Shared Origins

At least two centuries before the great boulders of Stonehenge were placed on a windswept Salisbury Plain, and over 500 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza rose from the deserts of Egypt, Neolithic architects in the Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne) were laying the foundations of one of the most studied structures of the ancient world.
An imposing earthen mound in County Meath (an Mhí), its original name has been lost to the jealous mists of history. But the legacy of middle age Cistercian farming practices provided the tag that it has today, Newgrange.
In its most elementary guise, Newgrange can be regarded as a passage tomb and an impressive illustration of Neolithic structural design. But on a more refined level, Newgrange is revealed as a highly-charged site of much debated pre-Christian spirituality, a sunlight trap on Winter Solstice, and as an exhibit of some of the finest examples of ancient Irish art; including intricate stone carvings of spirals known as the triskele or triskelion.
Given the connection between Newgrange and the Solstice, it is mused that the meaning of the triskelion is solar. But the artwork has assumed more widely celebrated connotations over the centuries, and is not only regarded as one of the most famous examples of ancient Irish art, but an iconic symbol of the Ireland the island.
It is important to remember that this comes from a culture that not only pre-dates Christianity in Ireland, but also the arrival of the Celts around 400 BC.
The pre-Christian triskelion, however, is not alone. From the fifth century BC until 100 AD, the La Tène culture of art swept post-Iron Age Europe, incorporating and developing much of the artistic nuances seen at places such Newgrange. The most famous examples of spiral-influenced La Tène art can be found at the Turoe Stone in County Galway (Contae na Gaillimhe) and the Castlestrange stone in County Roscommon (Contae Ros Comáin).
By now Ireland was a highly-active ‘Celtic’ nation defined by its pagan religion and symbolic interrelation of society, ritual and art. And it was during this time of great cultural exchange that some of the most influential elements of shared Irish, Scottish and Welsh culture still evident today would emerge.
According to the legends of Irish mythology, a woman named Brigid, daughter of Dagda and a member of the pre-Celtic Tuatha Dé Danann, emerged to become the goddess of inspiration and poetry, hearth, healing and midwifery. Such was her importance that when Christianity eventually did come to Ireland c. 5th century AD, she was incorporated wholesale along with the majority of her prior aspects in the persona of St Brigit of Kildare; one of Celtic Christianity’s most celebrated saints even outside Ireland.
But it was in the north of the island that a Celtic, pre-Christian symbol emerged that would go on to have an even greater impact on the joint history of Ireland than that of Brigid. According to myth, the  Red Hand of Ulster – tragically reviled by some - was originally the symbolic celebration of an early king of the province winning the rights to the crown from a rival. Not only had it nothing to do with Protestant ascendancy, but it was later used as a marker by the O’Neill (Uí Néill) clan who resisted Tudor and Elizabethan designs on Ireland. 
But the Red Hand is not  alone as a symbol of pre-Christian Ireland that has been erroneously co-opted to assume prescribed sectarian connotations. The Celtic harp (Clàrsach/Cláirseach/clàrsach Ghàidhealach)has long been associated with Irish nationalism but in reality it is not unique to that view nor even to Ireland being a prominent element in Welsh, Breton, and Scottish cultures also and is in fact another element of shared origins and cultural exchange. Even the most iconic of ‘Irish harps’, the National symbol of Ireland, the Trinity college Harp (Brian Boru’s Harp), is thought to have been hand-crafted in, or near, Argyll in western Scotland c. 14th or 15th century and bears the coat of arms of the O’Neills, whose stronghold during that period was in Ulster.
Likewise, the Celtic knot, to use a very loose, but suitably descriptive term, is often assumed to be a show of modern Irish nationalism, but has no true connection. Knots originated around 450 AD, and became central to pre-Christian Celtic design in Britain as well as across Europe. In Scotland, the artistic traditions of the Picts built upon the La Tène cultures to create sharp, angular knot patterns, while the Irish crafted smoother, more circular designs. But this is by no means a hard and fast rule, for as La Tène and later artworks spread, local artists borrowed and traded from other British tribes to create a fluid interchange of culture that created not only distinctly Irish styles, but was also part of a wider inclusive artistic heritage.
With the onset of Christianity, Irish artists manipulated existing artistic styles to incorporate the newly-arrived Christian symbolism. So far did the Irish interpret and mould Christian practices that by the early Dark Ages, Rome was forced to send papal delegates to Ireland to correct what had become an almost unrecognisable form of ‘Celtic Christianity’.
Into this environment of incorporation, trade and tribal interaction stepped a man that has gone on to embody the island of Ireland. Born a Roman in the area of modern Carlisle, Saint Patrick is now celebrated the world over as the most Irish of Irish. But with Saint Patrick begins a troubling legacy of religious intolerance, arguably born from a disregard for long established Druidic practice.
But Patrick is by no means the origin of the sectarian troubles of today. On the contrary, Patrick allows for Irish people the world over to find common ground behind symbols such as the triskelion, Ulster’s Red Hand, the knots and the harp, for these are all shared markers of Irishness, whether of four province descent, Scots or otherwise. This phenomenon can be identified in the modern celebration of St Patrick ’s Day. Seen less often as a Christian Saint’s feast day and increasingly as a secular holiday, March 17 brings people together the world over simply to celebrate being Irish or of Irish descent.
In this light, it is fair to propose that the problems of the modern day are disconnected from the most recognisable symbols of Irish culture. Most of the symbols in question pre-date the sectarianism that originated with the divide and conquer policies of post-Norman rule, and has only in relatively recent history been ascribed to such symbols.  
But there is a wind of change. The recent attendance of Peter Robinson at a GAA match with current colleague and former foe, Martin McGuiness (Máirtín Mag Aonghusa), and the latter’s visit to Windsor Park for the first time since 1964, demonstrates how the divisive tools of history can be overcome with an advanced understanding of place, past and modern context. As Mr Robinson reflected, ‘I have consistently been saying that we have to get away from the ‘them and us’ politics. We have to be able to show respect for each other’s traditions so it’s good to be here.’
Our aim is not to dissuade people from using these symbols, nor to challenge the authenticity or integrity of the symbols themselves, but rather to demonstrate through an examination of their origins that the idea they are the sole preserve of any one ‘type’ of Irish, is in a word, erroneous. Just as Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson was able to enjoy and show his support for Irish sport in the form of Gaelic football (Peil Ghaelach), so should all of these symbols and more be enjoyed and celebrated by all Irishmen. They are ‘Irish’ symbols, incorporating elements borrowed from other cultures, and belong equally to all the inhabitants of this island as a celebration of the shared origins of its people.

