastwards into the interior.
A Pictish hanging bowl from the sixth or seventh century, a
product of later Pictland which included the Highlands and the
tribal territory of the Creones and their neighbours