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Peter Harbison has written the first full-scale survey of Irish prehistory for a general audience to have appeared for a decade.
Pre-Christian Ireland gives the story of human settlement from the beginnings 10,000 years ago to St Patrick's Christianizing mission in the fifth century AD.
It combines the solid groundwork of earlier generations of archaeologists with the great advances made in research during the last twenty years.
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.
For the fact that such a discovery was recorded at all may be a reflection of that same historical curiosity which led to the compilation of the , and which inspired Gaelic kings of the twelfth century to commission religious shrines of metal and to erect High Crosses of stone which would help to recreate the glorious Christian past of three or four centuries earlier.
It would not have been possible to write this book without the dedicated work of fellow archaeologists, alive and dead, who may be thanked here one and all for the contributions which they have made to the study of prehistoric Ireland.The author also looks afresh at the controversial question of when the Celts first arrived in Ireland.Pre-Christian Ireland will find a place on the bookshelves of all who are fascinated by the pagan origins of modern Ireland.It ought to be pointed out here, however, that the Belfast laboratory has shown that radiocarbon dates falling between 800 and 400 bc can no longer be relied upon, as they cannot be distinguished from one another, and that they ought to be abandoned therefore.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.
But, for all their efforts, we can place no reliance on any documentary evidence which tells of happenings or people earlier than the fifth century AD, and it is, therefore, left to the interpretation of the archaeological record to tease out the story of Ireland before St Patrick's christianizing mission.