 

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  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Nice piece: well-written, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Be proud of it, sir!

    As one who lives in the Anglo-Irish half-world (and I don’t ride a horse), I’ve been loud in my appreciation of the weekly Saturday fix Fintan O’Toole, courtesy of the Irish Times gives us of A History of Ireland in 100 Objects.

    I assume we’ll get the book version late next year. If it sells as well as Neil McGregor’s Ur-version, that’ll do very nicely.

    As Of this Island implies: we have come a long way, but there’s a long way further to go.

  • salgado

    Nice article. Are there any books or articles you would recommend for further reading on pre-celtic Ireland?

    (or even pre-celtic Britain)

  • carl marks

    I mustagree with Malcolm well eritten and interesting peice.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    Evening all,

    Thanks for the kind words, its a tricky subject to unravel…

    We are also fans of 100 Objects, and look forward to a book in the near future.

    As for reading materials, have a gander at Britain AD by Francis Pryor. It is a good general overview; is there anything in particular you were keen to learn about? We have a whole ream of books we would be happy to recommend, but don’t want to overwhelm you!

    Cheers!

  • salgado

    Thanks! That’s probably a good start. I’ve been reading a bit about the bronze age in the middle east, but I’m not too familiar with that era in this corner of the world.

    A popular overview is fine with me!

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    Our pleasure. We will be posting some more historical articles in the not too distant future (although our next one is scheduled to be a social one – or so the writer in question tells us).

    Do keep in touch, and we will advise and recommend further bits as and when you need them.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “some of the most influential elements of shared Irish, Scottish and Welsh culture still evident today would emerge.”

    Might as well throw English culture into the mix eg Brigantes in south-east Ireland and northern England.

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    Would the “Of This Island – an independent, unaffiliated and non-profit group of academics.” care to tell us who they are? Or indeed do *they* exist? As ‘Our Aim’ is declared manifesto-like, it should be possible to be in the open.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    Nevin,

    Fair and astute observation.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    The Dissenter,

    We refer you to our blog profile, but here is a blurb for your consideration:

    We are a group and have multiple writers with varied opinions on matters, though we do work in consultation with one another. While we don’t have a collective agenda, we do hold individual opinions which we would be happy to clarify if asked. We have an ethos of respecting the opinions of others regardless of whether we agree or disagree, attempting to look at issues through an academic lens wherever possible (though we do not require essays be academic in nature).

    Pleased to meet you, what is your background?

  • salgado

    thedissenter – that’s been discussed a bit in the other thread. A bit more information (or even a few different psuedonyms to distinguish different writers in the group) would be nice, but I don’t think it’s coming.

    I do sort of expect their replies to contain the phrase “we are legion”.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    OTI, I wouldn’t be surprised if London, England, and Dunlewy, Donegal, share the same solar god, Lugh.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    Nevin,

    Very possible, and daresay likely!

    He is probably also the same as Lleu Llaw Gyffes of Wales (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lugus), and the ‘European’ Lugus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lleu_Llaw_Gyffes).

    He is debatably the focus of one of the most widespread ‘Celtic’ cults, alongside Brigit/Brigid/Brigantia, from which the Brigantes, whom you mentioned above, may take their name.

  • lamhdearg2

    salgado, visit “The Ireland story bookshop” books on pre 1600.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    OTI, sharing and separation have gone hand-in-hand. Just look at all the tribal groupings and the Black Pig’s dyke.

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    Firstly, the piece was a very good read.

    I note that plenty of comments above have praised it and I support the aim of the author, which is to help people to move away from negative sectarian associations with Irish symbols. However, I do have criticisms to make. There are important points that were not included in the piece.

    Firstly, there is the ‘Elephant in the Room’. It is called the Irish Language, which is by far the worst example of sectarianisation of a part of Irish culture. Peter Robinson, whom you rightly praised for his more recent overtures, has yet to make amends in that direction (you may recall that just over two years ago, he was brutally hostile towards it).

    If you wish to talk about the ‘divide and rule’ policies post Norman conquest, how can you ignore the role of the Church. The feast of St. Brigid, which you have highlighted, is a classic example of how the Church hijacked ancient Celtic customs for its own purposes.

    If you wish to talk about Irish symbols being tainted by sectarianism, why limit the discussion to Irish symbols? The essay would have been more complete and informative had it included a discussion about why non-Irish symbols had become hijacked by sectarianism. The poppy is one obvious one which springs to mind.

    I like the theme. I agree with the conclusion but you are open to criticism for pursuing too narrow an agenda.

  • qwerty12345

    We are all immigrants. We are all interconnected, for better or worse. Far too many hold much too tightly to narrow versions of “self”

    The Atlantean series from some years ago on RTE was very interesting in that it looked at links between Ireland and other areas along Europe and north Africas atlantic seaboard. A really fascinating series and book throwing up ideas about common heritage which have in later years been somewhat supported by DNA studies.

    In some areas of the west of ireland the bodhran is still played with the hand instead of a stick – like frame drums like the tar from north Africa. As for “celtic” knotwork – theres some suggestion that this was lifted wholesale from berber art.

    I remember being at the visitor centre at Navan fort once and seeing the skulls of barbary apes on display that had been recovered from a nearby tar pit. Whoever we “Irish” are “we” have influenced and been influenced for a long long long time.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    Evening all,

    @ Nevin: Thanks for that, we gobbled it up like pigs with truffles. ;) We certainly ascribe to this notion, and in no way wish to imply that they were a utopian society joyfully Riverdancing through the hills (apologies, the writers shared a beer earlier).

