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Prehistory is not just what prehistoric people made of it, but also what archaeologists have made of it today, and this is the reason why the text of this book makes a point of naming the archaeologists who have made the significant contributions. Binchy, the well-known Celtic scholar, spoke of 'the imaginative and conflicting speculations of archaeologists, and devotees of that curious science which calls itself prehistory'.
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.It is doubtless more than a mere coincidence that it is from the time of the synthesizing historians that we have what may be described as the first Irish archaeological report, in the form of an entry in the old Irish , telling of the finding of an outsize axe and spearhead in the river Galway in the year 1191.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.
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The Iron Age in Ireland has much to offer the historian of Celtic art, and the great fort of Dun Aenghus on the Aran Islands must surely be regarded as one of the most magnificent barbaric monuments to be found anywhere in Western Europe.