The Quest for the Irish Celt
The Harvard Archaeological Mission to Ireland is the fascinating story of Harvard University's five-year archaeological research programme in Ireland during the 1930s to determine the racial and cultural heritage of Ireland's Celtic race. The mission involved country-wide excavations, complemented by physical anthropology - physical examinations of thousands of Irish people from across the country, measuring skulls, nose-shape and grade of hair colour to check for 'racial purity'. 'Ireland is now the only self-governing State with an uninterrupted Celtic tradition' wrote Adolf Mahr in The Irish Times, chiming with Eamon De Valera's vision of a utopian, rural and Catholic independent state. Though the Harvard Mission was hugely influential, there were theories of eugenics involved that would shock the modern reader. The mission was headed by Earnest Hooton, famed Harvard anthropologist, whose theories regarding racial heritage would now be readily condemned for their racism. Mairead Carew explores this extraordinary archaeological mission, examining its historic importance for Ireland and Irish-America, its landmark findings, and the unseemly activities that lay just beneath the surface of this compelling and little-known event in Irish history.
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