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The Flow of Daily Living

A vigorous tribe lives here, proud, spirited, energetic, skillful. On all the ridge trade is carried on: the sea froths far and wide with their famous ships and they cut through the swell of the beast haunted ocean.” – Himilco, Carthaginian voyager exploring the Atlantic seaboard, 6th century BCE

The flow of daily life of our ancient and even more modern ancestors first and foremost likely focused around the homestead. Life would have been incredibly localized just simply because of the difficulty of travel, even with horses and carts. Even now with high speed travel and cars, we may often find travel tiring and lengthy. However, in addition to these basic aspects, it was also in many instances outright dangerous. There were naturally wild animals to consider but also you wouldn’t want to be traveling in an unfamiliar territory or in areas where if something happened to you, you wouldn’t be accounted for or able to seek legal recompense. Generally speaking in the ancient world but also in old Irish society, once you traveled out of your túath’s land, you were on your own for the most part unless you were a guest with someone from that túath or a member of the higher ranking class, chieftains, warriors, Druids or Filí with sound legal protection under the wider law system of the land. The focus of the community would have been on agriculture, animal husbandry, foraging, herbalism, hunting, fishing and on some level, simply surviving, especially during the harsher winter months. We can imagine life would have looked similar to how homesteading looks today although naturally, with variances based on locale and resources. The communities would have likely been very close knit and working together as well as sharing resources for the betterment of all. Because of climate as well as topographical differences, the people of the isles would have likely had quite different lives amongst themselves but especially to those in mainland Europe. However, we can connect quite a few generalized patterns by first focusing on Ireland and spanning outwards into those aspects that were seemingly somewhat shared. 

There is archaeological evidence to suggest that nations, both in the isles and Western Europe lived in close proximity in villages but also on individual small homesteads and farms. The boundedness of someone’s property was considered to be the home or direct close boundary whereas the wider land was typically shared amongst the túath. The homes were most often circular roundhouses and were typically made of some variation of stone, wood, grasses or thatch, clay, sand and probably animal dung to hold it together. Vertical timbers were interwoven with horizontal wattle walls usually made of willow, hazel, oak, or ash. Daub was placed over it to keep everything in place as well as add waterproof protection from the elements. This method was used in many various parts of the world and known as wattle and daub. In mainland Europe, homes were often round as well and built similarly if not identical to those in the isles but were also often rectangular or square and made of more solid wooden beams. Homes in the isles, particularly Britain, also became more rectangular or square with the arrival of Roman influence. Caesar described Britain as a land of small farms which was likely true for Ireland as well and this has been proven through archaeological evidence in both lands. 

Again, if not on small farms, they often lived in slightly close proximity in what Caesar described as oppida, the Latin word for town. These were large defensive settlements made of subsequent embankments, which began cropping up from 500 through 100 BCE until Roman conquest in Britain. Within the traditional circular home design, there would have been a central area for a fire, iron firedog and a cauldron often held up by a metal tripod for cooking. The hearth was the heart of the home from times of old into the present and the fire likely would have been kept going 24 hours a day. Each home would have had a small kitchen area as well as an area for eating and sleeping with very few furnishings. Some may have also had makeshift ovens, drying racks for grain and smoked meat, a storage area, possibly fully or partially underground. Beds were simple pallets of skins and furs likely stuffed with wool or soft grasses or tree branches. Mattresses were interestingly claimed by Pliny to have been an invention of the Gauls.1 The Gauls also were said to not use chairs and instead squatted or sat on cushions and furs around low wooden tables.2 This was also true for the nations of Iberia. The main purpose of the roundhouse was above all for sleeping and it’s thought that as many as 20 to 30 people may have slept comfortably in these homes together. Any other functions such as smithing would have likely been done in designated out buildings which were likely shared community spaces.  

Each village or homestead of significance may have had its own defensive embankment, ditch, ring fort or palisade for protection, often on high ground. There are over 45,000 dúns, ráths or otherwise known as ring forts in Ireland alone.3  The dates of ringforts being built place them safely between the years 500 through 1000 CE and falling out of use by the 12th century. Most of these only had one entrance, and all of these attributes were likely for protective purposes from animals but also invaders or possibly anyone, as protecting your food sources would have likely meant the difference between life or death, especially in the winter. Cows, horses, sheep, pigs and other farm animals were incredibly significant, considered a form of currency in and of themselves. We know that cows were of particular value from Ireland through to Gaul.4 Cattle raids were clearly a cultural phenomenon given their prominence in the mythical tales as well as incidents recorded in historical texts. With this in mind, naturally animals of value were likely brought into a more protected area when necessary, especially at night which is thought to be one important purpose of the ring fort. These unique and well protected places of residence may have also likely been built and maintained for or by the chieftain, subject king or leader in any particular region. In the Brehon Law text entitled Críth Gablach, it was said that “What is the due of a king who is always in residence at the head of his túath? Seven score feet of perfect feet are the measure of his stockade on every side. Seven feet are the thickness of its earthwork, and twelve feet its depth. It is then that he is a king, when ramparts of vassalage surround him.”5 With that said, many ring forts have no evidence of being lived in but rather the theory has been put forth they may have additionally housed goods of value, food and pottery or have been private meeting sites for trade and commerce between túaths or leaders. 

As mentioned, the boundary of someone’s property was important, so in a way creating these structures was a very solid and powerful display of ownership but also allowed larger space and means to house precious goods. Anything that happened inside these boundaries whether in a roundhouse, fort or close surrounding space would have been legally recognized in a way that trespass or wrongful activity there could be punishable and automatically considered a crime against the owner. This means of ownership has continued right into the present in Scotland to where people are legally allowed passage over any land, but not directly near or of course, in someone’s house. Interestingly, many of these ringforts are positioned on cliffs or other places with speculative ritual significance or according to various seasonal alignments. For example, the Grianán Ailigh in Donegal, Ireland has its main doorway perfectly aligned with the equinoxes. If not on high ground, they may have also lived in crannógs, roundhouses built over water usually on top of a tree trunk and large rocks. These are unique to the isles and found mostly in Ireland, Scotland or Wales with the oldest site being found in Scotland dating to approximately 3500 BCE.6 They were in regular use since the Neolithic all the way through to the early 18th century.7

Scottish Crannog Centre

Living this hard working, homesteading and modest life was seemingly standard from Ireland through to Western Europe and of course naturally, most of the world at the time. This is to say that unlike the classical world, there were no particularly large sprawling cities although there were well known trading hubs or towns. Greek historian Polybius in the 2nd century BCE said that the Gauls lived in open villages without permanent buildings. Their property mostly consisted of gold and cattle or other things they could easily carry with them when they changed their dwelling as their fancy directed. They placed value on friendship and the number of clients or companions that could be gained rather than material wealth.Quite famously, Briton chieftain Caratacus was captured and brought to Rome and later pardoned by Claudius. Upon wandering the city after his liberation; and after beholding its magnitude he said, “And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?”9 It was again, Diodorus in the 1st century BCE said of the Gauls they lived a toilsome and troublesome life, both women and men were employed all day in completing basic tasks just to merely survive for reasoning of the structure, the rough and craggy nature of the earth.10 I think we only have to walk across the landscape of Western Europe as well as the isles to understand how hard it must have been to make a life here, not only in the Neolithic period and beyond but arguably into the present. The weather doesn’t always lend to the best food growing conditions and neither does the peaty soil, rocky terrain nor the often steep mountainous slopes. Despite these obstacles, Natives successfully made a life in all of these locations and didn’t just manage to survive but were indeed able to thrive. 

