Early Ireland, The Iron Age And The Celts

Stone of Turoe, Co. Galway, Ireland. Phot by Dirk Huth.

The Celts have had a great influence on Ireland. Evidence of this can be found in the early art. A style of art called La Tene, that was practiced in Europe and evidence of this has been found in the northern part of Ireland.  An example of this is the Turo stone, a granite stone decorated in a Celtic style located in the village of Bullaun, County Galway, Ireland. It probably dates to about the period 100 BC to 100 AD. The stone is now positioned in a covered protective structure on the lawn in front of Turoe House, set in a concrete base surrounded by a metal cattle grill. The Turoe stone is National Monument of Ireland.

The Iron Age And The Celts

By Enda McLarnon

The Bronze Age ended as iron was introduced into Ireland, around the sixth century BC. What is interesting is that this knowledge of iron-working reached Britain around 800 BC, and there is very little evidence of the use of iron in Ireland. Some metal objects have been found but mainly in rivers and lakes and this makes them impossible to date with any degree of certainty. Celtic speaking people existed in Europe and it seems pretty clear that they also came to and existed in Ireland. It can not however be assumed that they are responsible for the introduction of the metal iron into Ireland. It is important to note that the Romans never came to Ireland and may explain many of the cultural differences and also a gap in technology.

There is however a style of art called La Tene, that was practised in Europe and evidence of this has been found in the northern part of Ireland. This culture centred in Switzerland around 1500-1000 BC and then expanded across Europe around 400 BC. The culture was removed by the Romans and existed only in places which had not been influenced by the Romans, and Ireland was one of those. This culture is associated with advanced forms of metalwork, decorative ornamentation, jewelry and goldsmithery and these were the strengths of the Celts.

The Celts who had a reputation for being fearsome warriors were defeated due to the political nature of their culture which consisted of a loose network of tribal societies rather than a centralised authority which the Romans clearly possessed. The earlier Hallstatt civilisation was based in Austria and then shifted to the Rhine and the Alps with trade missions to Spain, Britain and Ireland. They settled all of Gaul but their culture impact did vary from region to region, and was based on trade rather than by violence. There are some stones in Ireland that show the wonderful inscriptions of the La Tene culture such as the Castlestrange Stone in County Roscommon.

The weapons of this period point to one thing, the importance of close quarter fighting. Weapons used are swords, spears; bronze trumpets and these were found along with gold ornaments. Another interesting find has been various horse trappings, including bridle bits. We also know that a form of wooden tracking has been uncovered in County Longford.

The most significant that we can ascertain from this period is that Ireland did indeed possess a spoken language. That language was a Celtic one and it became the language of that day. Archaeological evidence does teach us that the Celts came to Ireland between 500 BC and 500 AD. Quite often Gaul is directly associated with the Celts and it is best explained like this. The area known as Gaul included all of France, Belgium and most of Switzerland. The word Gaul does get equated with the word Keltoi or Celt, but not all of Gaul was actually Celtic. There were areas of Gaul that had associations with other races, Iberian, Ligurian, Greeks at Marseilles and Germans from along the Rhine.

Despite this, we know that the legacy of the Celts lives on and we know that because of the language. Celts spoke what is known as an Indo-European language which developed into “P-Celtic,” and this was known as the speech of Britain and Gaul, ancestor of Welsh and Breton, and also into Q-Celtic, the language of the people of Ireland, ancestor of the Gaelic and now the Irish language.

The Celts did have a primitive alphabet known as the Ogam or Ogham which used a series of notches, cut into the edge of a stone. The Q Celts could not pronounce the letter “p” so they either didn’t use it or changed it to a “q” type sound. Speakers of Irish can understand Scots Gaelic but will not be able to understand Welsh or Breton at all, as for the last 2,000 years these languages have grown and developed. What is strange about the Celts is that where other peoples left their various marks on the Irish landscape, that is not the same for the Celts, yet they developed a language that is still surviving and spoken today.

To summarise in P-Celtic the word for son is “Mab” which is linked with Gaul or Brythonic (British), whereas in Q-Celtic the word for son is “Mac” in Goidelic and can be seen on primitive Irish Ogham inscriptions. Remember that the Celts were a loose amalgam of tribes and as such they left little behind except the form of writing known as either Ogam or Ogham. This script was used in Ireland from around the 4th to the 8th Century.

