The early Irish Christians were consumed by a curiosity to find out about what happened in their country before the dawn of history and so, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, an effort was made in the so-called to reconstruct the relative succession of the series of peoples who were considered to have invaded the country in prehistoric times.
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It is the archaeology of Ireland's prehistoric period, up to the coming of Christianity, which forms the subject of this book.
In it, an attempt will be made to summarize the present state of research, taking into account the most recent findings and discoveries.
The latest thinking on the astronomical significance of megalithic tombs and the social implications of the great Bronze Age hoards is interwoven with an up-to-date account of the recent major excavations at sites such as Carrowmore, Rathgall and Navan Fort.
The author also looks afresh at the controversial question of when the Celts first arrived in Ireland.
During the Iron Age the Irish Celts produced some of the finest works of craftsmanship in the whole corpus of Celtic art.
Peter Harbison has written the first full-scale survey of Irish prehistory for a general audience to have appeared for a decade.
In order to provide the true date in calendar years, all the radiocarbon dates given in this book ought to be 'calibrated'.
The reason why this calibration has not been carried out automatically throughout the text here is that it has not yet proved possible to calibrate all the radiocarbon years accurately on a sliding scale.
Because prehistory - by its very nature - has to deal with speculations, it is natural that the views of archaeologists will conflict, and it is only by weighing up the pros and cons that one can come to the most probable solution to any problem in prehistory, where the absence of writing makes it difficult to make the mute stones speak.