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The Ancient Celts Paperback – March 1, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Each generation, the British scholar Jacquetta Hawkes has observed, chooses the archaeology that best suits its current ideology. For a century beginning in the late 1800s, archaeologists depicted the Celts as an inordinately brave and poetic tribal people who battled their way across the Eurasian world without being unduly aggressive--in the manner, that is, of good colonialists. Today some archaeologists are more inclined to consider the Celts as a people who kept ethnic unity alive across a huge span of territory and time, a view that may offer comfort in a time when, as Oxford University professor Barry Cunliffe writes, "ethnic divisions are becoming a painful and disturbing reality." Cunliffe himself takes the view that the Celts were at once alike and diverse, which led to the formation of many different Celtic cultures from the Black Sea to Ireland. This heavily illustrated, well-written book tells their story well, from the beginnings of Celtic culture in the distant Indo-European past to the height of Celtic power in the third century A.D. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This survey of the origins of the Celts and their expansion during the Iron Age through their largely successful subjection by the Romans is sure to be of interest to many readers. Cunliffe (European archaeology, Oxford) has written a readable and informatve book with many attractive illustrations, a good index, and a helpful annotated bibliography. The focus is archaeological, but not exclusively, as Cunliffe does explore literary and oral traditions as well. An interesting aspect of the book is the description of 18th- and 19th-century amateur archaeologists and Celtic enthusiasts. The Celtic peoples are a popular topic among many scholars and lay readers, and this title would be a good purchase for larger public and most academic libraries.?Charles V. Cowling, Drake Memorial Lib., Brockport, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; unknown edition (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140254226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140254228
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
An informative and comprehensive overview of the history of Celtic Eurasia. Cunliffe's status as a leading scholar in this field is well deserved. This volume exhibits the result of many years of work. The wealth and breadth, in both time and space, of the material preclude Cunliffe engaging in flowery rhetoric or idle speculations. Using archaeology as the basis for his presentation, he provides both textual and graphic information. The result is a thorough examination of the development and movements of the Celtic peoples. Their impact on the geopolitics of Europe is great, he reminds us. Place names, artistic styles, and numerous practical elements, many of which have been downplayed or ignored during the Christian centuries, remain as a legacy of their presence and influence.
Given the paucity of Celtic written records, Cunliffe begins with a early archaeological efforts and snippets of Greco-Roman observations. What the Celts thought of themselves must remain a mystery. Those observing them found a warrior society, highly sophisticated in that realm from both aggressive and defensive standpoints. Highly mobile, the Celts established societies from Western Asia to the British Isles. In their settlements, which became increasingly organized and administered over the centuries, they laid the foundations of many modern communities. Cunliffe's accounts of these settlements, particularly those in the Iberian peninsula is likely to offer fresh information for many students.
Cunliffe gives us overviews of the "barbarian" migrations and their impact on European society. The most important result of Celtic movements, of course, was the counter expansion of Rome. Celtic domination of the trans-Alpine region drew Rome into Europe proper.
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Format: Paperback
Let me start by saying I am nowhere near an expert on this subject. I read this book because I wanted to learn more about the Celts. Although I found this book to be a bit academic for my liking it was obviously scrupulously researched. My biggest complaint was the use of archaic names for ancient geographical locations without providing an approximate modern reference point; the same holds true for the mention of many long extinct cultural groups. The numerous maps which were included did not to my mind provide much clarification, plus they were all clustered together at the end of the book which made it cumbersome to keep flipping back and forth. Perhaps it was the author's intent to target a more scholarly audience which would explain my frustration with the content; hence, the 4 stars.
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Format: Paperback
I have grown to appreciate this book over the past five years. Although I do not use it myself much anymore, I do assign it to my Archaeology 1 tutorial students. It's an easier read than 'The European Iron Age' (John Collis), and I prefer the layout and illlustrations of 'The Ancient Celts' to 'Exploring the World of the Celts' (Simon James).
I would very much recommend this as a first text for those who are interested in the archaeology of the Celts. It's very well-written, and the illustrations are highly evocative.
However, as with any single-author account covering such a wide geographic area over such a span of time, there are disagreements over some aspects of Cunliffe's interpretations. Because of this, I would suggest that 'The Ancient Celts' is probably best read in conjuntion with either of the two books mentioned above.
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Format: Paperback
If you are wondering what to read about the Celts, with little previous exposure to the subject, then you only need to know one thing: "The Ancient Celts" by Barry Cunliffe. In fact, forget about this review and just buy it now, it is that good. I am not joking! Go. Now. Why are you still reading???

Since you persist, you will find "The Ancient Celts" to be a thorough going introduction to most aspects of Celtic research and history. Cunliffe gives a broad overview of previous Celtic study, the sources and the different influences and prejudices that have wormed their way into the sources and works through history. This provides an excellent back-drop to Cunliffe's own book, and puts it into an historical context of scholarship.

For the Celts themselves, the book presents broad overviews of different aspects of Celtic society, culture, art and so on. This is necessarily brief and focuses on those Celtic peoples who are amply attested to. For those others who dwelt more on the fringes of Celtic territory, Cunliffe is rightly more cautious in the few conclusions he draws. Despite this, the treatment is reasonably detailed and will certainly give you enough to go further should you wish to do so.

This might sound a bit puerile, but another bonus for me was the ample supply of photos, pictures and diagrams that helped put a more visual facet on the text. One might think that this is a pretty banal comment, but I found it a real boon to be able to see the artifacts that Cunliffe refered to, and appreciate them for myself. The Celtic art was a classic example of this.

For those with little geographical knowledge of Europe, I have only one quibble about the book: the paucity of maps.
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