The Celtic nations were additionally famously known to commonly work in mineral extraction and many of their towns were Europe’s central hubs for trading gold, silver, iron, tin and even salt. Caesar said of the Gauls in the 1st century, “There are in their territories extensive iron mines, and consequently every description of mining operations is known and practiced by them.”11 Diodorus in just another century tells us of the trading exploit, “Tin also occurs in many regions of Iberia… dug out of the ground and smelted in the same manner as silver and gold. For there are many mines of tin in the country above Lusitania and on the islets which lie off Iberia out in the ocean and are called because of that fact the Cassiterides [modern Scilly Isles]. And tin is brought in large quantities also from the island of Britain to the opposite Gaul, where it is taken by merchants on horses through the interior of Celtica both to the Massalians and to the city of Narbo, as it is called. This city is a colony of the Romans, and because of its convenient situation it possesses the finest market to be found in those regions.” In fact, one of the richest sources of Bronze age Celtic artifacts, that of Hallstatt, was only preserved as well as it was because of being located within a salt mine. Working with minerals and in mines is renowned to be an incredibly challenging trade with often, many casualties. Interestingly enough, countless Irish emigrated to America specifically to be employed as miners, especially during the famine and tragically often had high death rates such as the many thousands of Irish miners laid to rest in the unmarked graves of Leadville Colorado. Other trades that would have been known in times of old were timber farming as well as various agricultural niches and of course simply working on their own personal land. 

The vast majority of people were simply using what was available to them in order to participate in trade as well as create household goods, weapons, wooden homes and structures or living and surviving on their own farms and homesteads. It’s worth noting and referencing again back to classical writer observations that Gaulish nations would leave hoards of gold and precious treasures in honor of their localized Gods and Goddesses and they found it incredible that none of it would have been touched or stolen. Roman Strabo quoted them as “not living expensively” and “In Toulouse, there was a sacred temple, held in great reverence by the inhabitants of the surrounding country, and on this account loaded with riches, inasmuch as there were many who offered gifts, and no one dared to touch them.”12 It’s an incredible notion to think of a cultural practice such as this existing in the present and that we could leave an offering of this enormity, knowing our treasure would stay where it lay. Even knowing there were likely harsh penalties for stealing, the fact that this was mentioned by classical writers gives pause enough to consider a pattern on the value of honor being greater than material wealth. Echoing this belief again, it’s interesting to note that in the isles, most homes remained built for impermanence and of woven wattles and timber until at least the 15th century. It was only with the coming of Christianity, and arrival of Catholic Cistercians around 1000 CE in Ireland and Scotland specifically, that rectangular stoneworks with timber or thatched roofs began replacing the traditional roundhouse in the way they had started replacing those in Britain in prior years from Romanization as well. Thankfully, the tradition of thatched straw roofs has continued in many places of Ireland and Scotland, particularly the Western coastal regions and Scottish Hebrides. 

The household items such as pottery, cauldrons and tools ranged from crude to fine quality depending on the wealth and status of the owner of these items as well as the skill of their local artisans. Uniquely talented craftsmen were highly valued and smithing was particularly seen as a magical profession where harnessing all the elements of fire, water, wind and metal were needed to create a new and often important tool or weapon. Rare stones like jade or coral shells were frequently traded, especially with the Greeks.13 There is archaeological evidence as already mentioned to suggest Celtic territories were linked by a large trade network facilitated by an extensive road and waterway system, most likely one of the first in Europe.14,15 Their trading endeavors are thought to have been very wide. In fact, even the skull of a 2,300 year old African Barbary Ape was found in Ireland during excavations of the Navan Fort in County Armagh.16 Caesar mentioned Gaul trading with the peoples of Britain in his Gallic Wars, claiming that in almost all of the wars with the Gauls, assistance had been furnished to them by the Britons. He inquired merchants that went to and fro on the size of the island, the inhabitants, place names and customs but anyone he seemingly asked had no idea of these questions, or possibly, purposefully didn’t answer him. They were adept woodworkers and made ships of both wood and animal skins. The Irish currach, curach or naomhóg is a canoe-like boat covered in animal hides that are thought to have likely been in use since Neolithic times. The Irish priest and explorer made a saint, St. Brendan was born in 484 and made mention in his Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis where he uses a boat covered in hides cured with oak bark and sealed with tar.17 Scotland and Wales have similar boats known also as currachs in Scotland and coracles in Wales. The various túaths also produced fine chariots and wagons. 

There was an established monetary system and countless Gaulish coins have been unearthed of various minting and designs depending on the leader and time period. If not coins, such as was the case in Ireland where no actual coinage was used, they traded animals or sacks of grain. This practice was echoed and continued through to the recording of the Brehon Laws of old Ireland in the 8th century and continued to at least the 17th century in most parts of the island. In fact, it was only through foreign influence, namely the Hiberno-Norse of Dublin and Henry VIII that Ireland saw any coins minted on its soil that may or may not have been used by the Irish themselves. It wasn’t until the Irish Free State formally designed and created their own coins in the Coinage Act of 1926 that Ireland had its own coins which featured illustrations such as the harp, bull, woodcock, red deer and salmon. Many academics suggest that despite the belief that túaths were frequently warring with one another and while they without a doubt stirred trouble amongst themselves, they had to be somewhat peaceful in order for large trading endeavors as well as a uniting law system such as the Brehon Laws to be possible and successful. 

In ancient Ireland through to Europe, Natives brewed their own mead, beer and ale in regular quantities as well as imported wine from the Mediterranean if available. In Gaul, the main dish at their significant gatherings would usually have been pork, either boiled or roasted on a spit. The king was fed first and after him, the bravest warrior was said to claim a hind quarter of pork. If anyone challenged them, they would often fight a mock battle deciding the winner but it was said that in older times, the fight would often go on until death.18 In the Táin Bó Cúailnge, King Conchobor was dying laying on the battlefield when Cú Chulainn found him and took him home. He instructed Cú Chulainn to make him a fire and then find him a pig so that he may “come back to life” of which he did upon eating it. Animals for consumption were mostly pastorally raised but they also regularly hunted boar and deer and most certainly fished. Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, geese, ducks, dogs and horses were maintained and kept. Horses were used for traveling or hunting purposes, pulling wagons as well as pulling their chariots in wartime. Dogs were used as a means of protection and companionship but also were known to fight alongside their owners in battle which we will touch more deeply on in later sections. When animals died of natural causes or were slaughtered, none of the animals were wasted and every part utilized including the fur, skins, horns and bones. With that said, most people typically only consumed meat sparingly, likely once a week or on special occasions and holidays all the way through to nearly modern times. This was to a large extent a matter of cost and availability and for this reason the eating of meat more often concerned the upper echelon of society and this was true from the Neolithic period all the way through the medieval period. Grains, bread, seeds, vegetables, legumes, herbs as well as porridges were all large staples in the common diet of the area. 

