|Publisher||Thames & Hudson|
|Publication Date||June 1, 1994|
Our established impressions of early Celtic Ireland come from the great Irish sagas: epic tales of heroic struggles between kings and warriors, of outlandish gods and wise Druids. But how do these images compare with the evidence revealed by the excavator's trowel? Recent research has transformed our understanding of the period. Reflecting this new generation of scholarship, Professor Barry Raftery presents an up-to-date account yet published of Ireland in the millennium before the coming of Christianity. The transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age in Ireland brought many changes, not least the proliferation of imposing hillforts. New findings indicate that the construction of the country's great royal centres, such as Tara and Emain Macha, coincides with the first appearance of the material culture of the European Celts - so-called La Tene artifacts. The author argues that these were the trappings of a rising elite, which expressed its power in highly visible monuments. Professor Raftery also discusses advances that took place in travel and transport - including the creation of the largest roadway in prehistoric Europe; the lives of the common people; the genius of the local metalsmiths; and the complex religious beliefs exemplified by standing stones and offerings in rivers and lakes. He presents material about Ireland's contacts with the Roman world, and in a final chapter he reviews whether La Tene culture spread to Ireland through invasion or peaceful diffusion.