Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Search of Ancient Ireland: The Origins of the Irish from the Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English by Carmel McCaffrey & Leo Eaton

So much of what people today accept as ancient Irish history - Celtic invaders from Europe who turned Ireland into a Celtic nation; St. Patrick driving the snakes from the country and converting its people to Christianity - is myth and legend with little basis in reality. The truth is more interesting.

The Irish, as Carmel McCaffrey and Leo Eaton show in In Search of Ancient Ireland, are not even Celtic in an archaeological sense. And there were plenty of bishops in Ireland before a British missionary called Patrick arrived.

Most of what we think of as Irish is a product of the nineteenth century. Many times in the past five thousand years Ireland has stood at the heart of European culture. In the middle of the eighth century B.C. it may have been the wealthiest place in Europe.

Ms. McCaffrey and Mr. Eaton trace the history, archaeology, and legends of ancient Ireland from 9000 B.C., when nomadic hunter-gatherers appeared in Ireland at the end of the last Ice Age - to 1167 A.D., when a Norman invasion brought the country under control of the English crown for the first time.

The authors visited monasteries and ring forts, climbed mountains and delved deep into sacred caves, and were accompanied on this journey through the historical landscape by many of Ireland's best-known scholars, historians, archaeologists, poets, and storytellers.

Ireland's ancient past is still filled with many mysteries. But because of a cascade of new archaeological discoveries and new techniques for interpreting them, the truth about this past is coming into sharper focus. This book is replete with new information, some of it at odds with what many Irish descendants believe about their ancestral home.

In Search of Ancient Ireland is not simply the story of events from long ago. Across Ireland today are festivals, places, and folk customs that provide a tangible connection to events thousands of years past. They too are part of the book's link to the past. - Book Jacket

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