The rich gold jewellery, unequalled in Western Europe, makes one feel that the country's Bronze Age is a misnomer, and that it should be called its Golden Age.

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It combines the solid groundwork of earlier generations of archaeologists with the great advances made in research during the last twenty years.

The latest thinking on the astronomical significance of megalithic tombs and the social implications of the great Bronze Age hoards is interwoven with an up-to-date account of the recent major excavations at sites such as Carrowmore, Rathgall and Navan Fort.

It ought to be pointed out here, however, that the Belfast laboratory has shown that radiocarbon dates falling between 800 and 400 bc can no longer be relied upon, as they cannot be distinguished from one another, and that they ought to be abandoned therefore.

The early Irish Christians were consumed by a curiosity to find out about what happened in their country before the dawn of history and so, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, an effort was made in the so-called to reconstruct the relative succession of the series of peoples who were considered to have invaded the country in prehistoric times.

But work both in America and Europe on the number of annual rings contained in tree-trunks which have also been radiocarbon dated, has shown that radiocarbon years do not correspond to actual calendar years, the radiocarbon years often being hundreds of years too young.

In order to distinguish radiocarbon years from the actual calendar years before or after the birth of Christ (given in capitals as bc or ad), the radiocarbon dates quoted here are followed by the same two letters, but printed in lower case, thus - bc or ad.

Prehistory is not just what prehistoric people made of it, but also what archaeologists have made of it today, and this is the reason why the text of this book makes a point of naming the archaeologists who have made the significant contributions. Binchy, the well-known Celtic scholar, spoke of 'the imaginative and conflicting speculations of archaeologists, and devotees of that curious science which calls itself prehistory'.

Because prehistory - by its very nature - has to deal with speculations, it is natural that the views of archaeologists will conflict, and it is only by weighing up the pros and cons that one can come to the most probable solution to any problem in prehistory, where the absence of writing makes it difficult to make the mute stones speak.

Listing on Google Books Although Ireland may have been one of the last countries in Europe to have been colonized by human populations, it is an island which is particularly rich in prehistoric remains.