A túath originally or in later times, simply town neighbors, would have worked together in their farming practices and readily used land in a way that was beneficial to all. This included sharing farming tools but also implementing crop rotation over their combined lands in order to replenish the soil. This practice of sharing their land between themselves has continued right up into the present in many of the isles of Scotland. Bees were domesticated and honey was used to sweeten their alcohol and food again, both in Ireland through to Europe. Milk was also a sacred and important drink as well as a critical source for nutrition. Not coincidentally, Ireland and Britain as well as nearby European countries have some of the lowest prevalence of lactose intolerance in the world with 4 to 10% of the population showing some intolerance. However, most other countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, have a high level of lactose intolerance and some with nearly a 95 to 100% lactose intolerant population such as in South Korea or Ghana.19 What this tells us is that while many of us have adapted to drinking milk, likely out of sheer survival, we are in reality not meant to be drinking it and is a testament to the struggles that beset our ancestors in finding enough to sustain themselves in areas of colder climate. 

Classical era homestead

Naturally, at the end of the work day, there would have been leisure time to enjoy oneself. There is archaeological evidence of rendering clay pots and utensils, weaving and using a loom to make tapestries, blankets, clothing or any number of items, brewing various alcoholic beverages or enjoying those beverages by a quiet fire, telling stories and playing instruments. There is also evidence for gaming pieces made of glass and wood that lend to board games having been played likely by those of all ages. Fidchell or fitchneal in Gaeilge and Gwyddbwyll in Welsh was a very old game similar to chess whereby the meaning of the name means ‘wood sense’, both in Gaeilge and Welsh. In Irish folk legend, it was claimed to have been invented by Lugh, the god of many skills and was also played by his incarnate Cú Chulainn. A series of fidchell games were played in the story Tochmarc Étaíne or ‘The Wooing of Étaín’ in the Yellow Book of Lecan written sometime between 900 and 1200 CE. This famous tale could be said to represent many various standalone tales and contains many valuable insights into old Irish culture worth summarizing in full. 

In one of the first tales, Dagda and Boann famously laid together and conceived the great god Óengus when afterwards the Dagda made 9 months appear to be a single day to trick Boann’s husband Elcmar while he was away. Óengus is of course born and then fostered by Midir later growing up to trick his own father into taking possession of the Brú na Bóinne complex. Midir visits Óengus at the complex and is blinded in an accident but healed afterwards by the famous physician Dian Cecht. In response, Midir demands compensation for his injuries along with the most beautiful woman in Ireland which he claimed to be Étaín, daughter of Ailill, king of the Ulaid. Óengus performed various tasks for Ailill, including clearing plains and altering rivers, as well as paying her weight in gold and silver to ultimately allow Midir to take Étaín as his wife. 

Midir’s first wife Fúamnach was incredibly jealous and turned Étaín into a pool of water but out of which she evaporated as a beautiful purple fly. Midir, still loving Étaín, knows the fly is her and she accompanies him wherever he goes. Fúamnach when discovering this, angrily conjures a storm that blows her away causing her to drift for seven long years before landing on Aengus’s clothing. Fúamnach again on learning she still lived, conjured up another storm causing her to drift for another seven years before she lands in the golden cup of the wife of Étar, a warrior of the Ulaid, in the time of the high king Conchobar mac Nessa. Étar drinks from the cup, swallowing Étaín and became pregnant. Étaín is reborn, an amazing 1,012 years after her first birth and in the meantime Óengus cuts off Fúamnach’s head in vengeance. This section sets up the following last section of the Tochmarc Étaíne which concerns the game fidchell. 

The next king set to take power, Eochu Airem was seeking a wife and naturally wanted the most beautiful of which his messengers found Étaín, still the most beautiful even after reincarnation. He fell in love with her and married her as did his brother Ailill who ends up getting sick and wasting away out of love sickness for her. Eochu leaves for business and while he’s away, Ailill professes his love for her that could only be cured if she would meet and be with him three times. She agrees but only on a specific hill and out of the house so as not to shame the king. However, this Ailill that appeared to her was not Eochu’s brother, but it was Midir who had taken his identity. On the third visit, he reveals his real identity to Étaín but she doesn’t remember him. However, she believes him and agrees to be with him but only if Eochu agrees to let her go. The real Ailill fully recovered and Eochu returned home. Midir then appeared as himself at Tara and challenged Eochu to play fidchell to which they play for increasing stakes each game. Eochu kept winning or rather is left winning and Midir kept paying his dues. Finally, Midir suggests playing for an embrace and kiss from Étaín and wins. 

Eochu, angry at this, tells Midir to come back in a year to collect his winnings and in the meantime prepares his best warriors in defense. Despite the guards, Midir easily circumvents them and appears a year later for his prize. When Midir embraces and kisses Étaín, they turn into swans and fly away through the sky together. Eochu has his men dig up every fairy mound in Ireland until his wife is found and when they set about digging Midir’s síd at Brí Léith, Midir appears and agrees to give her back. However, at the scheduled time he appears with fifty women that look exactly like her and asks Eochu to pick one. He unwittingly picked his own daughter, for Étaín was pregnant when Midir took her away with him. The daughter became pregnant and bore Eochu a daughter which afterwards, Midir appears and informs Eochu of her real identity. Eochu is terribly shameful of the whole ordeal and orders the child of incest to be sent away and brought up in fosterage. Eochu is ultimately killed later on by Midir’s grandson.

