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The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe Paperback – 3 Jul 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330531514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330531511
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

'remarkable . . . an overarching, wondrous reworking of history rooted in painstaking, if not obsessive, research. And if its fantastical connections and arcane details leave the reader reeling, perhaps that is merely a reflection of the astounding complexity and continuing mystery of a lost civilisation that Graham Robb has restored to its rightful place.' Philip Hoare, Literary Review

'a wonderful writer . . . No one else can make a bike ride through the French countryside so enthralling. No one else so relishes the odd corners of history.' Sunday Times

'Robb produces an elaborately detailed account of [Celtic] society and ideas . . . Those who enjoy a mixture of myth and archaeology, who admire a vivid metaphor and a fine turn of phrase, will find much in this book to enjoy.' New Statesman

'He is such a warm, gentle and generous writer, with no faux scholarly tosh or solitary ecstasy riffs [and] Robb's own calm eloquence is deeply persuasive . . . If Graham Robb has discovered that Ancient Gaul was arranged as a reflection of the universe, then that amazing discovery, and this heroically courageous publication of it, is a wonder and a marvel.' Adam Nicolson, Evening Standard

'The findings of Graham Robb, a biographer and historian, bring into question two millennia of thinking about Iron Age Britain and Europe and the stereotyped image of Celts as barbarous, superstitious tribes.' Daily Telegraph

‘Presenting one of the most astonishing, significant discoveries in recent memory, Robb, winner of the Duff Cooper Prize and Ondaatje Award for The Discovery of France, upends nearly everything we believe about the history―or, as he calls it, protohistory―of early Europe and its barbarous Celtic tribes and semimythical Druids. Popularly dismissed as superstitious, wizarding hermits, Robb demonstrates how the Druids were perhaps the most intellectually advanced thinkers of their age: scientists and mathematicians who, through an intimate knowledge of solstice lines, organized their towns and cities to mirror the paths of their Sun god, in turn creating the earliest accurate map of the world. In his characteristically approachable yet erudite manner, Robb examines how this network came to be and also how it vanished, trampled over by a belligerent Rome, which has previously received credit for civilizing Europe―though in Robb’s account, Caesar, at the helm, appears dim, unwitting, and frankly lucky, and the (often literally) deeply buried Celtic beliefs and innovations seem more relevant in modern Europe than previously assumed. Like the vast and intricate geographical latticework that Robb has uncovered, the book unfurls its secrets in an eerie, magnificent way―a remarkable, mesmerizing, and bottomless work.' Publishers Weekly, Starred Review and Pick of the Week

'One certainly has to admire the perseverance Robb has shown, not just researching in libraries and map rooms, but also following trails on the ground. Fifteen thousand miles on a bike, very often to places that no tourist or researcher has ever visited or even inquired about before . . . If you accept Robb's complex arguments, drawn from astronomy, philology, archaeology and history, you do indeed get a new view of an ancient civilisation . . . all those miles on the bike. All those archaeological discoveries pointed out. If nothing else, The Ancient Paths creates a new respect for the ancient Gauls, and the ancient Britons. Whatever Caesar may have said, they weren't all woad and moustaches.' Tom Shippey, Guardian

'an enthralling new history . . . 'Important if true' . . . rings loud in the ears as one reads the latest book by Graham Rob, a biographer and historian of distinction whose new work, if everything in it proves to be correct, will blow apart two millennia of thinking about Iron Age Britain and Europe and put several scientific discoveries back by centuries . . . it presents extraordinary conclusions in a deeply persuasive and uncompromising manner. What surfaces from these elegant pages - if true - is nothing less than a wonder of the ancient world: the first solid evidence of Druidic science and its accomplishments and the earliest accurate map of a continent . . . a book almost indecently stuffed with discoveries . . . suggestions follow thick and fast, backed by a mixture of close reading, mathematical construction and scholarly detective work . . . Robb manages his revelations with a showman's skill, modestly conscious that his book is unfurling a map of Iron Age Europe and Britain that has been inaccessible for millennia. Every page produces new solutions to old mysteries, some of them so audacious that the reader may laugh aloud . . . Beautifully written . . . It's a magnificent piece of historical conjecture, backed by a quizzical scholarly intellect and given a personal twist by experiment . . . watching its conclusions percolate through popular and academic history promises to be thrilling. Reading it is already an electrifying and uncanny experience: there is something gloriously unmodern about seeing a whole new perspective on history so comprehensively birthed in a single book. If true, very important indeed.' (Daily Telegraph)

'The Romans did a good job of writing their predecessors out of history . . . As the conquerors got to write the history, we have to rely on their account of what they found. But as Robb makes clear, they told only part of the story.' Observer

An ingenious and thoroughly gripping historical and archaeological bolt from the blue (Books of the Year New Statesman)

Book Description

From the award-winning author of THE DISCOVERY OF FRANCE and PARISIANS

The dazzling new book from the bestselling author Graham Robb contains a discovery that will transform your understanding of pre-Roman Europe.

