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V o lu m e 15 N o . 4 Issue N o . 58

W in te r 2001

Differential civilisations


10 Hot rocks and ritual

13 Elusive latchets

15 Befriending Medieval Dublin

1 6 a prehistoric ring-barrow in

Kilmahuddrick, Co. Dublin

20 Unearthed secrets: a clandestine burial-ground

24 Poor people's crannogs

26 Prehistoric Mayo

3 0 a glimpse of Wicklow's past

32 Clonard North—out of its tree

33 Biscuits, bread and fishes— a data famine in times of plenty

36 Genetics and archaeology:

synergy or culture-dash?

44 Ireland's journals reviewed

4 News

38 Book news and reviews

48 Letters

49 Hindsight

50 Spoilheap

The catastrophes of the latter part of this year highlight the contrasts which exist in the world at any given point in time. The disasters at the Twin Towers in New York and at the Pentagon were beamed instantly onto our television screens. The horror and tragedy at these living monuments were obvious, although oddly familiar: Westerners had been partly prepared for such a disaster, having been incessantly bombarded with Hollywood movies portraying similar, although fictional, scenes of terror over many years.

As international reaction mobilised, the images we received were less familiar. The focus of attention shifted to the rugged, largely deserted terrain of Afghanistan, where only months earlier the giant rock-cut statues of Buddha in the Valley of the Cods were blown up by the ultra-fundamentalist government. The pictures broadcast were of unconventional troops in traditional Afghan dress barely concealed by the ubiquitous camouflaged combat jacket. The poverty of the beaten-up vehicles, the dusty tracks which pass for roads and the invisible women contrasted strangely with the panoply of personal weaponry protruding in vast quantities from the shoulderbags of the average foot soldier.

The media presentation followed a well-worn pattern. Familiar macho images, the trappings of modern military explanation, showed us the destructive yet weirdly silent explosions and the ironically named pinpoint carpet bombing. The ultimate visual contrast is between the Manhattan landscape and the mud-brick structures of Afghanistan.

Archaeology has created a differential view of the past. For many years archaeologists promoted the concept of 'civilisation', giving a high profile to cultures which have left us architecture, artefacts, art, and even writings on the walls of tombs and on baked clay tablets. Combinations of such material indicate highly developed, sophisticated and organised societies—something to be noted and admired.

By contrast there was also an implication that past societies which did not leave us an impressive archaeological culture were 'barbarians', not worthy of study or understanding. Maybe this owed something to the fact that the archaeological evidence was not so easy to retrieve, identify and study. Nevertheless, such societies existed and form part of the past or pasts which have given the world its diverse, colourful and uneven appearance.

Understanding the world's past is not a simple task— it is probably more difficult than trying to rationalise the present. Not everything has instant academic or artistic appeal. Indeed, the development of archaeology throughout the world is uneven, and there are places which are unattractive and unwelcoming to even the most enthusiastic archaeological expedition. It could also be said that contemporary societies struggling to exist in the present have no time to explore their past. But a cold, objective appreciation of the past may take some of the heat out of the present.

The next time we witness a government destroying monuments we should do more than raise an eyebrow.

Tom Condit

EDITORUI TEAM Tom Condit (Editor) ■ Gabriel Cooney • Emer Condit « Nicholas Maxwell ■ Una MacConville ■ Brian Williams • Chris Corlett Michael Connolly ■ Aidan O'Sullivan MARKETING Una MacConville PRODUCTION Nick Maxwell ■ Rachel Dunne TYPESET AND COLOUR ORIGINATION Wordwell Ltd PRINTERS Brookfield Printing Company PUBLISHERS Archaeology Ireland Ltd, P.O. Box 69, Bray, Co. Wicklow Tel 01-2862649 Fax 01-2940836 COVER The ring-barrow at Kilmahuddrick, Co. Dublin SUBSCRIPTION RATES Ireland/ UK 1 year: €19.69 Stg £15.50 2 year: €35.56 Stg £28.00 Overseas: 1year: $40.00 €27.93 2 year: $70.00 €50.79 Back issues to summer 1999: €4.45 Autumn 1999: €5.02 WEBSITE Visit for more information on back issues 3

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