The Ancient Celts (Anglais) Broché – 29 mars 2012
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WITHOUT the descriptions and speculations of Greek and Roman writers, our understanding of the Iron Age communities of central and western Europe-the traditional homeland of the Celts-would be very different. Lire la première page
Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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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. Rome's choice of land routes for armies instead of sea routes for trade meant occupation or dominance of Celtic holdings. These counterforces had far-reaching results in all areas of European life. Even religion, which was normally viewed tolerantly by Rome, came under assault when the Celtic Druids became the force organizing resistance to Roman rule. Cunliffe traces these interactions with a scholar's precision, relating it all in a crisp narration.
The author's long career in this field has provided him with a storehouse of resources. Aside from the fine bibliographic essay, he enhances the main text with excellent maps, illustrations and photographs, many in colour. These cultural images impart a graphic sense of how misleading the term "barbarian" is applied to these people. Their rich heritage, eroded by Rome and virtually eliminated by Christianity is revived by Cunliffe's superb recounting of their world. This book is valuable at many levels and well worth the investment. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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.
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. Cunliffe uses a few geographical features, like rivers, which are less than famous. A map or two would have been fantastic for placing events in their proper location. This is just a small point which does nothing to detract from the book in its entirety.
While there are other authors out there, I would agree that Cunliffe has achieved possibly the best introduction available on the Celts. If you have not already got it ordered, I suggest you do so now. It is a great book and you won't regret the purchase.
The author here addresses not only contexts of Celtic archaeological finds but questions about what the relationship between various Celtic cultures and the Classical world was. The approach in this area is well thought out, extensively detailed, and clearly communicated.
On the negative side, the author really would have done better to discuss the difficulties in connecting material to linguistic culture. "Pots aren't people" as one group can immitate the physical crafts of another without changing language. This is well known when looking at Native American archaeology and it is a problem that any book trying to address a linguistic group through archaeology needs to take seriously. While there is general agreement that the La Tene and Hallstatt cultures were probably synonymous with Celtic language groups, this is not entirely beyond question. This becomes more serious when looking at the spread of the Catacomb Culture and whether this indicated a migration or simply a spread of a new burial style across pre-existing ethnic and linguistic groups. A reader wthout any archaeoogical background may not appreciate these issues and the simple flag on the author's part that the interpretation is disputed may be insufficient.
On the whole, I think that despite the issues in mapping linguistic to material culture, this is a book that every student of Celtic studies and such should read. Highly recommended.