There is very little written evidence in existence to generate a picture of what Ireland must have looked like in these times. There are some small pieces of information available from writers like, Gaius Julius Solinus, a Latin grammarian, Tactitus a Roman historian, and Strabo the Greek. The common theme from all these early writers is that they viewed Ireland as being situated on the edge of the known world at that time, that its inhabitants were classed as barbaric and that Ireland, simply because of its location would be rich in crops and free of any pestilence.

A quite unknown fact and sometimes I think intentionally forgotten was that Solinus actually recorded that there were no snakes in Ireland a good two hundred years before the arrival of Saint Patrick. Hopefully that answers a question I am often asked about Saint Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland. Snakes did not exist in Ireland since the Ice Age, so he could not have banished what did not exist!

Ireland never was part of the Roman Empire but was no doubt influenced by it as it lay close to its neighbour Britain. Roman power there declined in the fifth century AD and the Irish started to plunder there. The most successful of these was the Dal Riata of the Glens of Antrim who plundered the districts of Argyll and the Hebrides. Again quite an unknown fact was that the Romans called Ireland Scotia, but such was the impact of the Dal Riata community at that time on their successful plundering, the name Scotia was transferred to that area, and as such Scotland was born. This also happened in parts of Wales.

By Enda McLarnon

I am an avid reader of anything to do with Irish History and have been studying this subject for many year. I trust you find this article informative.



Rick Steves Ireland 2017

Rick Steves Ireland 2017You can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling in Ireland.

With this guide, you can explore lively Dublin, quaint Kilkenny, and the moss-draped ruins of the Ring of Kerry. Navigate meandering back roads that lead to windswept crags on the dramatic Dingle Peninsula. Explore Ireland’s revered past by following St. Patrick’s footsteps to the Rock of Cashel. Marvel at Newgrange, the mysterious mound older than the pyramids; then connect with today’s Irish culture by grabbing a pint at the local pub, enjoying the fiddle music, and jumping into conversations that buzz with brogue.

Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)


Newgrange passage grave. Photo by Shira.

Newgrange is a Stone Age (Neolithic) monument in the Boyne Valley, County Meath. Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which is believed to be before Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.


Brú na Bóinne aerial picture by Pasztilla.


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Bethany Ehlmann to Receive Urey Prize

American Astronomical Society to recognize Ehlmann for outstanding achievement in planetary research by an early-career scientist
News Writer: 
Robert Perkins

Bethany Ehlmann

Bethany Ehlmann
Credit: Caltech

The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society has announced that Caltech’s Bethany Ehlmann will receive the 2017 Harold C. Urey Prize for outstanding achievements in planetary research by an early-career scientist.

Ehlmann, professor of planetary science and Jet Propulsion Laboratory research scientist, received the award in recognition of her work using spectroscopy to determine the mineralogy of Mars’s surface and the extent of its previous habitability. In particular, she has discovered minerals in the ancient rocks of Mars that indicate that hospitable environments once existed on the Red Planet, including groundwater-fed environments that have not yet been visited by rovers.

“Her inspiring work has motivated the development of Mars exploration strategies and methods, has been applied to other solar system bodies, and will continue to drive planetary science forward,” notes Ehlmann’s award citation.

An alumna of Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Oxford in England, and Brown University, Ehlmann joined Caltech as an assistant professor in 2011. DPS chair Lucy McFadden will present Ehlmann with the award in October at the 49th annual meeting of the DPS in Provo, Utah.

Established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, the American Astronomical Society is an organization of professional astronomers in North America whose mission is to “enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.” Its membership of 7,000 also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others.

