Ireland's Pre-Celtic Archaeological and Anthropological Heritage

Author: Thompson, Tok Freeland
This work challenges current trends in thinking about Ireland and Celticity. Drawing on a wide range of disciplinary outlooks – including Archaeology, Folklore, Linguistics, History, Genetics and more – the author asserts that the pre-Celtic people’s cultures, and their contributions to traditional and modern Irish life, have been vastly under-appreciated. This work seeks to understand why this is so, and to redress that balance by partaking in an investigation of the evidence as well as by demonstrating how that evidence has been constructed. The author does not assume a priori neither the “invasion” hypothesis of Celtic people and cultures, nor the “immobilism” hypothesis which states that the idea of the Celts is a recent one, unconnected to actual peoples in the past. The result is a detailed study into the varied processes involved in the creation of the past, and a new, if perhaps controversial, picture of “Celtic” Ireland.


“Dr. Thompson brings a fresh outlook to his subject, which is essentially an investigation of Gaelic prehistory. He draws on a wide range of sources, both primary and secondary, in several fields of scholarship. He has lived in Ireland and learned the Irish language; consequently he is able to describe contemporary Irish-speaking society with sensitivity and enthusiasm ... The author is to be congratulated for drawing our attention to such a fascinating field of scholarship and for tackling so many of the problems that confront us there.” (from the Preface) Iain Mac Aonghuis (John MacInnes), Retired Lecturer, University of Edinburgh

“This will be a controversial book, but that is the fate of big arguments which offer big challenges to common assumptions. Its originality lies in its integration of evidence from modern ethnography, ancient and modern history, and archaeology, a blend of evidence that makes it difficult to dismiss as simply special pleading from a single perspective. [Dr. Thompson’s] reassessment of Irish prehistory and its cultural appropriations shows promise of furthering a productive dialogue among philologists, folklorists, anthropologists, historians and scholars in cultural studies.” – Professor Daniel F. Melia, University of California, Berkeley

“This book constitutes a unique contribution to an area of study and research which is much spoken of but is rarely the subject of courageous and imaginative treatment ... In view of the increasing demand for more minute knowledge of the total background to Irish heritage and the desire by many to partake in that heritage, the inclusive nature of this book will be highly valued. Many of the interpretations given will help generate further debate, and I have no doubt but that the book will become an important element in Irish discourse over a wide plane ...” – Professor Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, University College Dublin, Ireland

"I would highly recommend this book as an introduction to key debates in the field, both in terms of content and methodology and as a largely convincingly picture of the pre-Celtic past and its continuing influence in Ireland. Considering the breadth of the study, Thompson's project remains clear and well-defined and his argument for a reassessment of notions of Irish identity in the light of findings on the pre-Celtic world is a highly persuasive one." -- Prof. Victoria Walters, University of Ulster (Magee)

Table of Contents

1. “Celtic to the Core”: The Creation of an ethno-national mythology
2. Celticity and the Celts: Introduction to Official Discourse
3. Official discourse, the early years: Antiquities and the creation of Indo-European
4. History
5. Archaeology
6. Genetics
7. Linguistics
8. Folklorists
9. Unofficial discourse
10. Tory Island: stories, land, and time
11. A new old Ireland: integrating the lines of evidence
Notes and Reference