Volume 16 No. 3 Issue No. 61
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8 Earlier prehistoric settlem ent in the
1 3 On th e frontier: Carrickmines
Castle and Gaelic Leinster
16 Prehistoric remains at Kerlogue,
2 0 Past vegetation and land-use dynamics in Mayo Abbey, central Mayo
2 4 A possible pre-bog field wall and an ancient trackway in Roundstone Bog, County Galway
2 7 Prehistoric populations in Ireland and Japan
3 0 Reconstructing an early Bronze
3 5 Inspiring rock groups
4 News 3 6 Book new s
4 1 Review
4 2 Conference review
4 4 Letters
4 5 Hindsight
4 6 Quote..Unquote
Landscapes fo r auction 'Come on now, the bloody frame is worth more than that!' If he said it once, he said it a hundred times. The picture in question was of a well-known megalithic tomb and was on the list of items to be auctioned in one of those increasingly frequent events held in public houses and social clubs.
Usually a variety of items are offered to an unsuspecting and semi-intoxicated clientele in aid of some worthy charity. The goods to be auctioned range from modern bric-a-brac to vouchers for local hairdressers, tanning sessions and (I think) lap dancing lessons.
The tone of the auction changes when works of art—oils and watercolours of the landscape and archaeological sites by local artists—are offered for sale. Like all works of art, the pictures are usually of differential quality and appeal, but of all the items on the list the images fetch the highest prices, usually hundreds of euro.
The auctioneers at such events are generally of the amateur variety—slow, painful, partially under the influence, and full of the most predictable cliches. Nevertheless they command the audience's attention, using that tyrannical mixture of exploitation of ostentatious competitive purchasing power and sheer unadulterated terror. Half the audience sit on their hands, afraid to scratch the most itchy of their appendages in case they end up with a well-executed yet unsolicited picture of the Poulnabrone dolmen, while the other half openly display wallets jampacked with a range of credit cards that would embarrass even the most senior member of a dot-com organisation.
Because of their appeal, the paintings and images of the landscape, whatever their artistic merits, command significantly higher prices than many of the other items put together. One can presume that the uniqueness of the image and its familiarity are among the most appealing aspects of the pictures. Purchasers leave the premises obviously content with the landscape under their arm, and presumably enjoy looking at it afterwards as it hangs on the wall at home.
This contrasts starkly with the reality of what is happening to the landscape in terms of development and that other great cliche of our times—sustainability. Motorways, industrial estates, quarries, wind-farms and the rash bungalow blitz are all having a negative cumulative effect, combining to change not just the appearance of the landscape but its very essence. In my own naivety I thought that the word 'sustainability' applied to the landscape and the environment rather than referring solely to the never-ending list of developments and potential developments which we are asking the Irish landscape to absorb.
Unlike the auction in the public house, the decisions about the development of the Irish landscape are taken by professional experts working within legal frameworks and adhering to standards of best practice. However, the results seem to be more illogical than those achieved in the pub auction. You don't have to be a rabid conservationist to recognise that large sections of the Irish landscape are beginning to look unfamiliar and that an industrial estate in Tyrone looks pretty much like one in Mayo or Cork.
It is worth remembering that the landscape is the stage on which we strut and fret our miserable little lives. If we do not sustain the landscape, the landscape will not sustain us. There is no point in preserving the frame and destroying the image it encloses.
EDITORIAL 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 ■ Niamh Mackenzie TYPESET AND COLOUR ORIGINATION Wordwell Ltd PRINTERS Brookfield Printing Company PUBLISHERS Archaeology Ireland Ltd, P.O. Box 69, Bray, Co. Wicklow Tel 01-2765221 Fax 01-2940836 COVER design by Rachel Dunne. SUBSCRIPTION RATES Ireland/ UK 1 year: €19.69 Stg £15.50 2 year: €35.56 Stg £28.00 Overseas: 1 year: $40.00 €27.93 2 year: $70.00 €50.79 Back issues to summer 1999: €4.45 Autumn 1999: €5.02 WEBSITE Visit www.wordwellbooks.com for more information on back issues 3