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Fabulous in every way!
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Excellent
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I like Grahams Robb's books particularly his great biographies of Rimbaud and Balzac. My problem with this stems from the attempt to construct a theory based on scant evidence regarding the Druids. The book .as with all his others, is a very good read but the archaeologist in me isn't convinced and I was reminded of the debate over Ley Lines.
The mixture of some bits of evidence and some speculation lacks the archaeological evidence needed to construct such a rigid theory.
I still enjoyed it however and will continue to buy his books.
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I have been reading this book on and off for the last few months. I am about half way through it and I must admit that I'm struggling with Robb's 'The Ancient Paths'. I so much wanted it to be true but I find that some of the conclusions drawn are done so without a great deal of supporting factual evidence. This may change as I work through the rest of the book and I sincerely hope that it provides the compelling evidence needed to support his theories.
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Graham Robb presents a fascinating and well argued case for the Celts displaying knowledge of Astronomy and constructing their settlements and roads accordingly. It seems perfectly fair to argue that ancient peoples had this knowledge and Robb's theories casts a well deserved light into a shadowy part of human history.

Thoroughly well-argued and extremely well written. Don't read it on an ereader. As other reviewers have observed there are a lot of maps and diagrams which seem to be easier to refer to on paper.
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Format: Paperback
Many years ago I read Alfred Watkin's notorious "The old Straight track" which inspired me to get interested in eras of British history earlier than my favoured medieval period. This also coincided with the appearance of "Time Team " on the television and , as charming as Watkin's notion was, I quickly sussed out that it has not archaeological basis. Graham Robb's book has a further dismissal of the earlier book and it's fascination with ley lines as it's opening gambit but the opening chapters seemed to dart from Neolithic through to Roman periods with a causal abandonment that made me as sceptical of his effort as I has been of the other book.

The problem with this newer publication is that it is so difficult to read. I found the technical information of aligning routes in line with solstices extremely difficult to grasp and Robb's style of writing made it impossible to want me to struggle to comprehend. A good deal of this book seems fanciful and too far fetched to believe. Some comparisons with Iron Age art seem superfluous and the debate about ratios becomes increasingly tenuous. Mixed in with these flights of fancy is the notion that Graham Robb may well be on to something. I would love to know if his alignments can be corroborated and the recent discoveries regarding alignments at Silchester intriguingly seem to verify some of the author's contentions. The book is also interspersed with references to artefacts about which I was either aware or had seen in museums such as the one in Lyon which appear to add credibility although they might not be as relevant as the author believes.
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Format: Paperback
I started reading this book with high hopes. However, nagging doubts scientific value of his investigations gradually grew to the point where I could no longer ignore the preposterousness of his ever more fanciful and speculative notions. In the end, I've come to the conclusion that the book is more a work of performance art than any serious attempt at science of any kind. On that level (performance art) it just about works as a piece of whimsy. Sadly I think he thinks he's serious. But none of his assertions stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. He shifts around all over the place - ignoring lack of evidence, filling huge gaps with giant leaps of imagination and with the barest nod to any form of logic. If you want an example, all the stuff about the "longest line in Gaul" (on which much of his work is pinned) only works if you assume that the ancient celts knew the precise geography of modern day France and ignore where the Benelux countries are! Remarkable that the Celts could have such powers of prediction. But I dare he thinks they saw the future too. Others of his magical lines only work if people are capable of walking across long stretches of open sea. And the stuff at the end about the magical lines connecting places in the UK just made be laugh out loud. Fine for a bit of fun. But surely not serious.
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Format: Paperback
Just for fun I’ve been writing the memo that the publisher’s editor should have sent to the author a couple of years ago.

Mr Robb, I have seen far worse from other writers, but I do think you should restructure your text to make the logic of the book easier to follow. I warn you though that by presenting the material more clearly you will then be exposing some awkward weaknesses, which will need further work to repair.
What follows is my three-paragraph summary of the book’s thesis:

The configuration of the main pre-Roman settlements all over Gaul looks as if it was planned in certain very specific ways. Thus, for example, there is as a matter of geography a certain notional straight line, due north and south through Gaul, which is the longest line that is physically possible given the shape of the land; a number of settlements are located exactly on that line. As another example, a number of settlements are located relative to each other on a compass bearing of 57.53 degrees from due north. As a matter of astronomy, on the longest day of the year in Gaul in that epoch the point on the horizon where the sun rose happened to be 57.53 degrees from due north.
The predominance of these and a couple of other analogous relations between settlement locations is so striking that one must assume that the configuration of the whole was consciously designed. It seems that whenever a new settlement was needed its location was carefully chosen to be on a certain standard bearing from other locations. Over the centuries a configuration of settlements developed, that was very rich in cases of this 57.53 degrees bearing and a couple of others.
Why did the Gauls do this? For religious reasons.
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