Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Books from Berlin | Curach Bhán is rocking the Iron Age boat!

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If you hang about this blog for long enough you could easily come away with the impression that I’m engaged in something of a bromance with Wordwell Books. I do seem to review and promote an awful lot of their wares [here | here | here | here | here | here | here | here | here] ... OK that is a lot! The simple reason for this is that they are the major publisher of archaeological books in Ireland. They – or, more accurately, their books – have been constant companions since I first started studying archaeology and encountered the first few issues of Archaeology Ireland magazine in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop (back when it was still on Dominick Street, Galway). At about the same distant time, I was introduced to Daniel Büchner. He was a visiting student, over in Galway from Berlin. He was amazingly good company – incredibly well read, witty, and hugely generous of his time, knowledge, and friendship. Daniel was instantly recognisable around campus for, firstly, being German (it was the 80s in Galway – we didn’t have too many foreign students in archaeology!), and secondly, his rather battered top hat, festooned with the maroon-and-white colours of Galway GAA. In his company – and in his little red car – a select group of us got to see quite a number of archaeological sites [including here] … not to mention the insides of an awful lot of pubs. As a result of the latter, I have somewhat hazy recollections of being ‘tired and emotional’ (‘foxed’ if you’re a Georgette Heyer fan) … followed in quick succession by being riotously ‘unwell’ out the window and all down the side of that very same vehicle. As the years have passed we’ve remained good friends and he’s even forgiven me for despoiling his car. For the last number of years, Daniel has been quietly working away as owner and publisher at Curach Bhán Publications [Website | Facebook]. Mostly dedicated to humanities and art, he specialises in Celtic studies, international archaeology, philology, language studies, cultural & social anthropology, art, and literature.

During the summer of 2013, Daniel and Curach Bhán published two new books of particular relevance to Irish archaeology. Unfortunately, my family commitments and generally tumultuous existence (read: sloth) have somewhat stymied my plans to write decent reviews of both these important works. Instead, I have to settle for presenting the contents as a means of wheting your appetite!

The first is Emania,Issue 23 (ISBN 978-3-942002-09-7 | ISSN 0951-1822 | €20.00/£17.10 | numerous b/w Figs., paperback). For anyone who doesn’t know, Emania is the Bulletin of the Navan Research Group [Facebook | Website]:

“The Navan Research Group (NRG) was formed in the spring of 1986. By this time the campaign that focussed attention on quarrying at Navan aroused massive public interest about Navan (Emain Macha), Ulster's ancient capital. The various members of the NRG, drawn from the Queen's University, the Historic Monuments and Buildings' Branch of the Department of the Environment, and the Ulster Museum, all shared a research interest in the Navan complex and related monuments. Consequently, we believed that both our own interests and those of the general public would be best served by the formation of the Navan Research Group. The primary functions of the NRG are to coordinate and undertake research into the Navan complex and related monuments, promote and assist the research of others who are similarly engaged, and to inform both our colleagues and the general public of current research. In order to fulfil this last function the NRG decided to publish its own bulletin, Emania.” (Source)

Unfortunately, Emania had entered a period of hibernation after Issue 20 and it is with much delight (and a little relief) we welcome it back! The contents of the current volume are:

The Ulster Cycle in Russia by Maria Tsvetoukhina, Tatyana Mikhailova, & Grigory Bondarenko
Cú Chulainn’s ríastrad and Related Contortions by Mary Leenane
Ptolemy’s Isamnion Promontory: Rehabilitation and Identification by R. B. Warner
Lieutenant-General Alexander Campbell’s Loughnashade Horn by John Ó Néill
A Lost, Iberian-style, Bronze Age Gold Neck-ring from near Navan, Co. Armagh by R. B. Warner
Fire, Rush Lights and Pine at Navan? by C. O. Hunt
Power to the People: Reinterpreting Bronze Age Society by Victoria Ginn
A Chronological Framework for the Period from 208 BC to AD 600 by M. Baillie & D. Brown
The Late Iron Age Lull – not so Late Iron Age after all! by Lisa Coyle McClung

It’s a delight to see Emania back in circulation and there’s talk of a new volume in the not too distant future. In the meantime, if you are missing any back issues you are sure to find on the Curach Bhán website: here.

