Iron Age chariots and medieval texts: a step too far in "breaking down boundaries"?

Raimund Karl, University of Wales Bangor


Abstract

Analysing "Celtic" chariots by using Iron Age archaeological material and Early Medieval Irish texts might seem to be more than just one step too far in breaking down boundaries. Considering the huge chronological and geographical gaps between the sources, the objections raised against the concept of "Celticity" by Celtosceptics, and the antinativist school of thought in Irish literature, such an approach might look like outright nonsense to many archaeologists and scholars in medieval literature alike. Using a "functional" method according to the new Viennese approach to Celtic Studies, to allow cross-disciplinary comparison of archaeological, historical, iconographic, legal, linguistic, literary and numismatic sources, it can be argued that, however obvious the above objections might seem to be, they nonetheless are unjustified. By developing independent functional models for Iron Age and Early Medieval chariots, a close match between the two can be demonstrated, and comparison with "non-Celtic" models shows that they also are characteristic. Having thus established a solid connection, new interpretational possibilities become available: Iron Age chariot finds can be used to reconstruct Early Medieval Irish chariots, which are mostly absent from the archaeological record, while in their turn the Irish texts allow us valuable insights into Iron Age chariotry. Thus, interpreting Iron Age chariots in the light of medieval texts and vice versa is not a step too far in breaking down boundaries, but an absolute necessity for any serious research of this topic.

Read all of it on http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/celtic/ekelt.../karl_5_1.html