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Autumn 2007 Volume 21No. 3Issue No. 81


08 Ale, brewing and fulachta fiadh

12 Life and death in Anglo-Norman


15 Return of the Sea Stallion

1 6 a fossilised landscape in County


2 1 How early Irish horizontal-wheeled mills really worked

24 Burials in a country churchyard

26 Google Earth and the Irish archaeological landscape

32 Know your monuments: Ringforts

36 The power of stone

04 News

06 Quote...unquote

07 Net news

41 Book news

49 Hindsight

50 Events

' f r .




Squiggles, spiralsand lozenges

The world of technology often proclaims many ambitious predictions, and indeed hasdelivered many technological treats that would have been considered to belong to the realm of science fiction in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Mobile phones, ATM machines, CAT scanners, CIS, satellite TV, iPods and DVDs are just some of the more commonplace pieces of tech that are used on adaily basis.

Computer technology has brought many changes in the way we generate data, with consequent effects on and preferences for the way we absorb that information. Cutting, copying and pasting are useful tools but tend to be overused in certain quarters. Individual flair and communication skills seem to be taking aback seat in the maelstrom of activity that may be involved in archaeological research and excavation.

Some time ago at a seminar I heard an archaeologist sounding the death-knell for the written word in terms of the presentation of artefacts to the public: three-dimensional graphics are to take over. One should be able to view artefacts across the internet, seethem from any angle and magnification, and virtually hold them in one's hands. This was certainly an exciting idea but was being promoted at the expense of the written word—aseemingly deliberate degradation of the value of words in favour of graphics.

This is reminiscent of the art that festoons the great passage tombs at Bru na Boinne and elsewhere. We can see what it isbut we do not know what it means. For some reason the import of this art, with its cryptic designs and its lack of any obvious anthropomorphic or zoomorphic shapes, is enigmatic to say the least. Many have looked for meaning in such art, but the sense and purpose of the squiggles, spirals and lozenges seems certain to elude usfor a long time to come. It isunlikely that aRosetta Stone for this stuff will ever come to light.

The discipline of archaeology brings us various recording techniques—some that have been around for a long time and others that struggle to keep up with new technological methods. Drawing, photography, and three-dimensional rendering and representations of artefacts and sites are common tools used in research.

While these recording and illustrative techniques have to be recognised as essential in archaeological publications, they cannot replace the words, the vocabulary, the ideas and the philosophies that we use to express our interpretation of the remains of the past. For that reason, and for that reason alone, it is essential that archaeologists produce not just the grey literature and technical reports that characterise so much of today's archaeological output. For without interpretation and contextualisation of ancient evidence the result will be just another

Tom Condit

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