Media

Recent posts

Iron Men, Natural History Magazine, and Simon James

Via the customary cursory glace at my referrals, I noticed that a new article on the Natural History magazine Web site links to me via the following:

At Lisa L. Spangenberg’s Digital Medievalist site you can find a good list of Celtic Web Resources (scroll down). At one of them, Simon James’s Ancient Celts Page, the author, who is an archaeologist at the University of Leicester in England, presents alternative views on this culture. After presenting the conventional wisdom, he gives an alternate history of “Celticness,” which examines the justification for unifying so many tribes under one banner—with particular attention to the British Isles.

I very much respect the work of Professor James. He’s an excellent archaeologist, and I do understand the problems of referring to a huge span of, what, three thousand years of history, and a geographical reach that covers most of Europe and a decent chunk of the Middle East as “Celtic.” The also fabulous Barry Cunliffe, another archaeologist, shares some of the same concerns.

But.

The Celtic languages are:

  1. Clearly related, with a single common ancestor.
  2. They share myths and laws and motifs not only with other Indo-European cultures, but with each others—right down to the names, never mind the stories.
  3. There are also shared myths, etymologies, laws, and practices, that are unique to Celtic languages, and shared among Celtic languages.

I note that Professor James largely ignores Celtic languages and linguistics; I really wish he wouldn’t. I realize the enormous cultural differences over time and geography—these are especially apparent in terms of archaeology and art—but given that the peoples who we associate with Celtic in terms of pre industrial history spoke a Celtic language, I assert that it is perfectly reasonable to refer to those peoples as Celts, however we decide to bento-box their artifacts.

Blood for the Gods

Back in February I was interviewed on camera about the ancient Celts and human sacrifice in a historic context covering Romans, Irish and Welsh sources, archaeology, and things like bog bodies. The interview was for a documentary about human sacrifice in cultural contexts, focusing on the Americas, Europe, and the Near East. The Discovery channel is airing the first two of three episodes tonight. The series is called “Blood for the Gods.” There are a total of three episodes; I have no idea when the third will air, or which one I might be in, if they didn’t cut me as hopelessly boring. I also have no idea at all if I’ll end up looking daft, which is quite possible. I don’t have a TV so I can’t watch, but the information about the episodes is here. I’m told that all the episodes will likely be shown several times.

Medieval Comic Construction Kit

Metafilter brings us this Flash 6 driven “Historic Tale Construction Kit” which allows you to assemble comic style frame-by-frame stories with text and images, add them to a gallery to email them to friends. The images are taken from the Bayeux Tapestry, itself constructed to celebrate the victories of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

In Search of Ancient Ireland

This three-part PBS series, filmed in Ireland, airs on three Wednesday nights, the 12, 19 and 26th of June. There’s a companion book, VHS tapes, and a web site. I’ve only seen the first episode, “Heroes,” to be followed in turn by “Saints” and “Warlords.” It’s been fun to see familiar faces of various Celticists, historians and archaeologists, all of whom were very much involved in making the films, and the site’s nicely done. I’m not sure I agree with all the conclusions, but it’s well worth watching.