From this incredible tale or multiple tales, we can gather many meaningful symbolic representations of old Irish culture. For starters, we can sense the tricking nature of the Gods as they intermingled with humans. We also get a sense for the prominence and magic of the belief in transmigration from being able to turn into the simplest of natural elements such as a pool of water and the smallest of flies. We can gather that women were still subject to their male counterparts but also had some relevant say in the course of their futures such as when Étaín agreed to go with Midir but only under certain circumstances. Through their story, there is value placed on their love and how they continued to connect and intermingle through time, for a thousand years passed and Midir would still not let her go. There is naturally a distain here for incest and finally, we are gifted a window into the gambling stakes that may have often been purposeful or a critical part of the fun involved with the game of fidchell.20 

There are many first hand quotes asserting a focus on cleanliness and claiming that Celtic peoples of old bathed daily as well as washed their clothes frequently, which seemingly was something unique enough to make mention of. In the Irish Brehon Laws, it was said that “Every foulness that adheres to a person’s honor, there are three things to wash off, soap, and water, and linen cloth.” Through this, we can sense a deeper and more spiritual relationship with water and the act of cleaning that heals, beyond that which is physically visible. There is something interesting related to this in reference to Banshees or ‘Washers at the Ford’ who were and are often seen washing the clothes of the deceased, or soon to be deceased and lends to further spiritual symbolism in the act of washing. Additionally, children in fosterage were required to have clothes washed at least every other day.21 The Gauls were credited for inventing the first soap in Europe made from tallow and ashes, the best being ashes from beech and yoke-elm.22 This was mentioned in the 1st and 2nd centuries by Roman philosopher Pliny and again by the Greek physician Aretaeus who said, “There are many other medicines of the Celts, which are men called “Gauls”, those alkaline substances made into balls, with which they cleanse their clothes, called “soap,” with which it is a very excellent thing to cleanse the body in the bath.”23 Again, Roman historian Ammianus remarked of Gauls as late as the 3rd century, “But all of them with equal care keep clean and neat, and in those districts, particularly in Aquitania, no man or woman can be seen, regardless of how poor she might be, in soiled and ragged clothing, as seen elsewhere.”24

In old Ireland, baths were quite usual and habitual as well. Typically, a fothruend, a warm bath of the full body would have been taken every night and an indlot, a simple rinsing of the hands or feet in a water basin or a nearby well or stream would be taken in the early morning. The indlot is referenced in at least two famous Irish tales, that of the Serglige Con Culainn or the The Sick-Bed of Cú Chulainn and in the Life and Acts of St. Patrick when King Laegaire’s two daughters were propositioned at the Well of Clebach near Cruachan. It was also mentioned in old historical texts that baths were commonly drawn for house guests as well as for warriors before a battle or other guests before venturing on a long voyage.25 There is archaeological evidence in Ireland to suggest that baths have been taken quite possibly since the Neolithic period and definitely by the late Bronze age which we have proof of in the many fulacht fiadh that dot the landscape. These were pits made in the earth surrounded by stones that would have been heated with a fire. They’re also found in Britain and the Isle of Mann and it’s thought they had a double use of both being a bath as well as a means to boil and cook meat. Many archaeologists have proposed the idea that a bath after cooking meat would have made sense as animal fat and ashes would have combined to provide a very good natural soap. Naturally, they may not have been cooking meat every single night so the main function of this pit was likely as a bath. This double usage was also referenced in the 18th century Irish romance of Mis and Dubh Ruis with characters originally referenced in the Fenian Cycle of Irish Mythology

The story goes that Dáire Dóidgheal, a powerful ruler from Europe and the enemy of Finn Mac Cumaill arrived in Ventry, County Kerry where a huge battle ensued called The Cath Finntrága or The Battle of Ventry. There were momentous losses on both sides but Finn Mac Cumaill decapitated Dáire Dóidgheal and ended the battle victoriously. Afterwards, Dáire’s daughter, Mis, searched frantically for her father’s body on the battlefield and in some variations, she witnessed him being decapitated. She fell to her knees in agonizing grief upon finding him, and licked his wounds in an attempt to heal him. She fell into a crazed and confused state and began drinking his blood. She transformed into a geilt, a terrible creature, grew claws and feathers that were the length of her entire body from her head to the ground as well as on her legs. It was said she then ran off into the wilderness ‘as fast as the wind’ and stayed ageless for 300 years on Sliabh Mis (named after her) near Tralee, County Kerry. She had a dreadful reputation terrorizing the local woodlands and it was finally decided by the King of Munster that she must be killed. However, every man that went to find her fell victim to her instead and never returned. 

Finally, the king’s harper Dubh Ruis went and with only his wits and his harp, he roamed the famous mountain to find her. He laid down on a blanket naked, and laid his harp over his body playing his soft music until she appeared and cautiously approached him. After a while, she asked about the songs he was playing and moment by moment, Dubh did various things to bring her memory back. He scattered coins, showed her a trick and prepared and cooked a deer she brought him in a fulacht fiadh. She remembered and calmed. He then undressed her, gave her a hot bath and tenderly washed her battered and bloody body, healing her broken bones. She remembered even more and remarked sadly, “I used to have a father.” to which Dubh replied, “I’m not going away.” They slept together on a soft bed he prepared for her and from that day forward they would not be parted. Months were spent in the woods together living on the land and loving over one another. Over this time Mis became completely present and cured of her madness as well as physical deformities. They both returned to the King of Munster’s halls to be married and would go on to have four children together.26

We also see the echoes of personal pride in one’s appearance, in the heroic tales where women and men alike are extolled as being of good form and beauty. This can be summed up quite easily from a description of Cú Chulainn from the Táin Bó Cúailnge where it was said, “Cú Chulainn came out the next morning to view the armies and display his noble fine figure to the matrons and virgins and young girls and poets and bards. He came out to display himself by day because he felt the unearthly shape he had shown them the night before had not done him justice. And certainly the youth was handsome as he came to show his form to the armies.” A peculiar quote regarding the appearance of the Gauls was made by Strabo speaking of Ephorus’s account in the 3rd century BCE where he said, “…he declares that the people (Celtica) are fond of the Greeks, and specifies many things about them that do not fit the facts of to-day. The following, also, is a thing peculiar to them, that they endeavour not to grow fat or pot-bellied, and any young man who exceeds the standard measure of the girdle is punished.”27 Of course this is only one quote to be taken with a grain of salt, however, again in the Irish Brehon Laws, being so overweight to be incapable of intercourse was interestingly, grounds for a woman to divorce her husband.28 

The Gauls were said to wash their hair in boiled lime water and pull it back from their faces so they were more visible. Diodorus as well as Strabo, both Greek historians in the 1st century BCE said of the Gauls in this regard, “The Gauls are tall, with rippling muscles, and white of skin, and their hair is blond, and not only naturally so, but they also make it their practice by artificial means to increase the distinguishing colour which nature has given it. For they are always washing their hair in lime-water, and they pull it back from the forehead to the top of the head and back to the nape of the neck, with the result that their appearance is like that of Satyrs and Pans, since the treatment of their hair makes it so heavy and coarse that it differs in no respect from the mane of horses.”29 This may have also lended to a chalky appearance in the hair and allowed warriors to spike their hair up as they were said to do this as a way to render themselves more fearsome. When Cú Chulainn went into his ‘war spasm’, his hair was said to stand up in great spikes that would pierce apples if one dropped on his head. Lime was also historically used to lighten and wash stones30 and clean walls31 in old Ireland as well as to enrich soil, which was also claimed to have been an invention of the Gauls.32

“Their physical characteristics are various and from these conclusions may be drawn. The red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia point clearly to a German origin. The dark complexion of the Silures, their usually curly hair, and the fact that Spain is the opposite shore to them, are an evidence that Iberians of a former date crossed over and occupied these parts. Those who are nearest to the Gauls are also like them, either from the permanent influence of original descent, or, because in countries which run out so far to meet each other, climate has produced similar physical qualities. But a general survey inclines me to believe that the Gauls established themselves in an island so near to them. Their religious belief may be traced in the strongly-marked British superstition. The language differs but little…” – Tacitus, Roman historian, 55 – 120 CE

