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Number 52 (Volume 14 Number 2)

Summer 2000



The underworld of the

Lee Valley


Megalithic altars


Transforming Knocknarea 14 —the archaeology of a mountain

Just another fulachta fiadh story


A medieval jigsaw puzzle: 20 the ancient stones of Christ Church

Ireland's earliest crozier? 24

Iron Age crannogs in

Lough Gara


Genes and Irish origins


The secular origin of the 30 monastic enclosure wall of High Island, Co. Galway

R E G U L A R S 1 News 4 Book news & reviews 35 Events 42 Letters 44 Hindsight 45 Spoil heap 46 Quote...unquote 46

V ^ iq e o lo g v

THEFOURTHDIMENSION Most people in this part o f the world have a fixation with tim e— the Fourth D im ension— to the extent that few will go anywhere without a tim e-m easurem ent device attached to an arm or some other part of the anatomy. Why? It would appear that we are extrem ely interested in calculating what the current tim e is. This tem poral reference point allows us to calculate what tim e it was an hour ago and what tim e it will be an hour into the future.

A ttem pting to understand and explain tim e involves one o f those processes o f thought which seem to bring us swiftly to the very edge o f our intellects. This edge has provided a rich source for the stuff o f mythology, folklore and science fiction— in particular conundrums o f tim e travel and the effects on subsequent events o f changing the past.

But what if there was no past? A sim ple consequence would be that a lot o f archaeologists and historians would be on the dole. However, it could be pointed out that if there was no past then there could never have been archaeology, and history would not have existed, therefore there would be no requirem ent for archaeologists or historians in the first place.

One seem ingly preposterous yet interesting theory is that there is only a present, that the past exists only in the present, and that the future is only realised when it becomes the present. One benefit o f this apparent absurdity is that it creates a fram ework in our minds o f how we would understand the past. A rchaeological remains, environmental evidence, documentary sources and our personal memories become particularly im portant in making the past tangible, both physically and intellectually.

Communities in the past have defied tim e by building enduring monuments— created deliberately for subsequent generations to note and rem ark upon. O ther sites— domestic, industrial or m ilitary— have survived in the landscape while everything else around them has changed. Subsequent generations appreciated that these were the marks o f their ancestors and respected their antiquity.

In the present it appears that such respect is eroding rapidly. For instance, recent reports from the Heritage Council provide evidence for a significant loss o f material that we know about and that we have some prim ary record of. These formerly tangible monuments to the past have been lost forever. The sad result o f this process is that we are replacing genuine heritage with data about destruction o f heritage. Among our excuses for to leration o f this loss is that mere archaeological sites should not stand in the way o f progress and development.

Surely the tim e to act is now. P rotection o f ancient field monuments and artefacts will ensure that we can pass on to future generations real heritage which will make them aware o f their past. O therw ise we will create the circum stances in which our population will have the human equivalent o f the three-second memory of a goldfish and be starved o f its genuine culture and inheritance.

Through archaeology and history we can revisit the past in the present. Furtherm ore, we can change the in terpretation o f the inform ation we select. That is only possible because the evidence o f the past has survived into the present, for we cannot engage with material that has been destroyed.

Incidentally, by the tim e you have read this, parts of the past will no longer exist, while part o f your future will already have happened!

Tom Condit

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