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Winter 2021 Volume 35 No. 4 Issue No.138
Archaeologists often roll their eyes at newspaper headlines claiming that a coin hoard or other discovery has ‘rewritten history’. This isn’t necessarily because such claims are false. One could argue that every discovery has the potential to add to our knowledge and understanding of the past. It’s more the case that overuse of the phrase, which is rarely accompanied by a good explanation of how the find has rewritten history, has devalued it. This in turn devalues the work of the archaeologists (almost as much as that other headline trope, ‘Archaeologists baffled by …’!). That is why it is such a pleasure to have an article in this issue that reclaims the expression, with due explanation and context. Michelle Comber and Adam Parsons share the discovery of what is potentially the earliest ink pen from Ireland, as well as the creation of a reproduction. The humble pen—an artefact that truly inhabits the crossroads between archaeology and history.
Archaeology and history also meet in two other articles in this issue. You can read about the QUB Centre for Community Archaeology’s investigation of a famine road in Fermanagh and how the archaeological evidence fits with the historical records. In addition, excavations and geophysical survey on Macdermot’s Rock in Lough Key are helping to shed light on a tragic event recorded in the annals in the twelfth century.
If ever we needed proof that every cloud has a silver lining—even this lingering viral cloud—it can be found in the work of Frank Prendergast and colleagues in the Boyne Valley. Last year, the necessity of cancelling the crowds that usually turn up for the winter solstice at Newgrange was seized upon as an opportunity to record the phenomenon of the sunlight entering the chamber in greater detail than ever before. The results—part of which you can see on our cover—are most interesting.
As we approach the end of another challenging year for archaeology, it is heartening to see the resilience of many in the sector. Research, outreach and publication are still strong, and we can look forward to more of this, as well as much-needed monument conservation work, thanks to the increased allocation for heritage in the government’s 2022 budget.
I’d like to wish all our readers, be you archaeologists or fans of archaeology, a Happy Solstice, a Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.