    Yes, it should be absolutely understood that the various tribes and kingdoms certainly did war with one another on a fairly much constant basis. To this end, one could argue that this is also part of a shared culture, where things like this were often part of life.

    @ Seymour Major: Absolutely. We couldn’t agree more. And this could be extended infinitely to all elements of Irish culture; but that would require a book! (And we’ve already been accused of writing posts that are too long!)

    But yes, good point well made, and perhaps we will expand upon it in future. Your ideas are always welcome. Cheers.

    @ Qwerty: Informative and engaging anecdotes following the theme of this thread, thanks for that. Something we found rather interesting was Trinity College Dublin’s DNA study which suggests that the Irish and other ‘Celtic’ peoples on these islands were not ‘Celts’ at all, but rather people of Galician descent. It was published several years ago in The American Journal of Human Genetics, but we are sure it could still be found via the Internet or certainly a good library database.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, “the great boulders of Stonehenge” were probably not the first markers “placed on a windswept Salisbury Plain”.

    “the arrival of the Celts around 400 BC”?

    The art may have been influenced at that time, but “arrival”? In what way? Doesn’t that remain an area of discussion?

    “By now Ireland was a highly-active ‘Celtic’ nation defined by its pagan religion and symbolic interrelation of society, ritual and art. And it was during this time of great cultural exchange that some of the most influential elements of shared Irish, Scottish and Welsh culture still evident today would emerge.”

    Ah, ‘Celtic’, with inverted commas. But since neither the Irish, Scottish or Welsh culture of the time could be differentiated why exclude the English at this point? There are surely still some shared elements within all of the archipelagic cultures evident today? Obviously those cultures where other now-European or Norse influences have impacted also have other elements to share.

    “But there is a wind of change.”

    Is there? Is there, really.

    “The recent attendance of Peter Robinson at a GAA match with current colleague and former foe, Martin McGuiness (Máirtín Mag Aonghusa), and the latter’s visit to Windsor Park for the first time since 1964, demonstrates how the divisive tools of history can be overcome with an advanced understanding of place, past and modern context.”

    Leaving aside the gratuitous Gaelicisation of Martin McGuinness’ name – whatever happened to respecting what people call themselves? – the comparison is simply not valid. Peter Robinson’s first attendance at a GAA match, compared with Martin McGuinness’ continued support for Derry City?

    And I thought we had already established that, despite your repeated protests to the contrary, you do, in fact, have an agenda.

  • http://ansionnachfionn.com/ An Sionnach Fionn

    On the issue of the “arrival” of the Celtic speaking peoples in Ireland can I recommend “Celtic from the West: Alternative Perspectives from Archaeology, Genetics, Language and Literature” edited by Barry Cunliffe and John T. Koch (Oxbow Books, 2010), which presents the latest theories in the areas of archaeology, linguistics, genetics, etc.

    The essays in the book place the emergence of the Celtic peoples firmly within the “Atlantic Zone” of Western and North-Western Europe (modern Portugal, Spain, north-western France, Britain and Ireland) during the Bronze Age. Rather than accepting the old (and increasingly creaky) theory of a Central European origin for the Celts historians like Cunliffe and Koch argue for a Western European source, a development in situ in those territories that continued to be regarded as traditionally Celtic up to the historic era. Both authors, and an increasing number of multi-disciplinary academics, see “the Celts” emerging from the farming and trading communities along the western coasts of Europe and the Iberian Peninsula, c.2000-1000 BC.

    In fact Cunliffe tentatively suggests an even earlier date of between 5000 and 3000 BC for the earliest signs of a Proto-Celtic speech derived from one or more Indo-European dialects, possibly in Iberia, and links this to the spread of agriculture and the beginning of the Neolithic era in Europe. This would indicate a broad continuity in language, culture and society between the Megalithic peoples of Western Europe (including the builders of Stonehenge and Brú na Bóinne or Newgrange) and those Celtic-speaking peoples who are recorded in historical times as occupying much the same territory in the Atlantic Zone.

    However, some critics believe the “split” in the western branches of the Indo-European dialects could not have occured so early, though they allow for the possibility that the “Celts” represent the dialectal group most closely associated with, and perhaps culturally/linguistically descended from, those populations regarded as Megalithic in nature.

    The various chapters in the book are fascinating, though I admit they are quiet complex and perhaps better suited for those readers with some knowledge of Celtic studies in general. The main drawback, unfortunately, is the price. It’s a sad state of affairs that those books dealing with Irish and Celtic studies from a professional, academic background are so expensive and difficult to get when populist books (“Sacred Druid Mysteries of the Ancient Celts”) are so cheap, and so readily available.

    This simply adds to the needless misunderstanding and confusion around the subject.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ An Sionnach Fionn: Some really intriguing and helpful comments there. We are keen to follow up your literary suggestions. Out of interest, what are your thoughts on the Beaker people and the role they had within this cultural spread?

    We look forward to hearing back from you.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “your literary suggestions”

    OTI, here’s one to ponder, the meaning of Scotti. Now the Greek skotos and skotia relate to darkness and obscurity but it you link them to Alban (white, light) then Alban and Scotti might just be markers of the east and the west, the islands of the rising and of the setting sun – as viewed from a Mediterranean peoples’ perspective.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @Nevin.
    That is a very interesting hypothesis, thank you for presenting it. It is precisely clouded areas of history such as this that leave any historian of this period wishing there were greater numbers of primary sources!

    Due to the debated nature of the word’s origins, Scotti is intended in the traditional way to represent the Roman blanket term used to describe the Irish tribes who raided their settlements.

    All we do know for sure is that the Romans referred to some Irish tribes as the Scotti, and it is generally accepted that this is the origin of the name Scotland.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoti

  • Drumlins Rock

    To talk of a Celtic DNA is often derided, but have a look at this map I came across on wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Distribution_Haplogroup_R1b_Y-DNA_version_2.gif

    It certainly indicates an”old european” pattern. Although the North African connection looks weak there. Have to say I was in Morocco last year and did feel some connection with Berber areas, I suspect there is at least some interaction.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ Drumlins Rock,

    Most intriguing! What led you to uncovering this map?

    Agreed, the ‘Celtic’ DNA issue is a tricky one, but the more evidence and thoughts that can be gathered, the better.

