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A r c h a e o * I 1> I.' I I H U E

Number 15 (Volume 5 Number 1) Spring 1991 Published Quarterly

Contents Editorial................................................... 3 N ew s ....................................................... 4 County Focus.........................................8 Chester Beatty Library.................... 12 Stowe m issal shrine..........................14 The stone of Cethern's Delusion 16 Soap Box................................................ 17 Dun Aengusa........................................19 Medieval Footwear,...........................22 Science and Archaeology...............24 Reviews..................................................2 7 Events.....................................................3 0 Letters....................................................31 Editorial Team Gabriel Cooney Emer Condit Tom Condit Paul Gosling Nicholas Maxwell Una MacConville Mary Sleeman Brian Williams Production Janet Sheehy Marketing and Advertising Una MacConville Design by — Brenda McCardle Typeset by—Wordwell Ltd Printed by—CraftprinCLtd Published by—Wordwell Ltd P.O. Box 69, Bray, Co. Wicklow Tel. 01-612542 Fax 01-864215

Conflict As I w r ite th is ed i to r ia l M e s o p o tam ia , ‘the c rad le o f c i v i l i s a t i o n ’ , is b e in g r o c k e d not by ‘the m o th e r o f civilisation' but by the ‘m o ther o f all battles’. One o f the cu r io u s th ings about th is conflict w as the p rom ise by authorities, both Allied and Iraqi, to avoid the destruction o f sites o f cultural significance. Thus M ig 21 jets could nestle in their camouflage among the ancient remains at Ur, while Jerusalem remained immune from Scud attacks. The value attached to monuments was further emphasised by the fact that the Egyptian Antiquities Police sealed off the pyramids and other sites, fearing terrorist attacks.

But every day attacks o f a different kind are made on the a rchaeological h e r i tage in our own country. The m a in concerns are illegal metal detecting, the willy-nilly removal o f earthworks by land reclamation, extensive afforestation and, surprisingly enough, the ever-increasing threat from the commercialisation o f many o f our most prestigious archaeological sites (euphemistically called ‘the heritage business’). Recently the p roposed archaeological them e park at Cashel, to be built in the shadow o f the Rock itself, has been seen o f f by the p lanning au thorities, but not w ithout much acrim ony from some local politicians and businessmen.

Concern has also been expressed in the national media about the plans for o ther heritage interpretative centres, specifically O PW projects not subject to normal planning procedures. The plans for the interpretative centre at Navan F o r t , C o . A rm a g h , c o n t in u e to k e e p a r c h a e o l o g i c a l eyebrows raised. Visitor impact, extensive carparks, and increase in traffic flow are am ong the p rincipal public concerns with all these centres.

Another worry, commonly articulated in archaeological circles, is that in spite o f the huge sums o f money being thrown at these interpretative centres, the actual fabric of th e m o n um e n t s and l a n d s c a p e s to be in t e r p r e t e d is disintegrating. This conflict of interest requires immediate resolution; the integrity o f the archaeological sites and their environment should receive the utmost priority.

So when the conflict in the M iddle East is over, Irish businessm en can resum e the sale o f m illions o f pounds worth o f beef to the Butcher o f Baghdad (w hoever that may be). But when our archaeological heritage is destroyed it is gone, gone forever!

T om C o n d i t

(Gabriel Cooney is in Canada)

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