This book tracks the development of social complexity in Ireland from the late prehistoric period on into the Middle Ages. Using a range of methods and techniques, particularly data from settlement patterns, Blair Gibson demonstrates how Ireland evolved from constellations of chiefdoms into a political entity bearing the characteristics of a rudimentary state. This book argues that early medieval Ireland's highly complex political systems should be viewed as amalgams of chiefdoms with democratic procedures for choosing leaders rather than kingdoms. Gibson explores how these chiefdom confederacies eventually transformed into recognizable states over a period of 1,400 years.
D. Blair Gibson is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at El Camino College and the director of the college's Anthropology Museum. He has published articles in a number of journals, including the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology and the Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium. He is the editor of two books, Tribe and Polity in Late Prehistoric Europe (with Michael Geselowitz) and Celtic Chiefdom, Celtic State (with Bettina Arnold).
1. Theoretical considerations; 2. The climate and geology of Clare; 3. Clare's chiefdoms at the dawn of history; 4. An early medieval chiefdom of northern Clare; 5. Reconstructing the social order of Irish chiefdoms through settlement; 6. Of settlements and boundaries: reconstructing the chiefdom of Tulach Commain; 7. The rulers of Tulach Commain; 8. The world of Brian Boroimhe; 9. The world of Caithrem Thoirdhealbhaigh; 10. The political topography of late medieval Clare; 11. An overview of the social and political systems of Thomond.