    Would you be willing to share your experiences in Morocco? We would be keen to learn more, as well as any further thoughts you have on the matter of DNA.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Hold it right there! Let’s not go chasing Latin or Greek roots for anything Scot or Celt (you’d better wait for that one).

    The OED has a long consideration of the origin of Scot. It’s too long for this dialogue box, but begins:

    from post-classical Latin Scottus, Scotus (late 4th cent.; from 5th cent. in British sources denoting the inhabitants of Ireland; frequently from 8th cent. in British sources denoting inhabitants of Scotland), of uncertain origin (see below). Compare Old Frisian Skotta , Middle Dutch Schotte , Scot (Dutch Schot), Middle Low German Schotte , all in sense ‘inhabitant of Scotland’, Old High German Scotton (plural) inhabitants of Ireland or perhaps Scotland (Middle High German Schotte inhabitant of Scotland, inhabitant of Ireland, German Schotte inhabitant of Scotland), Old Icelandic Skotar (plural) inhabitants of Scotland (in one source also ‘inhabitants of Ireland’), Old Swedish skate (Swedish skotte), Danish skotte (already in early modern Danish); also Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French Escot (c1139), Catalan †Escot (15th cent.), both in sense ‘inhabitant of Scotland’. Compare also Byzantine Greek Σκότοι (4th cent. in an apparently isolated attestation, from Latin).

    In short, if you’re “Scots”, you are accepting you are essentially defined by Brits as being not “one of us”.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    There are kinships of blood as indicated by DNA; there are also kinships of language, music, art, religion and place. The interweaving of all of these can range from the stable to the volatile with the changes ebbing and flowing over time. What is isn’t what was or what will be.

    Coalitions come and go depending on the interests and needs of the various parties. George Hill’s ‘Macdonnells of Antrim’ is an interesting exploration of the interplay of Hebridean, Irish, Scottish and English alliances, not least their fickleness.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ Malcolm: difficult to argue with that! Do you, therefore, dismiss the notion of the ‘Mediterranean Scotti’?

    @Nevin: Please keep them coming! We have just ordered Macdonnells of Antrim from Amazon and look forward with eager anticipation to devouring it!

    You raise a valuable point about kinships that – we hope – continues with the themes raised in the main piece.

    Loving the, “not least their fickleness”, description!

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Malcolm, the roots of my thesis predate this OED mithering :)

    My old friend Charlie Shott’s ancestors may have migrated from Portrush to Scotland, then on to Holland and back again :)

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    When the OED tackled Celt, it made the same connections.

    It throws up Rhŷs, Celtic Britain (1884) [f]or conjectures as to a possible derivation.

    The OED offers a warning that Strabo’s Κέλται is probably a steal from Latin Celtae. Stabo is, after all abt. 63 BC — abt. AD 24, so doesn’t push any dating back pre-Caesar in Gaul. Then the OED adds:

    The Κελτοί of the Greeks, also called Γαλάται, Galatæ, appear to have been the Gauls and their (continental) kin as a whole; by Cæsar the name Celtæ was restricted to the people of middle Gaul (Gallia Celtica), but most other Roman writers used it of all the Galli or Gauls, including the peoples in Spain and Upper Italy believed to be of the same language and race; the ancients apparently never extended the name to the Britons.

    So, to Caesar (who, bless his corrupt little heart, was actually there), Celts were Gauls, but not all Gauls were Celts.

    It gets more entertaining when we come to the more modern usage of “Celt”:

    This modern use began in French, and in reference to the language and people of Brittany, as the presumed representatives of the ancient Gauls: with the recognition of linguistic affinities it was extended to the Cornish and Welsh, and so to the Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic. Celtic adj. has thus become a name for one of the great branches of the Aryan family of languages (see Celtic adj.); and the name Celt has come to be applied to any one who speaks (or is descended from those who spoke) any Celtic language. But it is not certain that these constitute one race ethnologically; it is generally held that they represent at least two ‘races’, markedly differing in physical characteristics. Popular notions, however, associate ‘race’ with language, and it is common to speak of the ‘Celts’ and ‘Celtic race’ as an ethnological unity having certain supposed physical and moral characteristics, especially as distinguished from ‘Saxon’ or ‘Teuton’.

    The OED‘s earliest citation for that application is 1703, by Paul-Yves Pezron, a Cistercian from Brittany, making a political point of the common origins of Bretons and Welsh. Pezron was translated into English by David Jones, 1706, but his notions are generally described as “enthusiastic”. William Ferguson, in The Identity of the Scottish Nation (see especially Chapter 5) reckons that George Buchanan (1506-1582) had got there long before.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    This is all very entertaining, Malcolm. The mutation of words is little more than indigestion caused by the movement of the vowels through the bowels – and the consonants too.

    Take the Scottish ‘kilt’, change the ‘k’ to a ‘qu’ and you’ve got a ‘quilt’ – or padded tunic; IIRC the Time Team found a padded tunic during its excavations on Islay. A Norwegian relative views the current kilt as a member of the plaid family that also existed in Norway. She also equated the ‘ganzie’ (sweater) with the Norse ‘genser’.

  • ayeYerMa

    DR, tha link you posted is merely looking at the distribution of one very specific gene. The galacian theory has been largely discredited by subsequent genetic studies, and when the overall genome is considered Ireland essentially has a common genome with the rest of the British Isles.

    There is an interesting thread at:
    http://www.politics.ie/forum/history/167482-orahillys-historical-model.html

  • lamhdearg2

    pete, thanks.

  • ayeYerMa

    Indeed, we need more threads like this to challenge preconceptions. One though left unchallenged in the original pirece is this notion of “four provinces”. Hmm, defined by that arch-enemy, the Tudor conquerors, to make the map look pretty by dividing the island symmetrically and with little administrative purpose, but ironically upheld by Irish Nationalism as the ideal model for the island’s governance in their fantasies.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ayeYerMa: fair point concerning the provinces. However, pre-Norman Ireland DID have provinces, albeit in a much more fluid sense. (for a brief overview, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_Ireland)

    In the case of the Red Hand, the article refers to the O’Neill/Uí Néill concept of the ‘province’ of Ulster. I hope that clears it up.