Through quotes such as these we can affirm what has always been said time and again that there was absolutely never such a thing as a ‘Celtic’ race. Many invaders also settled and quickly became integrated into the culture such as the Norse and Normans. They may have worn a type of makeup and reddened their cheeks or added eye coloring to their eyes or eyebrows. This likely would have been made from a type of berry, possibly elderberry.33 Anyone of high repute would have undoubtedly had clean and cut fingernails and if they were a woman, they may have painted them regularly. When the sons of Uisliu die in the Irish tale, Oidheadh Chloinne Uisneach, the main character Deirdre laments and says: “I do not sleep now, And I do not redden my fingernails. Joy, it comes not into my observation.”34 Both men and women typically grew their hair long, both in the isles and Western Europe. In Ireland, it was said to have been left loose, elaborately curled or braided. The head would have likely been considered the seat of one’s soul of which we will explore later and particular hair styles may have held symbolic purpose or significance. The Tollund Man bog body found in Scandinavia wore his hair in a side braid and in Ireland, a medieval body of a man was discovered with a 16.5 inch plait of braided hair. Then again, the Clonycavan man in Ireland had shorter hair tied up in a top knot. Interestingly, he was wearing a pine and vegetable oil hair resin that was likely imported from Spain or France, one of countless clues lending to healthy and wide trading practices.

 In the Táin Bó Cúailnge, a beautiful woman named Fedelm described as a woman poet and Druid of Connacht, had three braids of hair wound round her head, and the fourth hanging down her back to her calves. Cú Chulainn himself was said to have hair that was three different colors, brown, red and gold which formed a triple braid before it fell into ringlets. Additionally, when Ferdiad went to fight Cú Chulainn, it was said that he had freshly ‘plaited’ or braided hair.35 Although there is as of yet no archaeological evidence, some believe they may have in rare instances worn locs, speculated to be referenced later in the medieval period as ‘fairy locs’, the idea of having matted hair that was sneakily twisted by the fairies while children slept. Although this is not necessarily referenced as meaning an entire head of matted hair, there is a quote in the Cathreim Thoirdhealbhaigh or Triumphs of Torlough written in approximately 1350 where a banshee is described as having hair “…thatched with elf locks, foxy grey and rough like heather, matted and like long sea-wrack.”36 This is not to say that it was a regularly occurring style of hair or we’d have more references for it but more or less, that it may have occurred to some extent. One of the tests for membership in the Fianna was that the candidate had to run through thick forest after having their hair freshly braided. They were chased by the entire band of Fianna warriors and could not be wounded, overtaken or have a braid of his hair loosened by the branches.37 

One of the exceptions to keeping long hair in Ireland may have been with soldiers as they’re depicted in the Book of Kells as having a ‘bowl’ cut and again in the Táin as having hair “trimmed to the shoulder”. In 1517, Archduke Ferdinand of Spain visited Ireland and said, “…for they (Irish men) were shorn and shaved one palm above the ears, so that only the tops of their heads were covered with hair. But on the forehead they leave about a palm of hair to grow down to their eyebrows like a tuft of hair which one leaves hanging on horses between the two eyes.”38 We see again in the Book of Kells, that the hair of the upper class was displayed quite elaborately with a mix of ringlets and braids. In fact, it was a mark of high accomplishment for even young men to be able to braid hair well.39 Throughout Ireland and Scotland, braids continued to be standard daily hair styles up through the 19th century with women having their massive braids held up by long pins bound up around the head. Sometimes ribbons were woven through or they wore some kind of bonnet over top of their braids. Typically, it was only unmarried women who may have kept their hair loose in public. 

“All the mountaineers (Iberians) are frugal, their beverage is water, they sleep on the ground, and wear a profuse quantity of long hair after the fashion of women, which they bind around the forehead when they go to battle.” – Strabo, Greek, 1st century BCE 

In old Ireland, upper class aristocratic men typically had full beards and mustaches while the lower class were required to shave monthly. The beards were often depicted in literature as well as art as being forked or cut square at the bottom. Mustaches were often long and curled at the ends which was true for Gaul as well.40 Tradesmen were in particular not permitted to have full beards likely for recognition purposes according to the Geisi Ulchai, or “Prohibitions of Beard”. Strabo quotes that the Gaulish upper class grew a mustache while others of lower class shaved off their facial hair or wore a short beard. Diodorus affirms this when he mentioned, “Some of them shave the beard, but others let it grow a little; and the nobles shave their cheeks, but they let the mustache grow until it covers the mouth.” Physical descriptions of the Gauls match that of both Roman, Greek and the Gaul’s own stone works where they are depicted similarly. In fact the famous Roman sculptural rendition of the ‘Dying Gaul’ clearly displays him as having a long mustache with a shaved chin. There were likely many various hairstyles depending on the community as well as personal preference and class status. Numerous sorts of hair ornaments, pins or decor may have been used and again, varied depending on the class. 

In addition to hair pins and jewelry, body jewelry was incredibly common and torcs, torc bracelets as well as various ornate gold lunula or lunalae necklaces and earrings were very common from Ireland to mainland Europe. There is evidence for torcs being worn from approximately 1200 BCE all the way up through nearly to the common era as evidenced by the Stirling Torcs found in Scotland. A torc or muntore is referenced as being worn by Irish King Cormac Mac Art as well in 254 CE while at the fèis on the Hill of Tara.41 Two of the most famous torcs renowned for their size were found with the Broighter Hoard on a farm in County Derry, Ireland and in the Vix Grave in France. Again, Diodorus tells us of the Gauls “In this manner they amass a great amount of gold, which is used for ornament not only by the women but also by the men. For around their wrists and arms they wear bracelets, around their necks heavy necklaces [torcs] of solid gold, and huge rings they wear as well, and even corselets of gold.” The torc is often included in carved stone or metal depictions of Gods and Goddesses and there is a likely ritual or symbolic significance to the jewelry design, possibly to protect its wearer. 

