The problem with this book is that, despite Graham Robb’s claims of having disbelieved the idea and sought extra hard for proof, etc, etc, it’s hard to believe something which is so broad and sweeping, which if true would change the perceptions of a whole period of history. Despite his attempts to methodically lay out the proof, it still reads kind of like someone excitedly believing in ley lines, or maybe better, imagining they can see the lines of intelligence-made canals on the face of Mars. It feels so massive and coincidental, especially because Graham Robb comes to this from the point of view of someone cycling across the ancient paths, rather than an archaeologist or historian.
Would I like to believe that the ancient Celts were this clever, this organised, this technologically advanced? Yes. And the idea of things being laid out along the solstice line isn’t so far fetched on its own: archaeologists like Francis Pryor have claimed similar for sites like Seahenge. But you don’t have to coordinate across the countryside to lay things out along solar lines, and place names could turn out to be a false signal — maybe it was just a common way to refer to places, maybe it was just a way of saying ‘the middle of nowhere’.
As far as I can tell, when Graham Robb links deities and folklore together, he isn’t going against the general wisdom, and that and the way some of his evidence hangs together makes me think that parts of his theory do have merit. It just seems overall too sweeping, and too much like wishful thinking — and sometimes his explanations of how x or y might have happened sound far too much like a story. In the end, I don’t have nearly enough knowledge of the field to make any real judgement on the theory.
Nonetheless, this does make for an interesting read, explaining the ways fairly advanced mathematics would’ve been possible, how communication might have been kept up across all the Celtic areas, and how some myths and stories might still connect to reality. It feels like a good story, regardless of whether the history and theory is sound.