  • ayeYerMa

    Seymour Major, the “Irish language” receives more than enough funding already, so I’m not exactly sure what more you can want. With the whole “Every word of Irish spoken is like another bullet being fired in the struggle for Irish freedom” mentality thrusted endlessly by its proponents, then I don’t know how you can deem the opposition to using a 1950s Dublin-modified reincarnation of a dead language for political means as “sectarian”.

    If we were to take the politics of Irish Nationalism out of the equation, should we not also be questioning the relevance of this Dublin language to life in 2012 in Ulster? Or would the more local Ulster forms of Old Gaelic (or Gaelic beyond the shores of the geography of Irelan) be more relevant? Or indeed does Old Gaelic even really have more cultural relevance to modern life than other dead languages such as Old English, Old Norse or Norman French?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nevin, the Norse/North European influence is equally important, whether in DNA or culturally is the question.

    OTI, have heard a few good talks at our local history group on DNA, one from an O’Neill and another by Prof Mark Thomas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_G._Thomas, still hav’nt got my own done yet, my family name is ancient Scots, by tradition one of the old Pict families, who knows if the reality bears out the tradition! I found the map by trawling through Wiki, sad I know, but fasinating, the picture is slowly building up.

    As for Morocco, was only there 2 weeks, and most of that was round Marakech or on the coast, it is obvious that the dispite centuries of assimilation Berber culture and arts are vastly different from Arabic. Architecturally their homes look out not in,and designs are more geometric. The word Cashbah struck me as similar to Cashel for essentially the same structure. It is hard to pin point anything in such a short period, I just knew I felt more “at home” in berber areas.

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    @ Of This Island – thedissenter is an individual not a group and represents no opinion but that of an individual. If ‘Of This Island’ is a group, why so reticent about stating the membership of that group. Not really credible as a ‘group’ unless it is clear that ‘a group’ exists. No evidence to suggest that such a group does exist, other than a few statements to that end presented by whoever needs us to believe such a group exists – self fulfilling, but hardly illuminating.

  • between the bridges

    island of the collective ”They are ‘Irish’ symbols, incorporating elements borrowed from other cultures, and belong equally to all the inhabitants of this island as a celebration of the shared origins of its people.” would the collective or the individual who wrote the piece include St Patrick’s satire/cross in this?

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ DR: Thank you for sharing your impressions and experiences. They are genuinely fascinating, and we will take a look at Moroccan art/social-history with your conclusions in mind. We will also have a look at the works of Prof. Thomas. Thanks for that. Keep it coming!

    @ The Dissenter: pleased to meet you. Our writers wish to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons, hence why they are unwilling to assume sub-pseudonyms. The OTI platform allows them to discuss, study and write about subjects that interest us as a group pertaining to Ireland the geographical island. We do not seek individual acclaim and indeed often work together on various essays if more than one writer expresses an interest. We share some of them publicly simply to try to engage a wider group of people in a mature, respectful, sometimes scholarly, and hopefully interesting discussion for our own enjoyment. Additionally, and this is probably the point that is being driven at, we are not a political or religious organisation, nor are we affiliated with anyone. We do not actively seek members, nor do we seek to ‘convert’ others on any matter whatsoever.

    Not really sure why that is a problem, sorry if folks don’t like it but that is what we do and who we are. After all, we don’t compel anyone to read what we write, that is up to the individual.

    @ Between the Bridges: That is a very good question. While it is origins are contested – some scholars argue that the saltire is a relatively modern symbol of British origin – and the spectrum of feelings it arouses among various groups, we would say only that if an individual/group existing in Ireland sees it as an intrinsic part of their self-definition of ‘Irishness’ (again in the island sense not the two nations sense) than yes, it is a part of Irish culture; how much importance it deserves is up to the individual/group in question.

    For the purposes of this essay however we are specifically discussing symbols of a more antiquated origin onto which sectarian ideas have been more recently (recent in the grand scheme of history that is) grafted. The St Patrick’s Saltier stems from the ‘early modern period’.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    As the above might hint, I’m a wee bit uncomfortable about this thread’s development. That might be because I’ve frequently been denounced (unfairly, I believe) as “West Brit”, and/or I’ve noted who is today’s saint. Above all, it’s because the whole notion of “Celticism” is an artefact, and one of recent vintage: for that reason alone, I noted and welcomed the use of inverted commas in By now Ireland was a highly-active ‘Celtic’ nation defined by its pagan religion and symbolic interrelation of society, ritual and art (seventh paragraph of the headline essay).

    I severely doubt that the plain people of Ireland, before or during most of the Christian era, congratulated themselves on being Celts, or indeed having a definitive, all-embracing national identity. I strongly suspect that the lot, whoever they were, across the next hill or bog were “foreigners”, somehow “different” to us decent folk, and therefore not to be trusted.

    Such manufactured distinctions are still with us, as Of this Island‘s peroration shows. They were done over, as far back as Swift’s Tramecksan and Slamecksan, not to forget the pertinent bit about:

    It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; but his present majesty’s grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown. These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire. It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end.

    Geddit?

    However, at the risk of subverting one of the best discussions here for a while, allow me to thank all and sundry. Mental exercise is always welcome. One meditative side-effect, as I was coping with the chores of a retired lifestyle (i.e. passing acquaintance with the ironing-board and a vacuum cleaner), was an ironic exclamation leapt to mind:

    He’s English! He’s English! As English as you’ve seen!

    All I could recall was the rhyme in the next line:

    … and more from Stephen’s Green.

    I spent some time firing up the synapses. Kipling? Nah! Chesterton? Hardly! Who then?

    (Look away now, unless you want to cheat.)

