Editorial Preservation and conservation are higher on archaeologists’ list of priorities than some people realise. Most excavations take place to preserve information about a site that cannot otherwise be saved. There was a time when this was all called ‘rescue archaeology’, though this term now seems reserved for sites that are at risk from natural destruction such as erosion. With the progression of climate change, as you will read in Michael MacDonagh’s article in this issue, more and more of our archaeological sites are being exposed and damaged by strong winds, high seas and heavy rain. These events can be seen as sad, such as the collapse of medieval structures, or as exciting opportunities, such as the unveiling of masses of below-surface features as crop-marks in last year’s drought, but we should not forget that they are yet further reminders of the perils faced by our current generation and those to come.
One of the greatest gifts one receives as a student of the past is an appreciation of the depth of time and the impermanence of things. Nothing is immune to change— objects, buildings, societies, traditions, power structures, landscapes, climates. Sometimes the change is wrought by nature and sometimes by man. Either way, we have to adapt to survive. We would do well to bear this in mind in the current situation in which we find ourselves.
Apart from the challenges with which climate change is presenting us, is there any silver lining for archaeology? One
Autumn 2019 Volume 33 No. 3 Issue No. 129
might be found in proposed changes in farming methods. We are being told that we should eat less meat, which must mean fewer animals, which might therefore save some sites and landscapes from overgrazing. New tillage methods that do not involve deep ploughing mean that the features that are now crop-marks (mostly destroyed by farming in the first place) will be saved from further attrition.
A significant development in Irish archaeology in recent years has been the increase in community archaeology. These passionate groups and individuals around the country will have an important role to play in monitoring our archaeological and built heritage and in keeping the understaffed relevant authorities informed about sites at risk.
It can be easy to relegate something like heritage to the sidelines during a catastrophe (be it environmental, financial or other), but the truth is that it provides us, in its many forms, with perspective and a means of coming together for a common purpose, whether that is appreciation of place, community or the past—all of which are relevant to the present.
PATRONS OF ARCHAEOLOGY IRELAND Isabel Bennett, Patrick V. Brown, James Butler, Pauline Coakley, John M. Coles, Brendan Connors, John Cruse, George Cunningham, Siobhán de hÓir, Richard Gem, Claire Gogarty, Christine Grant, Eoin Grogan, Amy Harris, Elizabeth Heckett, Patricia Kennedy, Heather King, Seán Kirwan, Pamela Lewis, Don Lydon, Ian Magee, Jeremy Milln, Michael Moore, Harold Mytum, David M. Nolan, Micheal Ó Ciosáin, Gerry O'Leary, Celie O'Rahilly, Emer O'Sullivan, Eoin O'Connor, Bruce Proudfoot, Brian Scane, Christian Schaffalitzky, Conor Skehan, David Sweetman, Miriam Tarbett, Máirin Uí Scolaidhe, John Waddell and Patrick Wallace.
Archaeology Ireland Autumn 2019
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