Editorial Autumn might be a bit early to be looking back over the year, but I think that even if no other big discoveries were made between now and the end of 2018 this year would still be one that stands out in Irish archaeology. The summer in particular was a busy time for archaeology in mainstream media, with the discovery of the
Bronze Age gold rings in Donegal in June, followed closely by the ‘new’ henge crop-mark on the banks of the River Boyne, the discovery of a ‘new’ Boyne Valley passage tomb at Dowth in July and then many more crop-marks.
These fantastic discoveries are only the tip of the iceberg, however. Excavations, both research- and development-led, are turning up new information all the time (our regular readers will be well aware of this fact!). Researchers are using old and new techniques to cast a fresh eye on known monuments, revealing new features: LiDAR reveals lost enclosures, photogrammetry exposes otherwise invisible inscriptions, and aerial photography—from either the more traditional airplane or new drones—allows us to see what nature chooses to reveal in the right conditions … and the conditions this year have been extreme. As you will see in this issue, even the snow in March revealed a previously unrecorded enclosure beside Dowth passage tomb (I know, I know … the Boyne Valley again!). Little did we know that within weeks this landscape would be parched enough to reveal so much more!
There is no question that the thrill of discovery is part of the attraction of archaeology for both the professionals and the public. We cannot forget, however, that it is a profession where discoveries happen as part of a process, and very often
Autumn 2018 Volume 32 No. 3 Issue No. 125
that process involves a distinct lack of mind-blowing discoveries—just ask those commercial archaeologists who continue to work through the winter on windswept road schemes, fulfilling the statutory requirement to fully excavate and record even the most mundane remnants of our past. The lone subcircular pit measuring 1.5m in diameter and filled with a lightly charcoal-flecked sandy clay on the outskirts of town won’t make the local newspapers, but it will still be excavated and recorded, perhaps to become part of a larger pattern recognised by some future researcher.
This summer saw another notable occurrence in Irish archaeology in the form of the first pay-related workers’ strikes in many years. Commercial archaeology as a profession has come a long way in recent decades. The vast majority of workers are qualified and experienced, yet it is a sad fact that those workers are generally paid less than construction workers employed on the same development schemes. The reasons behind this require a longer conversation that would no doubt include a wider reluctance to pay for heritage on many stages and at many levels. Suffice it to say here that archaeologists deserve better, and any move to change the situation is to be applauded and supported.
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Archaeology Ireland Autumn 2018
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