    Dominic Behan’s ballad of Arkle.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @Malcolm Redfellow: Thank you for offering your considered insights on our essay. We agree with you wholeheartedly about the nature of ‘Celticism; and ‘Celts’ as well as your conclusions with regard to how the ‘plain people of Ireland’ likely would not have self-identified as such. That phenomenon is one that, in historical terms, is assigned firmly to the early-modern and- more usually- the modern eras whereby ancient symbols and objects (amongst other things) have been co-opted out of context to reflect modern ideas. The idea of a ‘Celtic people’ is indeed a relatively modern construct, hence our use of the inverted commas, which you rightly note, throughout. As you yourself said, “Mental exercise is always welcome.” That is the main thrust behind OTI, this essay and what we hope will be the direction taken as this thread continues to develop.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    So Did Disraeli get it wrong in response to O’Connell?

    Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ Articles: it all comes down to the defintion of ‘savage’ and whose geography the ‘unknown’ relates to. The ancient Irish certainly considered their culture advanced, and probably the best example known to them. And as for being unknown, Ireland was certainly known in the wider context from at least Roman times; the ancient Irish themselves never having considered Ireland as an ‘unknown’.

    But this abstract answer is certainly not what you are looking for…

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    articles @ 5:10 pm:

    Let’s help out the ignorant here.

    As I recollect that little spat comes from 1836. Disraeli, having flirted with the Radicals for at least three elections at Wycombe, turned his coat to Tory. He then denounced O’Connell as a “traitor and incendiary”.

    I’d need to look up the sequence of events, but Disraeli called out O’Connell’s son, in lieu of the father. The duel was prevented by the police. Disraeli was bound over to keep the peace.

    O’Connell had fought a previous, and fatal, duel. He had described the administration in Dublin as “beggarly” (which, to my mind, seems a mild description — we are talking of Lord Liverpool as Premier). John D’Esterre — a notorious duellist — called O’Connell out. O’Connell resisted, but D’Esterre persisted. The two met at Bishop’s Court Demesne, 1st Feb 1815. O’Connell’s ball lodged in D’Esterre body, with death following two days later.

    The legend is that, ever after, O’Connell would wrap his right hand in a handkerchief before entering a place of worship, lest it offend the Almighty.

    Sorry: definitely off-topic.

  • between the bridges

    OTI, indeed so in the collectives opinion we should all accept the pre planter symbolism ‘in an island sense not the two nations sense’!! anyway i enjoyed the article and the agenda has a much better disguise than the OO blog…

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    @ Of the Island ‘that is what we do and who we are’ does not explain what you do or who you are. On the basis so far, academic is certainly a pretention.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Oh, for crying out loud, the dissenter, does it really matter?

    There’s a decent discussion been going on here, and you seek ulterior motives.

    Either shape up, or ship out.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @Malcolm Redfellow : A very succinct overview of the background to this infamous quote and not off topic at all! We are familiar with this exchange and if we remember correctly (it has been quite a while since the bad old days of University) it was O’Connell who jumped the gun (please forgive the pun) and first publicly called into question Disraeli’s character when he saw press reports (and we know how reliable those are!) that Disraeli had called him a ‘traitor and incendiary.’ As far as we know there never was nor is more than hearsay to back up whether Disraeli said these words or not. One area of history in which we can never truly know the start but only how things progressed from there.

    And now back to the article or at least it’s content: ancient Ireland. We sought to offer a possible answer to Disraeli’s statement through an academic lens. What are your thoughts on whether ancient Ireland (or indeed England, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall for that matter) were barbaric and uncultured as Disraeli implies?

    @articles: What are your thoughts on the implications of Disraeli’s statement?

  • salgado

    Of This Island – there isn’t really an objective definition of “barbaric” or “uncultured”.

    One could perhaps look at the complexity of the economy, artwork or literature, but even then you are likely to use a set of standards defined by one culture to judge another culture. It seems like a very victorian statement.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ Salgado: absolutely in agreement (see our own answer to this question first posed by @articles above), and considering Victoria was crowned only two years later, its as near to being a Victorian statement as it comes! :)

    But in the context of the time in question, ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncultured’ is even more hazy than current attempts at objectivity (again, as you correctly pointed out).

    Perhaps Malcolm’s comment, ‘I strongly suspect that the lot, whoever they were, across the next hill or bog were “foreigners”, somehow “different” to us decent folk, and therefore not to be trusted’ is most apt for quoting in this instance.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Of This Island @ 7:42 pm:

    What are your thoughts on whether ancient Ireland (or indeed England, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall for that matter) were barbaric and uncultured as Disraeli implies?

    Sorry: I don’t want to go there, at least not on this thread.

    Suffice it that Disraeli was pandering to the Carlton Club types, who financed his Taunton by-election. Not much changes in Tory politics.

    Now for a thread on the history of anti-Irish stereotypes? One starting point might be David Quinn’s The Elizabethans and the Irish (Cornell, 1966). As I recall, that deals with Spenser’s diatribes; but also nods at:
    ¶ Marlowe in Edward II (the wild O’Neill, with swarms of Irish savages);
    ¶ Shakespeare in Richard II (rough, rug-headed kernes);
    ¶ Thomas Dekker — but, please don’t invite me to revisit The Shoemaker’s Holiday or Tis a Pity. Life’s too short.
    ¶ And of Ben Jonson’s Irish Masque, with Dennisse, Donnell, Dermock, Patrick, least said the better.

    So Disraeli was pursuing nearly a quarter-millennium of English fear and abuse of all things Irish. What should one expect?

  • Dewi

    “Of This Island – there isn’t really an objective definition of “barbaric” or “uncultured”.

    Yes there is – anyone who ain’t Welsh! – Nos Da!

  • http://ansionnachfionn.com/ An Sionnach Fionn

    @Of This Island,

    The Beaker Folk! One of the most hotly debated subjects in European pre-history. Theories in relation to the spread of the Beaker culture have ranged far and wide, from the old “invasion” theories of the middle of the last century, to the more fashionable “dissemination of a technological or cultural package” in the 1980s and ‘90s, and now back again to a mixed transmission via population movements and the use of trade.

    The examination of DNA and other evidence from around Western Europe (c.f. the so-called Amesbury Archer, the burial of a British Bronze Age man whose origins seem to be in the Alps, etc.) certainly indicates that mobility in the pre-historic era was far greater than previously thought, and strongly implies that there must have been some sort of well-established trading routes across the Continent and the Celtic Isles throughout the Neolithic. In many cases the evidence of people moving across (what were then) vast distances is associated with the spread of the Bell Beaker culture.