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

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Turquoise Swirls in the Black Sea

On May 29, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured the data for this image of an ongoing phytoplankton bloom in the Black Sea. The image is a mosaic, composed from multiple satellite passes over the region. NASA Image of the Day


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NASA’s IceBridge Wraps Up 2017 Arctic Campaign With Southern Greenland Flight

A fjord in southern Greenland, as seen during Operation IceBridge’s last flight of the 2017 Arctic campaign, on May 12, 2017. This final full science flight, ICESat-2 South, was designed along the ground tracks of NASA’s upcoming ICESat-2, to fill in a gap in altimetry coverage of central southern Greenland. NASA Image of the Day

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Caltech Postdoc a Future Astronaut

News Writer: 
Robert Perkins


Jessica Watkins
Credit: Courtesy of Jessica Watkins

NASA announced today that Caltech’s Jessica Watkins, GPS Chair’s Postdoctoral Fellow and California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Fellow, has been selected for the 2017 Astronaut Class. A native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, Watkins graduated from Stanford University in 2010 and earned a PhD from UCLA in 2015. For the past two years, she has worked at Caltech on the Mars Science Laboratory mission’s Curiosity rover with John Grotzinger, the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology and Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. A multi-sport athlete, Watkins has also served as an assistant coach for the Caltech women’s basketball team. In just two months, she will depart from Pasadena to begin two years of astronaut training in Houston—the realization of a dream that began when she was nine years old.

Watkins recently talked with us how she got where she is today, and what is next for her.

What inspired you to become an astronaut?

I’ve been trying to remember what that moment was for me. I was doing an afterschool enrichment program at Judith A. Resnik Elementary School [in Gaithersburg, Maryland]. Judy Resnik was an astronaut. I must have had a conversation with my parents at some point about “Who is Judy Resnik? What did she do?” I think I was inspired by her story and decided I wanted to be an astronaut, and that never went away.

What do you do to prepare to become an astronaut?

It’s kind of a tough question because there’s really no way to prepare to be an astronaut. There’s no degree in being an astronaut. From what I understand about the selection process, they’re really looking for a diverse team with a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. So what they want to see is that you are well-rounded but that you’ve also chosen a path, are passionate about it, and have excelled in that field, whatever that field may be—as long as it’s a STEM field. To that end, I’ve pursued my passion for planetary geology and studying Mars, and built a career around that with the assumption that if being an astronaut didn’t happen, I’d still be fulfilled and enjoy planetary geology.

How do you prepare physically for this training?

I’ve played sports all throughout my life. In high school I played basketball, soccer, and ran track, and in college I picked up rugby. I played rugby at Stanford for four years and also played on the national team. Those have helped me maintain my health, but also there are important teamwork and discipline aspects that have helped me to get to this point.

Tell us about getting the call from NASA, letting you know that you had been selected.

We knew that the call was coming on May 25, either way. There was some speculation among the interviewees about what time they would call, and what that would mean. Or who was calling, and what that would mean. But all of that was speculation. You get a phone call, and you’re just nervously listening to the tone of the voice on the other end, trying to figure out what they’re going to say.

Where were you when you got the call?

I was actually in bed. I had come down with a cold—a poorly timed cold—so I was in bed and resting. I picked up the phone and I was talking to Brian “BK” Kelly, who is the director of the Flight Operations Directorate at Johnson Space Center in Houston. And he said “How are you doing?” And I said, “I’m actually a little under the weather.” And he said, “Maybe we can help with that.” And that was when I knew.

What did you do next?

I hung up the phone and just sat there for a second. I was going back through it in my mind, saying “They did say yes, right? And they got the right person?” I had half a mind to call them back and double check. But I let it sink in for a second, then called my parents and my sister to share the good news, and I went back to sleep at that point. My excitement was too much to handle.

Do you have to relocate for training?

The new class of astronauts is going to report to Johnson Space Center later this summer, in August. There’s a two-year training period that we are signed up for. We have been selected to be astronaut candidates, which makes us eligible for that training. Once we complete it, then we’ll be astronauts and eligible to be selected for a mission.

From my understanding, we will do everything as a team, and that becomes your family in a lot of ways. Especially during that first two years of training, you’re going through that intense learning process together.

How soon could you be going to space?

NASA has informed us that it will probably be close to five to seven years before we fly. The first two years are training, and following that you’re put on a waitlist as missions become available. The class that was selected in 2013 has not all been assigned yet, so we would join the waitlist behind the 2013 class. Currently we are only sending up about two Americans per year because we’re at this transition point between the shuttle program ending and starting to get our private industry spacecraft and Orion, our long-duration spacecraft, up and running. We’re at a critical and exciting point here, where things are going to start changing, and human spaceflight is going to start looking different in terms of private industry involvement and in terms of where we’re going, how far we can go, and how often.

