Sunday 4 December 2016

History: The Celts Search for a Civilization by Alice Roberts

Heron Books €12.99

Published 13/06/2016 | 02:30

Fiction: The Fallout by Margaret Scott
Fiction: The Fallout by Margaret Scott

Anthropologist and TV presenter, Alice Roberts, has an enthusiastic style, even if you are not a science or history nerd, you will find her research and wit compelling. A BBC series ties in with the book. Her journey in search of clues to the people who inhabited Europe in the millennia before Rome cast its long shadow over the continent, takes her around Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

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Hibernia was too cold and wet for the Romans to bother us, we managed to hang on to our Celtic tradition until our neighbours invaded. Roberts notes that the problem with pinning down the Celts as a defined group is that they do not represent a political unity, unlike the Greek and Roman empires. At its most diffuse, the Celts could have been a collection of tribes which shared some common culture, some similar languages and skills, who traded and fought with each other.

There is a curious omission from Greek and Roman accounts describing the widest extent of the Celtic world, no account includes either Britain or Ireland as a land inhabited by Celts. Given the cultural artefacts and DNA of Celtic origin on these shores, these Ancient sources now appear unreliable.

Roberts' conclusion is closer to what many Irish would believe accurate. Her journey across Europe ends at a Celtic music festival in Spiddal, Co Galway. Without finding a clear Celtic origin, it may simply be that some people came to Ireland and Britain in the Bronze Age, bringing the Celtic language with them. Gaelic is one of six Celtic languages. That it remains spoken in Gaeltacht areas, brings us closer to the Celts and suggests that the Celtic language 'grew up' in our Atlantic coastal region.

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