    Barry Cunliffe certainly associates the Beaker Folk with the spread of the Celts, or the peoples who were to become the Celts. One suggestion for the spread of the Celtic languages is their association with trade and farming. Just as English has become a lingua franca of modern global commerce and technology, the proto-Celtic languages may have been the language of trade and technology in western and central Neolithic Europe. This would have aided the adoption of “Celtic” speech by various non-Celtic (and in some cases perhaps non-Indo-European) speakers in various communities around Europe.

    I think Cunliffe’s prime view is that all the evidence points towards “continuity” in European pre-history after a certain point (largely the advent of agriculture). Continuity in settlements, populations, technology, and by implication languages and cultures. Interestingly that is something Francis Pryor also emphasises, and his latest works seem to point in a similar direction to Cunliffe’s. It should be noted that though Cunliffe suggests pushing the ultimate origins of the Celts right back into the Neolithic (with the implication that the Megalithic builders of western and northern Europe spoke a Indo-European tongue ancestral to proto-Celtic), Koch prefers a more conservative Late Bronze Age or Atlantic Bronze Age date.

    The scepticism about the Central European origins of the Celts was something I first encountered in UCD circles back in the early 1990s where there were already arguments in favour of Ireland, Britain, western France and Iberia as the regions from which the Celtic speaking peoples as a recognisable linguistic and cultural grouping first emerged. It is only recently that technology-based developments have provided solid evidence to ground these arguments (particularly in the areas of forensic archaeology and DNA studies). Such a paradigm would certainly solve many of the so-called problems in relation to the coming of the Celts to Ireland.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @Malcom Redfellow: It is a great shame that the environment has become such that you no longer feel comfortable speaking freely on this thread. It is a shame as the subject you outline so well in the sources above holds a lot of potential for interesting academic discussion but we respect your stance on this given where things have gone of late.

    You may, however, find early colonial comparisons between the Native Americans and the Irish of interest:

    * In 1646, Hugh Peter, an English preacher who travelled to Massachusetts, commented that, ‘the wild Irish and the Indian do not much differ.’

    * Thomas Morton, another Massachusetts colonist, wrote that the “Natives of New England [were] accustomed to build themselves houses much like the wild Irish.”

    * While, in 1637 Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, ‘warned’ the Puritans that if they did not treat the Indians well, they would “turn wild Irish.”

    *As historian Marc Aronson has observed of this period, “Irish” had become a byword for fierce and barbaric.

    @Dewi :-P hahaha!

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ An Sionnach Fionn: thank you so much for taking the time to construct such a scholarly and considered response. It deserves more attention than we can give just now, but we will address it tomorrow, and look forward to continuing this line of discussion.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Of This Island @ 9:29 pm:

    @Malcom Redfellow: It is a great shame that the environment has become such that you no longer feel comfortable speaking freely on this thread.

    That’s not fair. It’s nothing to do with any “environment”. It’s that I don’t see the relevance to this thread.

    But since you provoke me …

    Look at Anne Laurence’s Parliamentary Army Chaplains for a few indicators about Peter(s), Dickwoode.

    I had occasion to refer to the DNB about the Rev. Hugh Peter(s), MA (Cantab), recently,and found a substantial entry. His dealings with women are a story in themselves. By coincidence, Thomas Morton had similar entanglements, but with the “natives”: not great PR among the good-living colonials.

    Peter(s) left for the Massachusetts colony in July 1636, and became minister at Salem (oh, dear!) in December that year. There’s a bit of a frolic over which lady he was seducing as his second wife, and (conveniently?) he was able to be one of the emissaries back to England in 1641. In short order, he was with Lord Forbes in Ireland, and then present at a whole series of Parliamentary forces’ actions. He was commissioned as a Colonel in Cromwell’s Irish expedition; and was at Wexford. He was, in effect, Cromwell’s logistics chief at Milford Haven, etc., etc. Should we be treating his excesses, in the context of Cromwellian propaganda about Ireland, as anything other than froth?

    Again, we are so far off-topic as to be ridiculous.

  • anne warren

    interesting thread.
    Would like to read all comments before adding my 2 cents but as often happens the older ones are not available.
    Why not?
    Have noticed that other posters have sometimes complained about the same inconvenience.
    What’s the problem?

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ Malcolm: apologies, our comment was not intended to cause offence, and was the result of misunderstanding your initial post.

    Indeed, we are off topic, but it was an interesting aside; the investigation of neolithic ‘barbarism’ and ‘savagery’, alongside more ‘modern’ reflections and comparisons of the Irish as ‘savage’.

    But back to the period in question. We are looking forward to engaging in the Beaker topic in the morning when we have more time/writers available to engage in it. We hope you’ll get involved then.

    @ Anne Warren: thanks for pitching in, its been most stimulating. We find if you sign in and then search back, you will be able to see all previous posts (as opposed to viewing them when not signed in) I hope this helps and look forward to any comments you might have.

  • AnAverageGael

    I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this article, very interesting and thought provoking. Its put me off R.J Elroy for the rest of the evening but I don’t care at this stage. As for Newgrange, I have always found the site a marvel; an absolute marvel.

  • lamhdearg2

    I have a feeling that when “of this island” use’s the word “we” in comments it is, The Royal We.
    I find “of this island” threads are carefully worded, so as to push the irish nationalist line while allways sounding reasonable,this i believe is a ploy to make anyone who suggests disagreement seem unreasonable, hmm,clever dog clever dog.
    I feel We will have to keep a close eye on you, less you slip up, goodluck.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @AnAverageGael: apologies to Mr Elroy, but we are nonetheless glad that you enjoyed the article. Newgrange is indeed a marvel; a beautiful example of prehistoric architecture and design.

  • Drumlins Rock

    OTI, I’m beginning to think your actually English!

    Only an Englishman can fit an apology into ever reply!

    Interestingly the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faddan_More_Psalter shows 9th C connections with Egypt, the idea of the sea as a barrier rather than a Highway needs abandoned, whether it be the Med, Atlantic, Irish sea, Channel, or even the North Sea, i fact the rivers and lakes of Ireland need reconsidered too.

