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By Bill Price

ISBN-10: 1842432435

ISBN-13: 9781842432433

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In Irish it is called Emain Macha and it is the place named in the Ulster Cycle as the seat of the king, Conchobar, during the period when the events related in the Táin are said to have occurred. The site initially appears to be that of a standard hill fort, protected by earth banks and ditches, but archaeological excavations have revealed it to be much more complex. The buildings on the top of the hill give the impression of being more ceremonial in purpose than defensive and the remains of an Iron Age roundhouse show that it was repeatedly burned down before being rebuilt.

In one of the early stories, a forerunner to the Táin itself, Deirdre, a woman at the court of Conchobar, the king of Ulster, is not prepared to submit to the commands of the king, who orders her to take the man who killed her lover for a husband. In doing this she challenges the strict honour code of the Irish heroes and finally dies rather than be dishonoured herself. Whether such egalitarian principles applied to lower levels of society than the nobility is impossible to say, although there is no reason to think that women from the lower classes were not also capable of achieving a comparable status to their men.

Recognisably modern humans (Homo sapiens) have been around for something like 200,000 years, while the earliest known writing system dates back to the Sumerian civilisation in Mesopotamia about 6,000 years ago. From its earliest use, it would be some thousands of years more before it became widespread and it would not be until the invention of the printing press with movable type in the fifteenth century (several centuries earlier in China) that books and literacy in general began to have the impact they have today.

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Celtic Myths by Bill Price

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