“Let men even, at the present day, wear gold upon the arms in form of bracelets known as dardania, because the practice first originated in Dardania, and called viriolæ in the language of the Celts, viriæ in that of Celtiberia, let women wear gold upon their arms and all their fingers, their necks, their ears, the tresses of their hair.” – Pliny the Elder, Roman historian, 23 – 79 CE

It is thought that the various Celtic nations painted, tattooed or scarred themselves or possibly a combination thereof. The Scotti or Picts were often called ‘scarred and painted men’ while the Britons were said to dye themselves with blue colored ‘woad’ the plant known as Isatis tinctoria. References were made possibly referring to both, temporary paint as well as puncturing the skin to make a more permanent tattoo.42,43 Caesar quite famously said in the 1st century BCE, “All the Britons, indeed, dye themselves with woad, which occasions a bluish color, and thereby have a more terrible appearance in fight.”44 Although, undoubtedly there is a recipe including this herb that is lost in time. Interestingly, ash takes on a blue hue after it dries on the body. There may have been some combination of ash, woad and possibly even liquid metal such as liquid copper in order for the ‘paint’ to stay successfully on the body if they were not puncturing the skin to make the coloring (of ash and woad) permanent. Pliny also went on to say later in the 1st century, “There is a plant in Gaul, similar to the plantago in appearance, and known there by the name of “glastum:” with it both matrons and girls among the people of Britain are in tile habit of staining the body all over, when taking part in the performance of certain sacred rites; rivalling hereby tile swarthy hue of the Æthiopianls, they go in a state of nature.”45 It is also mentioned by translators that Pliny was specifically referring to puncturing the skin and using color to permanently tattoo themselves. Pliny also mentioned an interesting recipe for the color blue he called chrysocolla which may have been malachite, “…hydrated dicarbonate of copper, pounded and sifted and mixed with alum and woad.”46 Another possibility was written by Roman architect Vitruvius Pollio in the 1st century BCE when he referred to various colored Greek recipes,“Again, for want of indigo, they dye Selinusian or anularian chalk with woad, which the Greeks call ἰσάτις, and make an imitation of indigo.”47 This possibility is also credible given that the use of chalk is mentioned as already quoted as being a means for the various Gaulish nations to spike their hair. 

The best evidence for scarification comes from Gaulish coins as many depictions show spirals seemingly embedded in the skin and that Caesar said himself they had “designs carved into their faces by iron”.48 One of the best quotes affirming both tattooing as well as scarification comes to us from Herodian, a Syrian historian who mentioned in the 2nd century that the Britons “…puncture their bodies with pictured forms of every sort of animals; on which account they wear no clothing, lest they should hide the figures on their body.”49 Gaius Solinus, a Latin historian additionally went on in the 3rd century to say that, “That region is partly held by barbarians, who from childhood have different pictures of animals skillfully implanted on their bodies, so that as the man grows, so grow the marks painted on him; there is nothing more that they consider as a test of patience than to have their limbs soak up the maximum amount of dye through these permanent scars.”50 As far as evidence for tattooing in the archaeological record, there have at minimum been examples uncovered on Scythian bodies displaying various tattooed animals whom we know were connected and trading with Celtic nations.51 It’s worth mentioning here as well that the oldest discovered tattooed body is that of Ötzi the Iceman, discovered in the  Ötztal Alps between Austria and Italy who lived sometime between 3400 and 3100 BCE. He has 61 tattoos total, 19 groups of black lines made by puncturing the skin repeatedly and rubbing with ash. Archaeologists speculate these tattoos may have been for medicinal or spiritual purposes. 

The clothing was quoted as being brightly colored, often in plaids, stripes or with fringe accents. Both the Roman Pliny and Greek Diodorus in the 1st century BCE mention the Gauls as wearing checkered designs on their clothing. It was said to be many varied colors and they wore breeches, called bracae. They fastened cloaks to their shoulders with a fibula or brooch that was heavy in the winter and light in summer.52 Pliny specifically mentions that the tartan or plaid design was first created and used in Gaul.53 The Roman poet Virgil, also in the 1st century BCE left us a wonderful quote describing the Gaulish attire going into battle where he said, “Outside, besieging Gauls climbed the thorny pathway, ambushed in shadow and the friendly dark of night without a star; their flowing hair was golden, and every item of their clothing was gold; their cloaks were glittering plaid; each milk-white neck bore circlet of bright gold; in each man’s hand two Alpine javelins gleamed, and the wild northern warriors bore long shields for defense.”54 The plaid design known as breacán in Irish Gaeilge and breacan in Scots Gaelic is a wonderful remnant of this ancient design although it’s still unclear where the original tartan design began as we can’t take one Roman’s word on it. 

Although, the earliest reference point to a tartan design archaeologically does happen to be from the Hallstatt burials in Austria dated to approximately 1200 to 800 BCE. Famous Briton Iceni warrior, Bouddica or Buduica was said to have worn a “tunic of diverse colours” by Roman historian Cassius Dio in the 2nd century CE.55 The Brehon Laws mention the ‘tartan’ cloth and that both daughters and sons could inherit the cloth upon their parents death. Additionally, the tartan, “cloth of every colour” was used to cover animals.56,57 The tartan is again mentioned in the Irish Metrical Dindshenchas in the tale of Lumman Tige Srafáin where it said that a particular cloak was “…not white, nor grey, nor dun; it is not red, nor blue, nor purple; it is no tartan, striped nor checkered; it is no beribboned garment of ease.” Of course, this wonderful design is famously known throughout the world as being most widely associated with Scotland. The oldest plaid cloth in Scotland is from the 3rd century called the ‘Falkirk tartan’. 

The prohibition of the tartan and kilt was imposed by the Dress Act of 1746 by the Parliament of Great Britain designed to crush the Scottish clan system just after and in response to the Jacobite Rebellions. The devastating Highland Clearances began to take place directly after this and lasted from 1750 through 1860. The Gaiseadh a’ bhuntàta, or Highland Potato Famine in 1846 exacerbated this situation. The Dress Act was repealed in 1782 but at that point the tartan had nearly completely disappeared. However, in 1784, Scottish aristocrats Sir Walter Scott and James MacDonald set up The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland which managed to keep the tartan alive as well as propagate the idea of clans having their own individual plaid design. This soon became incredibly popular with families, even those who may have previously never worn plaid before. It’s debated when the first kilt, a traditionally Scottish formal male attire, was worn as this attire is often associated with the tartan pattern. There isn’t much credible evidence of its use before the 15th century aside from sculptural designs but for which there are numerous. As an example, in Galicia, there is a statue at San Julião Hillfort, dating to the 3rd century BCE that looks to be wearing a skirt with a checkered pattern as well as seated sculptures wearing a patterned skirt in the Acropolis Roquepertuse near Velaux, France dated to the same time period. In Ireland, there are also various carvings that exhibit skirts as well, such as the carving of two men from Clonmacnoise Monastery dated to the 6th century. It’s important to remember that wearing a tunic type shirt that mimicked a skirt, stopped at the knee and had various cloaks, belts or garments worn over top of that to secure it, was quite common in the classical world among the Romans and Greeks as well. That is to say that many people see the kilt as quaint whereas it was likely quite normal attire for men to wear for the time in which it was originally devised.

Again, in old Ireland and Scotland there was traditionally a long ​léine or shirt worn by both women and men alike. Women wore it full length while the men’s went to approximately knee length, usually tucked into a belt. Pants called triubhas in Gaeilge or drathais in Scots Gaelic were worn in the winter for both men and women as well. The brat, mantle or cloak was worn over top of this, fastened by a brooch. We also can see the craftsmanship of personal decor displayed on beautifully ornate brooches, such as the Tara Brooch in Ireland or Rogart Brooch in Scotland that still remain a popular part of folk culture today. If it was particularly cold, a woolen jacket may have been worn over that reaching to the waistline. In the Táin Bó Cúailnge, many various cloaks of colors are mentioned worn by a variety of people, including blue, white, yellow and red. 

