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Thus, despite regular trade with Roman Britain, the country became a haven for the uninterrupted development of Celtic art and crafts, which were neither displaced by Greco-Roman art, nor destroyed in the ensuing "Dark Ages" (c.400-800) when Roman power in Europe was replaced by barbarian anarchy.
However, little is known about the precise function of these prehistoric structures or the identity of their builders, except that their construction suggests a relatively integrated and cohesive social environment.
A second contemporary type of Neolithic necropolis - the long barrow - is also found in Stone Age Ireland, but its design is more primitive and required far less organization.
During the succeeding period of Bronze Age art in Ireland (c.3000-1200 BCE), there is evidence of artifacts from the Beaker culture (named after the shape of its pottery drinking vessels), along with a series of wedge tombs.
(See also Celtic Jewellery art.) Similar designs can also be seen in several masterpieces of early Christian art (c.500-900 CE) such as the Derrynaflan Chalice (c.650-1000), the gilt-bronze Crucifixion Plaque of Athlone (8th century CE) the Moylough Belt Shrine (8th century CE), the Ardagh Chalice (8th/9th century CE), as well as processional crosses like the Tully Lough Cross (8th/9th century CE), and the Cross of Cong (c.1125 CE) made for King Turlough O'Connor.
Many of these treasures can be viewed in the National Museum of Ireland.With much of Europe experiencing a cultural stagnation due to the chaos and uncertainty which prevailed after the fall of Rome and the onset of the Dark Ages, the Church authorities selected Ireland as a potential base for the spread of Christianity and around 450 CE despatched St Patrick in the role of missionary.