Atlas of the Celts

ISBN 13: 9781552975411

Atlas of the Celts

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Atlas of the Celts details (in words, illustrations and maps) the history of the Celts, their expansion, decline and modern revival, their art and religion, and their impact on the Western world. It offers the most comprehensive coverage of the Celts.

The Atlas of the Celts is arranged chronologically and spread-by-spread and there is a special section on Celtic culture (such as jewelry, clothing and mythology). The conclusion discusses some of the recent debates on Celtic identity. The appendices include: a detailed timeline of key dates in Celtic history, an atlas of Celtic sites and museums, a Who's Who in the Celtic world, drawings of Celtic ornaments, glossaries of Celtic terms and names, a gazetteer, and an index.

The Atlas of the Celts includes a foreword by Dr. Barry Raftery, Professor of Celtic Studies at University College Dublin. Dr. Raftery acted as principal consultant editor on the Atlas of the Celts.

Additional consultation was provided by Dr. Jane McIntosh of the University of Cambridge. The consultants have ensured that the Atlas of the Celts is an indispensable reference source for home, school and college use. Its maps, color photographs, artwork and diagrams ensure that it will appeal to everybody who is interested in the enduring history of the Celts.

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About the Author:

edited by Dr. Barry Raftery and Dr. Jane McIntosh

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Foreword

South of Ireland is the Celtic Sea, a sea lacking the oil for which Ireland had hoped. Even without that oil, Ireland's economy is currently booming and has been named after that unlikely beast the 'Celtic Tiger'. But it is not just in Ireland that the 'Celts' loom large. Archaeologists, historians, philologists, anthropologists, art historians, artists, politicians, journalists, book publishers, football teams, druids and witches have all, in varying ways, concerned themselves with 'Celts' or with perceptions of 'Celts'. For many people in parts of northern and western Britain, but in Ireland especially, Celts are today a potent reality, an ancient people who invaded and settled.

In Ireland, priding itself as the last bastion of European 'Celticity', Celts are accepted by all but a few scholars as the immediate ancestors of the Irish. People 'feel' themselves to be Celtic, instinctively and without reservation. In daily life, the Celtic ethos is all pervading. A full page of the commercial section of the Dublin telephone directory lists businesses proudly proclaiming their 'Celticness': Celtic Bookmakers, Celtic Cabs, Celtic Computers, Celtic Corporate Hampers, Celtic Sun Lounges to take a random selection. Celtic is thus a badge of Irishness.

The rigorous scrutiny of modern scholarship, however, has looked askance at such nostalgic oversimplification. Today, there is discussion on the meaning of 'Celticity', especially among specialists in Britain and Ireland. The debate involves three distinct but interrelated components: archaeology, language and the written sources. Each can be studied independent of the other, but only by bringing together the three strands can we aspire to a fuller picture.

The classical sources are quite specific. Greeks, in the 6th century make passing references to Keltoi, a people who existed north of Massilia (modern Marseilles). Romans, some time later, speak of Galli and Gallatae but also Celtae which, as Caesar tells us, was the name by which some of the tribes of Gaul described themselves.

The veracity of the Roman texts, documenting great migrations led by fighting men, is scarcely in doubt. The disastrous attack on Rome, which left a lasting scar on the Roman psyche, and later the attack on Delphi, are not the stuff of fantasy. The thousands of flat cemeteries, spreading from Gaul to the Carpathians, dominated by the burials of heavily armed warriors, cannot be seen as other than the graves of these migrating peoples. So historically attested folk movements across Europe find confirmation in the material record and conventional archaeological dating is in keeping with what we may accept as historical reality.

Thus, two of the three key elements -- history and archaeology -- are seen to coalesce. But what of language? It is surely axiomatic that ultimately, by our own definition, Celts are those who spoke a Celtic language. And here is the kernel of the 'Celtic' problem: even though we can identify migrating peoples both archaeologically and historically we cannot know to what extent the people in question spoke Celtic. Caesar tells us that some of the inhabitants of Gaul called themselves "Celtae", but we cannot be certain what language they spoke. The use of the term in ancient times is quite different from its usage today.

For the term is a modern construct, referring to a family of languages, first recognized by the Scot George Buchanan in the late 16th century. It was purely a linguistic concept, devoid of cultural implications.

We cannot say, therefore, that all those peoples involved in the mass movements were Celts. We can take it that these movements consisted of heterogeneous population, and indeed linguistic, groupings, drawn together from the melting pot of Europe, in pursuit of the common aims of land and plunder. But we do have tribal names and we do have the names of tribal leaders, which can only be seen as Celtic in the linguistic sense. The nature of the evidence is such, however, that often there will be doubt and uncertainty, and it is wrong to regard 'La Tène' and 'Celt' as synonymous just as it is wrong to regard La Tène art as diagnostically Celtic. By the same token, however, those who buried their dead in large, flat cemeteries, who had distinctive weapons and personal ornament and whose high status metalwork was adorned with versions of the pan-European La Tène style of ornamentation, included in their number those who may be termed Celts.

In 1946, T.E O'Rahilly, a distinguished Irish historian, wrote

"No archaeologist by examining an archaeological object -- whether a bone or a brooch, a sword or a sickle -- can possibly tell us that the object in question belonged to one who spoke a particular variety of Celtic".
A mere eight years later, in 1954, an iron sword of Middle La Tène character from Port in Switzerland was found to have the name "KORISOS" in Greek letters stamped on its blade. The name, which we can take as linguistically Celtic, must refer to the owner or, more likely, the sword smith. With this weapon -- a Celtic name on a La Tène sword of the type found widely in Europe, in the graves of the migrating tribes -- archaeology, language and history are in complete harmony.

In Britain and Ireland, Celts are more elusive even though, in certain parts, Celtic dialects survive. In Ireland, indeed, Celtic is the first official language of the State, a compulsory subject in every school, yet at no time, before the first stirrings of 19th-century nationalism, did anybody ever call themselves Celtic.

There is today no convincing archaeological evidence that either island was invaded by Celtic peoples. By contrast, all indications point to continuity from earlier times. But the problem of language persists. Philologists are uncomfortable with the static picture presented by archaeology. The view has been proffered that babies learn from their mothers. According to this thesis, a new language presupposes women, and women must be taken as evidence for the immigration of tribal groupings, not merely armed male freebooters. Thus there is conflict between archaeology and the linguistic evidence, centering critically on the means by which languages spread. This conflict remains to be resolved but might, perhaps, with profit focus on the earliest dating of insular Celtic.

In Ireland and Britain, at any rate, Celts remain, as yet, in the shadows. On the European mainland, however, Celts emerge in the full light of history, as larger-than-life figures of flesh and blood, the first to escape the darkness of the unlettered past. We can picture them readily, from haughty Brennus to doomed Vercingetorix, both of whom entered Rome under very different circumstances. We can see them, uncowed by the great Alexander and hear the sound of trumpets and the clashing of swords at Telamon. These were no mean people who left behind a noble legacy.

The story of the Celts is a story worth telling and this book is such a story.

Barry Raftery
University College Dublin

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