When we reflect on these visualizations of these various Native people, one thing most certainly becomes clear that they were not ‘barbarians’ the classical sense would have often had us believe. There is somewhat of a continuation of style from the isles to Gaul. We see the echoes of an incredibly organized and sound societal structure with an organized sense, who used simple, yet also ornate styles of dress. We interpret these modes of style as both pleasing and elegant as well as functional, likely as much for daily living as for symbolic or spiritual significance. Through these glimmers into the past, we can imagine a very localized life of tightly knit communities and families that worked hard but also enjoyed simple pleasures, kept one eye on beauty and another on practicality and connected to their land deeply through agriculture, hunting and foraging. 

Footnotes

  1. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Henry Bohn, 1855. 

“Wool is compressed also for making a felt, which, if soaked in vinegar, is capable of resisting even iron; and, what is still more, after having gone through the last process, wool will even resist fire; the refuse, too, when taken out of the vat of the scourer, is used for making mattresses, an invention, I fancy, of the Gauls. At all events, it is by Gallic names that we distinguish the different sort of mattresses at the present day…”

  1. Athenaeus. The Deipnosophists. Or Banquet Of The Learned Of Athenaeus. London. Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. 1854.

“The Celtæ place food before their gusts, putting grass for their seats, and they serve it up on wooden tables raised a very little above the ground…”

  1. Ó Muiri, Reamonn. Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society, vol. 17, no. 2, Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha/Armagh Diocesan Historical Society, 1998, pp. 222–23, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25746832.
  2. Julius Caesar. Caesar’s Gallic War. Translator. W. A. McDevitte. Translator. W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1869.

“Moreover, even as to laboring cattle, in which the Gauls take the greatest pleasure, and which they procure at a great price…”

  1. Binchy, D. A., ed. Críth gablach. DIAS. ISBN 1-85500-002-4. 1979, 1941.
  2. Garrow, Duncan, and Fraser Sturt. “Neolithic Crannogs: Rethinking Settlement, Monumentality and Deposition in the Outer Hebrides and Beyond.” Antiquity, vol. 93, no. 369, 2019. pp. 664–684. <doi:10.15184/aqy.2019.41.>
  3. Dixon, Nicholas. The Crannogs of Scotland: An underwater archaeology. Tempus Publishing, Limited, 2004. 
  4. Polybius. Histories. trans. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh. New York: Macmillan, 1889.

“They lived in villages without walls or any permanent buildings. They made their beds of straw or leaves and fed on meat and followed no pursuits but those of war and agriculture. They lived simple lives without knowledge of any science or art whatever. Each man’s property, moreover, consisted of cattle and gold, as they were the only things that could be easily carried with them, when they wandered from place to place, and changed their dwelling as their fancy directed. They made a great point, however, of friendship: for the man who had the largest number of clients or companions in his wanderings, was looked upon as the most formidable and powerful member of the nation.”

  1. Dio Cassiuss. Roman History. trans. Earnest Cary. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927.

“Caratacus, a barbarian chieftain who was captured and brought to Rome and later pardoned by Claudius, wandered about the city after his liberation; and after beholding its splendor and its magnitude he exclaimed: ‘And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?’”

  1. Diodorus Siculus. Library of History (Books III – VIII), trans. C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935.

“They inhabit a rough and barren country, and live a toilsome and troublesome life in their daily labour for their common sustenance; for the country being mountainous and full of woods, some are employed all day long in cutting down trees, being furnished with strong and great hatchets for that purpose. The husbandman’s business for the most part lies in hewing and breaking rocks, the soil is so very rough and craggy; for there is not a clod of earth they can dig up without a stone; and though they continually thus conflict so many hardships, yet custom has turned it to a second nature; and after all their labour and toil, they reap but very little fruit, scarce sufficient to supply their necessities. Daily toil therefore, and scarcity of food, is the reason they are so lean, and nothing but sinews. The women share in these laborious tasks as much as the men : these people hunt often, and take many wild beasts, by which they supply the want of bread. Being therefore accustomed to range the snowy mountains, and climb the rough and craggy hills, their bodies are very strong and brawny. Some of them for want of corn and other fruits, drink water; and feed upon locusts and wild beasts, and cram their bellies with such herbs as the land there produces; their country being altogether a stranger to those desirable deities, Ceres and Bacchus.” 

  1. Caesar, Julius. Caesar’s Gallic War, trans. W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1869.
  2. Strabo. The Geography of Strabo, ed. and trans. H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer. London: George Bell & Sons, 1903. 

“However, the account given by Posidonius is the more credible. He tells us that the wealth found in Toulouse amounted to somewhere about 15,000 talents [units of money], a part of which was hidden in the chapels, and the remainder in the sacred lakes, and that it was not coined [money], but gold and silver in bullion. But at this time the temple of Delphi was emptied of these treasures, having been pillaged by the Phocæans at the period of the Sacred war and supposing any to have been left, it would have been distributed amongst many. Nor is it probable that the Tectosages returned home, since they came off miserably after leaving Delphi, and owing to their dissensions were scattered here and there throughout the country; there is much more likelihood in the statement made by Posidonius and many others, that the country abounding in gold, and the inhabitants being superstitious, and not living expensively, they hid their treasures in many different places, the lakes in particular affording them a hiding- place for depositing their gold and silver bullion. When the Romans obtained possession of the country they put up these lakes to public sale, and many of the purchasers found therein solid masses of silver. In Toulouse there was a sacred temple, held in great reverence by the inhabitants of the surrounding country, and on this account loaded with riches, inasmuch as there were many who offered gifts, and no one dared to touch them.”

  1. Pliny the Elder. The Natural History. trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Henry Bohn, 1855.

“Before it was known in what estimation coral was held by the people of India, the Gauls were in the habit of adorning their swords, shields, and helmets with it.”

  1. VandenBoom, Becki. “Pre-conquest Celtic and Germanic Trade with the Wider Mediterranean.” Academia. <https://www.academia.edu/5081476/Pre_conquest_Celtic_and_Germanic_trade_with_the_wider_Mediterranean>&nbsp;
  2. University of Southampton. “Archaeologists discover evidence of prehistoric gold trade route.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. 5 June 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150605081611.htm>.
  3. Lynn, C. Navan Fort Archaeology and Myth, Wordwell Ltd., Bray. 2003. 
  4. Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis, cap. IV: <www.hs-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia/Lspost10/Brendanus/bre_navi.html.>
  5. The Deipnosophists / Athenaeus, trans. Charles Burton Gulick. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1937. 

