Students of Irish archaeology will be familiar with John Waddell’s Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland. This new publication is far removed from that sturdy workhorse, offering hypotheses on the symbiotic relationship between myth and archaeology. Few would deny this relationship exists, but would also acknowledge that legends are created from myriad cultural ‘extras’, with each new epoch and invader adding their own flavour. Waddell is, as expected, strong in his narratives of the great cult sites such as Rathcroghan and Tara, but grasps often at improbable temporo-spatial connections.
Drawing direct parallels between material cultures of, say, the Rhineland of 500 BC and Ireland of AD 200 may be useful for examining multi-period, long-term connections and trade routes, but anything else must remain speculative. Contrary to Waddell’s opinions, no definitive interpretation of La Tène-derivative symbolism can genuinely be offered, apart from its importance to the end-user.
There is much for the archaeologist to unpack within this ambitious text, perhaps more than this slender volume can provide. An expansion of the hypotheses contained would be warmly welcomed.
This review appeared in CA 342.