What would you say to students who want to follow in your footsteps?

For young kids, I’d strongly encourage exploring the STEM fields. I think that’s a great place to start. Incite a passion for exploration and a curiosity about the world around you. Ask a lot of questions. That’s how you can stimulate the kind of curiosity and intellectual passion that will carry you through in a STEM field.

As you get a little bit older, remember that whenever it feels like one door is closing, another is opening. That is something that has been true for me. I had a path that I’d thought I’d laid out for myself and that seemed to be not panning out, but there was a different path that worked out with a little bit of persistence.

What didn’t seem to be panning out? And how did that ultimately work out?

I went into Stanford as a mechanical engineering major, with the assumption that that was the path I needed to take in order to be an astronaut. I took those classes for about a year and a half and just didn’t love it. It wasn’t exactly the right fit for me. I wasn’t passionate about it, and I was doing it because I felt like I had to, or because it was just what I needed to do in order to reach this goal. But I found that a bachelor’s in science is included as an option in the basic requirements for astronaut selection so I could expand my search a little bit for a major, and that’s when I fell into planetary geology as a means of studying the planets and the solar system. I haven’t looked back since!

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

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An Astronaut’s View From the ‘Corner Office’

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer tweeted this photograph from the International Space Station on June 3, 2017, writing, “Never had a corner office with a view, but I must admit, I like it… a lot! #SpaceRocks.” Fischer, a member of the 2009 astronaut class, has been living and working aboard the orbiting laboratory since April 20, 2017. NASA Image of the Day

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Inuit People on the daily earth wobble, sun moon and stars out of place

Earth has shifted movie

Nunavut-based director Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat The Fast Runner) and researcher and filmmaker Dr. Ian Mauro (Seeds of Change) have teamed up with Inuit communities to document their knowledge and experience regarding climate change. This new documentary, the world’s first Inuktitut language film on the topic, takes the viewer “on the land” with elders and hunters to explore the social and ecological impacts of a warming Arctic. This unforgettable film helps us to appreciate Inuit culture and expertise regarding environmental change and indigenous ways of adapting to it.


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A South Polar Pit or an Impact Crater?

This observation from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show it is late summer in the Southern hemisphere, so the Sun is low in the sky and subtle topography is accentuated in orbital images. NASA Image of the Day


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Caltech Celebrates Staff Service and Impact

62nd annual award ceremony honors on-the-job excellence
News Writer: 
Lori Oliwenstein

Michael Walsh, an engineer in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, was honored for his 45 years of service to the Institute.

Michael Walsh, an engineer in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, was honored for his 45 years of service to the Institute.
Credit: Caltech

Caltech celebrated its 62nd Annual Service and Impact Awards on Thursday, June 1, 2017, honoring 397 staff members—with service ranging from 10 to 45 years—for their on-the-job excellence and commitment to the Institute. Together, these employees have put in more than 6,800 years of service to Caltech.

Contributing more than his fair share of time to that total was Michael Walsh, an engineer in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering (BBE), whose 45 years of service to the Institute was the highest honored at the event. Seven other Caltech staffers were celebrated for 40 years of service, with an additional 15 highlighted for their 35 years. The Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy had the most honorees with 84, noted Julia McCallin, Caltech’s associate vice president for human resources, who kicked off the event, held in Beckman Auditorium.

Mary Webster, secretary of the Caltech Board of Trustees, who was celebrated in 2016 for her 50 years of service to Caltech, addressed the packed audience of community and family members, talking about her “profound belief that each and every one of us, no matter our position, plays a significant role in furthering the mission of this institution.” She noted that, in looking at the job titles of those being honored, there were a few whose title included the phrase “general helper.”

“That is a title that I feel should be appended to each of our job descriptions,” she said. “It is the simple essence of how I have approached my positions—to be a general helper, one who enables the people in [other] positions to do their best possible work.”

The 2017 Thomas W. Schmitt Annual Staff Prize went to Phyllis Burton, who works in purchasing as the contracting officer for BBE. The award celebrates staff members “whose contributions embody the values and spirit that enable the Institute to achieve excellence in research and education.”

In nominating her for the honor, Burton’s colleagues called her professional, dedicated, warm, and knowledgeable. “There have been so many times over the past few years that I have run to Phyllis with questions or issues,” said one nomination. “She knows everything and is our division’s savior.”

