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Summer 2004 Volume 18No. 2IssueNo. 68


0 8 Tara and the M3—putting the debate in context

10 Cracking Rocque?

14 Lakeland icehouse, Ballinure,

Mahon Peninsula, Cork

18 Coastal promontory forts

2 2 Exploring the Loughcrew landscape:

a new airborne approach

2 6 a face from the past

2 8 Holy ships—ships on plaster at medieval ecclesiastical sites in Ireland

3 2 Bog butter — its historical context and chemical composition

3 6 The Leean Mountain area of County

Leitrim: a prehistoric landscape revealed

0 4 News

4 0 Letters

4 4 Book News

4 9 Hindsight

5 0 Events

Gloves off? S ometimes when you visit the National Museum of Ireland you may see a display being rearranged or removed for transport and exhibition elsewhere. Surrounded by packaging, security and assistants, the keepers with gloved hands and obvious assurance handle the artefact with the utmost delicacy, as if it were a newborn baby. Although worn to prevent scratches or any adverse contamination of the object, the gloves add an air of ceremony and respect to the whole operation. The objects are not just valuable ancient bric-a-brac but artefacts that are literally priceless. They form part of our rich cultural heritage, which must be handled with care in our own time for the enjoyment and pleasure of future generations and for the potential knowledge they contain.

Archaeologists are not born with a genetically inherited knowledge of and familiarity with the stuff of antiquity. Archaeology, as the etymology of the name implies, is based on the study of artefacts, sites and landscape. This study leads archaeologists to survey, record, describe and interpret the significance of their subjectmatter. Through publication the results are made available for assessment and critique by archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike.

One important feature of the discipline of archaeology is that it does not remain static but is constantly evolving as new information is gathered. It could be said that archaeology itself is now part of our cultural heritage. For example, the late Sean P. O Riordain's Antiquities of the Irish countryside, first published in 1942 and aimed specifically at the interested layperson, has been reprinted many times and updated over the years. The book offers brief accounts of the sites and monuments that are an integral part of our landscape and form the foundation of our knowledge of our archaeological heritage. With the ongoing archaeological surveys, research, technological advancements and new excavation results the 'database' of archaeological information has expanded significantly to the extent that one could almost write an alternative archaeology of Ireland based on sites in townlands and places which have not previously been mentioned in the archaeological record.

At the same time the amount of information on sites that have been on the lips of archaeologists for 200 years or so continues to be expanded and enhanced as the momentum of research is increased. These better-known sites and landscapes, such as Dublin City's Wood Quay, Navan Fort, Co. Armagh, and Tara, Co. Meath, have associated subsurface archaeological remains which transcend the wildest speculations of the archaeologists of 50 years ago. Sites such as these rightfully take their place on the international stage and contribute to our knowledge of the development of society on a global scale.

But the study of archaeological sites is reliant on the survival of the sites themselves. By sharp contrast, the words of vilification currently being directed at archaeologists in the daily newspapers indicate that not everyone is enamoured of the archaeological resource. Contrived confrontations and exaggerated threats do little to foster responsible attitudes towards our archaeological heritage and will only lead to a confused appreciation of this important and internationally recognised legacy.

Perhaps we should all wear metaphorical gloves when discussing the future of an irreplaceable resource!

Tom Condit

We inadvertently printed the volume and issue numbers in the Spring 2004 issue as Volume 17 No. 4, issue no.66. This should, of course, have been Volume 18 No.1, issue no.67. Apologies for any confusion this may have caused.


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