Anglo-Saxons and Celts: Race, Science and the Irish
Barra O’Donnabhain, Dept of Archaeology, University College Cork, Ireland
The analysis of human skeletal remains has a tainted past in typological approaches to understanding human variation, among both living and ancient peoples. In Ireland, the colonial experience has been a dominant factor in the production of culture, including narratives of the past. In the context of 19th century British imperialism, physical anthropology and archaeology were just two of a number of scientific discourses recruited to rationalise and justify colonialist policies. Legitimation was in part provided by racialised and sectarian conceptualisations of local populations in both past and present. After the partition of Ireland in the early 20th century, racially-based notions of the difference were embraced by both nationalist movements (green and orange) on the island. Change came with the impact of processual archaeology on skeletal studies and the emergence of bioarchaeology. While the focus of research has been transformed, some of older narratives have proven to be resilient.