Another noted, “She is a problem solver and represents Caltech in such a wonderful way!”

The Schmitt Prize was established in 2007 in honor of Thomas W. Schmitt, former associate vice president for human resources, and is funded by Ted Jenkins, Caltech alumnus (BS ’65, MS ’66) and trustee. Both Schmitt and Jenkins were in attendance at the ceremony.

The second annual Team Impact Award—created in 2016 to honor teams that make significant contributions to the work and mission of the Institute—was given to the staff of the Caltech Center for Diversity (CCD). Its nomination noted the CCD staff’s “unwavering commitment to inclusion” and said that the Institute “would be much poorer without the tireless efforts and inimitable diligence, kindness, and care of this team.” The CCD’s team members include Hanna Song, Taso Dimitriadis, Erin-Kate Escobar, Azani Pinkney, and Marlene Moncada.

In closing the event, Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum lauded the Institute’s staff. “This is hard work,” he noted, “but it is noble work, it is incredible work. As we toil in this way, we know it is not only for the reward of a job well done now, but also for making a statement about our greatest passions, our greatest wishes, our greatest ideals for our children and our grandchildren.”

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

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Caltech Program Fosters Scientific Curiosity in Pasadena Unified Students

Eye-catching demonstrations include levitating magnets, jets of flame, and steaming hunks of ice
News Writer: 
Jon Nalick

First-year geophysics graduate student Celeste Labedz shows off the results of her comet-making demonstration at a May 18 Science Night event at Field Elementary School in Pasadena.

First-year geophysics graduate student Celeste Labedz shows off the results of her comet-making demonstration at a May 18 Science Night event at Field Elementary School in Pasadena.
Credit: Caltech

As a gaggle of wide-eyed elementary school students crowd in for a view, first-year geophysics graduate student Celeste Labedz plunges her gloved hands into a basin overflowing with carbon dioxide fog.

With the children’s help moments earlier, she had combined ingredients including water and dry ice to demonstrate how comets form. Now she pulls out the finished product: a fist-sized chunk of ice flecked with dirt and trailing streamers of white mist.

“Whoa!” one student cries. “Can we make another one?”

Labedz’s visit to Field Elementary School in Pasadena on May 18 was part of the Science Night program that brings more than 30 Caltech volunteers—undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral scholars in physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and engineering—to conduct science demonstrations for students at 11 schools across Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley.

Started in 2013, the program originally targeted three area schools, but grew rapidly as parents and teachers spread the word about the events, and more schools invited Caltech to partner with them, says Mitch Aiken, associate director for educational outreach in Caltech’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach.

Aiken says the program helps expand Catech’s community involvement and provides benefits not only to local schools and their students, but also to the Institute and its students. “Through these events, our students and researchers are contributing to elevating overall science literacy while improving their own ability to explain complex topics to diverse audiences. That’s critical to their success as they prepare for careers in industry, research, and academia.”

More than 200 parents and students attended the recent event, which also featured hands-on demonstrations of gyroscopes, super-cooled magnets, and gravity-wave detectors.

“Many parents and students told me this was the best night of the year,” says Daniel Bagby, principal of Field Elementary. “The presenters were so passionate about their field—and it was contagious. Students wanted to show me what they were learning and the sheer joy they were experiencing was truly palpable.”

Arian Jadbabaie, a first-year physics graduate student who says he volunteers for Science Night about twice a month, spent the evening at Field demonstrating how gyroscopes work. Having visitors stand atop a spinnable disk, he invited them to grip a bike tire by handles attached to the sides its center axis. With the wheel spinning, participants tilted it right and left and suddenly found themselves turning on the disk, frequently prompting surprised laughter.

“My favorite part of the demonstrations is the look of amazement on the kids’ faces when they see how the world is so much stranger than what they’ve seen or imagined,” he says. “In those moments, I feel like I’m on the same level as they are, regardless of what additional technical knowledge I might have.”

Taking a break from her comet-making demonstration, Labedz agrees: “When kids are excited about what they’re hearing, you can see it. Sometimes they can’t keep it to themselves and start bouncing around. It’s awesome to see that learning can have that kind of effect on a kid.”

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

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