Celts

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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The peculiar objects called celts, and the weapons and domestic utensils of this or an earlier period, are a subject of scarcely less interest. The use of the celt has fairly perplexed all antiquarian research. Its name is derived not, as might be supposed, from the nation to whom this distinctive appellation was given, but from the Latin word celtis, a chisel. It is not known whether these celts, or the round, flat, sharp-edged chisels, were called Lia Miledh, "warriors' stones." In the record of the battle of the Ford of Comar, Westmeath, the use of this instrument is thus described:—

"There came not a man of Lohar's people without a broad green spear, nor without a dazzling shield, nor without a Liagh-lamha-laich (a champion's hand stone), stowed away in the hollow cavity of his shield .... And Lohar carried his stone like each of his men; and seeing the monarch his father standing in the ford with Ceat, son of Magach, at one side, and Connall Cearnach at the other, to guard him, he grasped his battle-stone quickly and dexterously, and threw it with all his strength, and with unerring aim, at the king his father; and the massive stone passed with a swift rotatory motion towards the king, and despite the efforts of his two brave guardians, it struck him on the breast, and laid him prostrate in the ford. The king, however, recovered from the shock, arose, and placing his foot upon the formidable stone, pressed it into the earth, where it remains to this day, with a third part of it over ground, and the print of the king's foot visible upon it."

Flint proper, or chalk flint, is found but in few places in Ireland; these are principally in the counties of Antrim, Down, and Derry. In the absence of a knowledge of the harder metals, flint and suchlike substances were invaluable as the only material that could be fashioned into weapons of defence, and used to shape such rude clothing as was then employed. The scarcity of flint must have rendered these weapons of great value in other districts. Splitting, chipping, and polishing, and this with tools as rude as the material worked on, were the only means of manufacturing such articles; and yet such was the perfection, and, if the expression be applicable, the amount of artistic skill attained, that it seems probable flint-chipping was a special trade, and doubtless a profitable one to those engaged in it.

When flints were used as arrows, either in battle or in the chase, a bow was easily manufactured from the oak and birch trees with which the island was thickly wooded. It was bent by a leathern thong, or the twisted intestine of some animal. The handles of the lance or javelin—formidable weapons, if we may judge from the specimens in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy—were also formed of wood; but these have perished in the lapse of ages, and left only the strangely and skilfully formed implement of destruction.

Among primitive nations, the tool and the weapon differed but little. The hatchet which served to fell the tree, was as readily used to cleave open the head of an enemy. The knife, whether of stone or hard wood, carved the hunter's prey, or gave a death-stroke to his enemy. Such weapons or implements have, however, frequently been found with metal articles, under circumstances which leave little doubt that the use of the former was continued long after the discovery of the superior value of the latter. Probably, even while the Tuatha Dé Danann artificers were framing their more refined weapons for the use of nobles and knights, the rude fashioner of flint-arrows and spear-heads still continued to exercise the craft he had learned from his forefathers, for the benefit of poorer or less fastidious warriors.

Cromlech in Phoenix Park

The urn and necklace, figured at page 154, were found in this tomb.

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