Interlude: the story so far
This is a convenient point to take stock – to examine the various strands of evidence that have been laid out in order to see if an entity distinctively Celtic can be drawn out of them or whether the whole cherished concept is an illusion.
First to recap. There are four broad categories of evidence that are relevant: the Classical sources; the archaeological evidence; language; and vernacular traditions. Each is different in quality and quantity and each has its own ground rules, which govern academic debate.
The Classical sources reflecting on the last half millennium BC gave the impression that Celts were everywhere in barbarian Europe, except where there were Scythians. The study of the language group that is called Celtic focuses on western Europe with a distinctly Atlantic bias, which, in part at least, is because it is only in the extreme west that the languages survive today. The vernacular literature is similarly restricted to the west, to Ireland and to a lesser extent Wales. The archaeological evidence, on the other hand, covers everywhere that human society lived and worked. For the prehistoric period it is largely anonymous, but, through the recurring patterns that can be discerned, it can inform at a number of levels, the most valuable, from our point of view, being the belief and value systems of societies and the degree by