It is also a delight to see the second volume published: ULIDIA 3 - Proceedings of the Third International Conference on the Ulster Cycle of Tales. University of Ulster, Coleraine 22–25 June, 2009. In Memoriam Patrick Leo Henry (Gregory Toner & Séamus Mac Mathúna eds)(ISBN: 978-3-942002-08-0 | €39.90 | 9 b/w Figs., xiv + 370 pp, paperback)

The contents list of this volume is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to read a few of the papers, and skim through some of the others. However, I can guarantee for the little I’ve seen that this is an excellent read and contains some great papers.


The Archaeology of the Ulster Cycle on the North Coast by Tom McErlean
Parallel Wives: Deirdriu and Lúaine in Longes mac n-Uislenn and Tochmarc Lúaine ocus Aided Athairne by Kate Louise Mathis
Mother Knows Best: the Role of Nes in Compert Conchobuir by Joanne Findon
A Trusted Outsider: Leborcham in the Ulster Cycle by Esther Le Mair
Queen Medb in Place-names by Kay Muhr
The Banshenchas—Genealogy and Women of the Ulster Cycle by Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin:
Death from Emotion in Early Irish Literature by Kicki Ingridsdotter:
Cú Chulainn and the Otherworld by Mary Leenane
Narrative, Death, and the Otherworld in Echtra Nera by Gregory Toner
Muirchú and the Ulster Cycle by John Carey
Cú Chulainn on the Couch: Character Portrayal in Táin Bó Cúailnge by Doris Edel
The Migration of the Soul in De Chophur in dá Muccida and Other Early Irish Tales by Grigory Bondarenko
Cú Chulainn: a Watch-dog of Ulster (Hero Within the Tribe?) by Tatyana A. Mikhailova
The Cauldron—A Symbol of Sacrifice in Early Irish Tradition? By Caroline McGrath
The Debate in Feis Tigi Becfholtaig: A Blueprint for Society by Marion Deane
Paradigms of Polity in Serglige Con Culainn by Maxim Fomin
A Spell Called Éle by Jacqueline Borsje
Magic and Narrative: Ulster Cycle Texts as Historiolae by Phillip A. Bernhardt-House
‘Da n-ó mele 7 cuitbiuda and so’: What did Derdriu say to Noísiu? by Sharon J. Arbuthnot
Blind Luck in the Killing of Kin: Foster-brothers and the ‘x and non-x’ Formula by Stuart Rutten
Multi-word Verbs in the LU and LL-Táin Texts by Patricia Ronan
The Protean Emain: Emain Macha, Emain Ablach (Avalon) and Other Emain Names by Mícheál B. Ó Mainnín
The Táin-complex in B.L. Egerton 1782 by Abigail Burnyeat
Poetry in Brisleach Mhór Mhaighe Muirtheimhne agus Deargruathar Chonaill
Chearnaigh Considered by Lára Ní Mhaoláin
The Ulster Cycle and The Ulster Journal of Archaeology, First Series, 1853-1861 by P. K. Ford
Text, Paratext and Translation: the Ulster Cycle in the Gaelic Revival by Caitlyn Schwartz
From Medb to the Decemberists: The Táin in Concept Album Rock by Lora Lee Templeton
The Ulster Cycle Tales in Art and Popular Culture by Mary MacKenna


No matter how you slice it, there’s plenty of good times to be had here, if the Iron Age and all things Celtic are your reading matter of choice! If you choose to order a book (or several) from Curach Bhán, please tell Daniel that you decided to do it after reading this post. I don’t get paid commission for any sales, but I’m hoping that it will bring a smile on his face and remind him of good nights long gone; of songs, stories, academic debates and far too much imbibing in our misspent youths! In return, you'll get some beautifully produced books at great prices! What's not to like?