  • Dewi

    “the idea of the sea as a barrier rather than a Highway needs abandoned”

    Absolutely, quicker, cheaper and often safer than travelling by land in the not too distant past.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @ Drumlins Rock: Hahaha! (we, of course, have no quarrel with our English neighbours) :-P

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the idea of so-called ‘sea-barriers’ being abandoned in favour of a view that any body of water provided ancient peoples with a mode of transport, exchange of goods, languages, crafts/skills and in the case of this book even religious ideas.

    Even during the period we address within Shared Origins there is evidence of trade across the water, the Trinity College Harp which we mention but some fantastic examples of Baltic amber, Whitby jet and even Egyptian faience* have also been discovered on these islands. The Faddan More Psalter is a fantastic find, thank you for bring it to our attention! We will certainly be delving deeper into research in relation to this particularly fascinating artefact.

    We eagerly anticipate the findings of The Discovery Programme, based in Dublin, who are currently researching the interactions between Rome and Ireland. http://ow.ly/atCFj

    *Whether the actual beads came from Egypt or simply the technique to make them is debated, either way that is cultural exchange – or chain of exchanges – over an impressive distance. http://ow.ly/atCGL

    @An Sionnach Fionn: “… certainly indicates that mobility in the pre-historic era was far greater than previously thought, and strongly implies that there must have been some sort of well-established trading routes across the Continent and the Celtic Isles throughout the Neolithic. In many cases the evidence of people moving across (what were then) vast distances is associated with the spread of the Bell Beaker culture.”

    and…

    “Just as English has become a lingua franca of modern global commerce and technology, the proto-Celtic languages may have been the language of trade and technology in western and central Neolithic Europe. This would have aided the adoption of “Celtic” speech by various non-Celtic (and in some cases perhaps non-Indo-European) speakers in various communities around Europe.”

    This can be related back to the point Drumlins Rock raises with regard to waterways acting as ‘highways’ rather than barriers. It appears that the ancient world was a lot more fluid than was once believed and as you rightly point out we have science to thank for the confirmation of this in a growing number of cases.

    “I think Cunliffe’s prime view is that all the evidence points towards “continuity” in European pre-history after a certain point (largely the advent of agriculture). Continuity in settlements, populations, technology, and by implication languages and cultures. Interestingly that is something Francis Pryor also emphasises, and his latest works seem to point in a similar direction to Cunliffe’s.”

    We have found the works of Francis Pryor of particular interest in this area and agree with his thesis that the idea of ‘waves of invasion’ that completely altered the makeup of a given place should, in most cases, be abandoned in favour of the idea of a more gradual cultural shift and assimilation through small scale migrations, trade and the intermarriages which result from such.

    “The scepticism about the Central European origins of the Celts was something I first encountered in UCD circles back in the early 1990s where there were already arguments in favour of Ireland, Britain, western France and Iberia as the regions from which the Celtic speaking peoples as a recognisable linguistic and cultural grouping first emerged. It is only recently that technology-based developments have provided solid evidence to ground these arguments (particularly in the areas of forensic archaeology and DNA studies). Such a paradigm would certainly solve many of the so-called problems in relation to the coming of the Celts to Ireland.”

    The interaction between science, archaeology and history is a fascinating one which has helped to offer greater clarity (and in many cases to raise even more questions!) about a growing number of previously accepted theories. See the link with regard to the Romans in our response to Drumlins Rock. It is without a doubt exciting material and modern science does somewhat alleviate the frustration of some long-standing grey areas in history though whether it will ever be able to satisfy the many unknowns surrounding the beaker people remains to be seen. However one looks at it, these are exciting times we live in with regard to historical research.

  • between the bridges

    logged in and out and shook it about, but still can’t see the older posts..

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Much has been written about the Dalriada links between Antrim and Argyle but there’s a dearth of material about the likely links between Down and Galloway, Bangor and Whithorn. Whatever happened to the ‘apostate (Irish?) Picts’? :)

  • Dewi

    http://www.snowdoniaguide.com/great_orme_mines.htm

    We, of course, were exporting copper in the Bronze Age. Astonishing really.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Dewi, to the best of my knowledge the Tievebulliagh stone axes from that north Antrim hill have never been decommissioned; I’ve seen no photographic record.

    The Tievebulliagh axeheads have been found not only in Kent but also in the London area, in north-eastern Scotland and in the Western Isles. In Ireland their distribution is densest in Ulster but the spread is as far south as Co. Cork.

  • http://ofthisisland.blogspot.co.uk/ Of This Island

    @Nevin: It is all too often the case with historical research that precisely the materials needed to answer the question one poses are in short supply. You sound like someone who understands all too well this sort of frustration – a hazard of the profession – but I suppose it provides a mystery for future historians to continue to whittle away at and keeps those of us currently engaged with it in a job!

    As to the ‘apostate Picts’, mentioned by St. Patrick in his letter to Coroticus and his warriors, it is likely a reference to his perception of their religious convictions. Perhaps he was speaking of those who had actually lapsed back into a non-Christian form of religion or alternatively he may have been trying to convey the severity of their un-Christian behavior towards his flock. Though tempting, we dare not venture into the realms of ‘what if history.’ :-)

    @Dewi: Indeed, not to mention the theories surrounding the likely Welsh contribution to Stonehenge!

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    OTI, I dabble in family history, history and politics; sometimes the observation lens zooms in, sometimes it zooms out.

    Family history has thrown up some letter and element shifts: the Wilkinsons of the North Coast are still called McQuilkin; and the Thompsons of Moycraig were known as McCavish in 1734 but the existence of McCavish there has almost been forgotten. Those who are unfamiliar with these changes will be unable to work their way around brick walls.

    Going much further back in time to p-Celtic and q-Celtic I understand that p became b and q/qu became c. p-Celtic is mainly associated with the ancient language of Britain and q-Celtic with the ancient language of Ireland. However in Irish place names we have beann and ceann for fairly similar features of the landscape. Might this indicate that the two forms of Celtic co-existed in Ireland?