“But among the Galatians,” says Phylarchus in his sixth book, “it is the custom to place on the tables a great number of loaves broken indiscriminately, and meat just taken out of the cauldrons, which no one touches without first waiting for the king to see whether he touches anything of what is served up before him.” 

“The Celts sometimes have single combats at their entertainments. For being collected in arms, they go through the exercise, and make feints at, and sometimes they even go so far as to wound one another. And being irritated by this, if the bystanders do not stop them, they will proceed even to kill one another. But in olden times,” he continues, “there was a custom that a hind quarter of pork was put on the table, and the bravest man took it; and if any one else laid claim to it, then the two rose up to fight till one of them was slain.”

  1. Storhaug, Christian Løvold. Fosse,  Svein Kjetil. T Fadnes,  Lars . “Country, Regional, and Global Estimates for Lactose Malabsorption in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” thelancet.com, 2017.
  2. Gantz, Jeffrey. Early Irish Myths and Sagas. 1981.
  3. Donovan, Dr. John. O’Curry, Eugene. Atkinson, Robert. Ancient Laws of Ireland, Vol. 4. 1865, 1901. pg. 319. 
  4. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Henry Bohn, 1855.
  5. The Extant Works of Aretaeus, The Cappadocian, trans. Francis Adams. Boston: Milford House Inc, 1856.
  6. Ammianus Marcellinus, trans. John C. Rolfe. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935-1940.
  7. Joyce, P.W. A Social History of Ancient Ireland. Vol. 2. Longmans Green and Co, 1903. pg. 185 – 186. 
  8. Anaithnid, compiled by Ó Cuív, Brian. The Romance of Mis and Dubh Ruis. 1769.
  9. Strabo. The Geography of Strabo English translation by Horace White. Vol. 4, ch. 4. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. Loeb Classical Library.
  10. Kelly, Fergus. A Guide to Early Irish Law. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1988. Pg. 74. 
  11. Diodorus Siculus. Library of History (Books III – VIII), trans. C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935.
  12. Newton, Michael, from the edition of Knott, “Filidh Éireann.” Note the rendering of original Irish names into English, particularly “Uilliam Ó Ceallaigh” translated as “William O’Kelly.”
  13. Newton, Michael, from the edition in Standish O’Grady edit. and trans., Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh. London: Irish Texts Society, 1929.
  14. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Henry Bohn, 1855. 

“There is another method, which has been invented both in Gaul and Britain, of enriching earth by the [use of] marl [loose spoil of clay and lime]. This soil is looked upon as containing a greater amount of fertilizing properties, and acts as a fat in relation to the earth […] The Aedui and the Pictones have rendered their lands remarkably fertile by the aid of limestone, which is also found to be particularly beneficial to the olive and the vine.”

  1. O’Curry, MS. Mat., 309, 595,6: Silva Gad., 120 (Irish text, ill). Berry-juice is here called sugh-suhh, from sugh, ‘juice,’ and subh ‘ a berry.’
  2. Hull, Vernam. The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu, Book of Leinster, 12th century. University College, Cork, 2013. 
  3. Kinsella, Thomas. The Táin. Le Brocuy, Louis, 1970. pg. 60,156, 175. 
  4. O’Grady, Standish Hayes. Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh. London: Irish Texts Society, 1929.
  5. O’Grady, Standish Hayes. Áirem Muintire Finn. 15th century. Original author unknown. 1892.
  6. Archduke Ferdinand’s visit to Kinsale in Ireland, an extract from Le Premier Voyage de Charles-Quint en Espagne, de 1517 à 1518. Corpus of Electronic Texts.
  7. Joyce, P.W. A Social History of Ancient Ireland. Vol. 2. Longmans Green and Co, 1903. pg. 180. 
  8. Diodorus Siculus. Library of History (Books III – VIII), trans. C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935. 

“Some of them shave the beard, but others let it grow a little; and the nobles shave their cheeks, but they let the mustache grow until it covers the mouth.”

  1. Joyce, P.W. A Social History of Ancient Ireland. Vol. 2. Longmans Green and Co, 1903. pg. 231.
  2.  Isidore of Seville. Etymologiae. 600 – 625. 

“The Scots derive their name from their painted body which is noticeable because of the black markings of different figures made with sharp iron instruments.”

  1.  Poppleton, Robert. Poppleton manuscript, Pictish Chronicle. 13th century.

“The name of the nation of the Picts is derived from their body,which a fine needle plays upon by making tiny punctures, filled by the juice extracted from a native plant, so that by the means of painted limbs, the true nobility carries these marks as a way of identification.”

  1. Caesar’s Gallic War, trans. W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1869.
  2. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Henry Bohn, 1855. 

“I remark, in the first place, that there are some foreign nations which, in obedience to long-established usage, employ certain plants for the embellishment of the person. That, among some barbarous peoples, the females1 stain the face by means of various plants, there can be little doubt, and among the Daci and the Sarmatæ we find the men even marking2 their bodies. There is a plant in Gaul, similar to the plantago in appearance, and known there by the name of “glastum:”3 with it both matrons and girls4 among the people of Britain are in tile habit of staining the body all over, when taking part in the performance of certain sacred rites; rivalling hereby tile swarthy hue of the Æthiopianls, they go in a state of nature.”

  1. Thurston Peck, Harry. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.
  2. Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture. Morris Hicky Morgan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. London: Humphrey Milford. Oxford University Press. 1914.
  3. Caesar, Julius. Iuli Commentarii Rerum in Gallia Gestarum VII A. Hirti Commentarius VII. T. Rice Holmes. Oxonii. e Typographeo Clarendoniano. 1914.
  4. Herodian. Historiarum. 180 – 238. 
  5. Solinus, Gaius. Polyhistoriæ, Monumenta Historica Britannica. 3rd century.
  6. Brothwell, Don R. The bog man and the archaeology of people. Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press. 1987. Pg. 94. 
  7. Diodorus Siculus. Library of History (Books III – VIII), trans. C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935.

 “The clothing they wear is striking — shirts which have been dyed and embroidered in varied colours, and breeches, which they call in their tongue bracae; and they wear striped coats, fastened by a fibula on the shoulder, heavy for winter wear and light for summer, in which are set checks, close together and of varied hues.”

  1. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Henry Bohn, 1855. 

“Babylon was very famous for making embroidery in different colours, and hence materials of this kind have obtained the name of “Babylonian.” The method of weaving cloth with more than two threads was invented at Alexandria; these cloths are called polymita; it was in Gaul that they were first used to create a checkered pattern.”

  1. The Aeneid, trans. Theodore C. Williams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1910.
  2. Cassius Dio. Roman History. Book LXII. Pg. 85. 
  3. Donovan, Dr. John. O’Curry, Eugene. Atkinson, Robert. Ancient Laws of Ireland, Vol. 3. 1865, 1901. Pg. 405. 
  4. Donovan, Dr. John. O’Curry, Eugene. Atkinson, Robert. Ancient Laws of Ireland, Vol. 1. 1865, 1901. Pg. 189.
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