W in ter 2005 Volume19No.4IssueNo.74
08 'Sense from Samples' seminar
09 Run of the mill? Excavation of an early medieval site at Raystown, Co. Meath
13 Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble...Naturally occurring rock art on Valentia Island
14 Settlement and disease: a plague on all your raths
18 Cultivation ridges in Longford
20 New prehistoric discoveries in the
Kesh Corann/Carrowkeel complex, Co. Sligo
24 A spoonful of luck
26 Cuirass to gorget?
3 1 Brick kilns
34 Know your monuments: Crannogs
38 Archaeology in Ireland's journals
42 Book news
50 Quote unquote
AncJiqeology Knowledge andProgress
I t appears that Progress still hasHeritage by the throat. Everyother day there isone report or another featuring so-called economists and political commentators pontificating on what could be termed, without exaggeration, anew religion—the worship of Progress.Thisreligion appears to bespreading faster than an avian virus, infecting the command and control structures of most western and westernised societies. The character of the new religion's analysis becomes more and more abstract asitsproponents resort to jargon to defend their arguments and to convince the listening massesthat the right things arebeing done.
Disturbingly, apart from the difficulties indeciphering the nonsensical neo-conservative code, the Progress-worshippers come with afull package of entirely predictable views on virtually any topic you may careto mention. Their 'going-forward mentality' meansnot only that, inan abstract way, they prostrate themselves in the uninspiring—and presumably jerry-built—Temple of Progressbut alsothat they promote an unhealthy disrespect for the past and its physical manifestations, in particular those archaeological sitesand objects that stand in the path of Progressand are considered to be of no immediate commercial advantage.
The samemindsets bring usincreasing references to the 'knowledge-based society' and the 'knowledge-based economy'. In the rushto condense their argument, an increasing number of commentators, in that dull, soullessand senselessfashion, are currently referring to 'the knowledge society' asthe type of society that they want usto be. It's asif, all of asudden, the priestly gurus of political thought and petty entrepreneurialism havebrought us into the light after centuries, if not millennia, of wallowing about in the sticky sludge of ignorance. Only by following this vain vocabulary and parroting it at every opportunity canwe truly secure our future and walk solemnly in the light of Progress.
Fairenough! Not everything that we know or that we suppose happened in the past wasgood or beneficial for mankind. It would be profoundly stupid to romanticise the past or to view it through rose-tinted glasses.Nevertheless, it isundeniable that advancements, both planned and serendipitous, invarious aspectsof life have brought usto where we arenow and that we aresurrounded by their legacy.Without doubt one can rest assuredthat all past societieshad their own knowledge that informed their worlds. Their knowledge, their own 'science' and their familiarity with how things functioned allowed them to choose coursesof action or to engage in activities that enabled them to improve their situation and thus the knowledge baseof the generations that were to follow.
Ihaveno doubt that the current fashion for Progress-worship will pass. If blind obedience of Progresswith itsvoracious appetite for profit dictates the pace then archaeology, history and natural heritage will be significantly diminished, not just physically but also in the minds of men. They saythat knowledge ispower, but control of ignorance ismore dangerous. Destruction of the concept of heritage isno way to build afuture.