Stone enclosure at Kilgreany Cave, Co. Waterford

The assessment of a proposed quarry extension at Cappagh, near Dungarvan Co. Waterford for John A. Wood Ltd. in 2007 required the assessment of the environs of Kilgreany cave. The limestone cave is situated at the base of a low rocky escarpment of limestone on the northern side of a broad marshy valley through which the river Brickey flows. It was excavated between 1928-34 by the Bristol University Speleological Society and the Royal Irish Academy and by Hallam Movius (1935) of the third Harvard Expedition to Ireland and both human and animal remains, including Pleistocene fauna such as Reindeer, Bear and Giant Irish Deer were recovered. The cave also contained artefacts dating from the Neolithic, Bronze Age and early medieval periods. More recent radiocarbon dating of the human remains placed them into the first half of the third millennium BC or the fourth millennium BC (Molleson 1985-6).

A geophysical investigation of the exterior of the cave was carried out by John Nicholls of Target Archaeological Geophysics (Licence 07R055) and identified a well defined negative linear responses that indicated an oval enclosure measuring 120m x 60m in diameter, that partly enclosed the south-east end of the cave escarpment and extended to the south-east.  The negative response suggested the presence of stone foundations of the enclosure. There were also several linear responses in the interior of the enclosure that may have been potential divisions (Nicholls 2007).

As no development took place in the vicinity of the cave there was no further investigation of the enclosure. While the enclosure may simply be the remains of a later field enclosure the possibility that it was associated with prehistoric or later activity activity in the cave would merit future investigation.

Kilgreany cave under excavation in 1934

Kilgreany cave photographed in 2007.

Some of the finds from Kilgreany cave, from Movius et al. 1935.

Kilgreany geophysics by Target Archaeological geophysics.


Molleson, T.I. 1985-6. New radiocarbon dates for the occupation of Kilgreany Cave, Co. Waterford. Journal of Irish Archaeology III, 1-3.

Movius, H.L., Roche, G. , Stelfox, A.W. and Maby, J.C. 1935. Kilgreany Cave, County Waterford. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Seventh Series, Vol. 5, No. 2, 254-296.

Nicholls, J. 2007. Geophysical Survey Report: Lands at cappagh, Kilgreany Townland County Waterford. Licence No. 07R055. Unpublished report for John A. Wood Ltd.



Where was the original location of the town of Ballysadare, Co. Sligo?

Ballysadare is a town on the Owenmore River in Co. Sligo. The name was originally Eas-dara the cataract of the oak, from the falls on the Owenmore (Abhainn Mor Great River). It was afterwards called Baile-ease-dara the town of Assdara, which has been shortened to the present name. A Monastery was found by St. Feichin at Ballysadare at this important crossing of the Owenmore River, some time before he died in 664 AD (O’Rorke 1878, 1-4). However, the site was already of some importance and had been visited by both St. Columbkille and St. Columba, so there may already have been a settlement here. This monastic site is in Kilboglashy townland and is now occupied by a stone church (St. Feichin’s Church) with a later Romanesque style carved doorway, two small buildings and a graveyard (RMP 20:109). The monastic site continued in use well into the twelfth century when the Annals of the Four Masters record that in 1158: The Brehon Ua Duileannain, airchinneach of Eas-dara, ollamh of law, and chief of his territory, died.

As was the case with other monastic settlements Ballysadare had a significant lay population and these settlements are now often referred to as monastic towns. The town of Ballysadare would have been situated around St. Feichin’s Abbey to the west of the Owenmore River. Ballysadare was important enough to be mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters 15 times between 1158 and 1602, in 1188, 1199, 1228, 1230, 1235, 1239, 1249, 1261, 1267, 1285, 1360, 1444, 1595 and 1602.

Some time in the thirteenth century the religious community appears to have adopted the rule of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine and built a new priory a short distance to the west in Abbeytown Townland. O’Rorke (1878, 23) suggested that the new Monastery was built at the western end of the town. All that is visible of this foundation above ground is the nave and chancel church with tower. By the fourteenth century the Abbey had come into the possession of the de Berminghams and a deed of Gilbert de Bermingham of 1330 disposed of the lands of Ballysadare Abbey (totem terram del tearmuynd de assdara; O’Rorke 1878, 9). However by 1371 the de Berminghams were driven out of Ballysadare by the O’Haras and O’Dowds. The Monastery is mentioned in the Annals in the year 1444, the year that it’s Abbot Cormac Mac Donough, died of the plague while on pilgrimage to Rome.

In 1360 the Annals of the Four Masters note: A bridge of lime and stone was built by Cathal O’Conor across the river of Eas-dara. Before this O’Rorke (1878, 11) states that there was a tradition of a “bridge of boughs”. O’Rorke refers to foundations of this bridge c. 100 yards below the current bridge at the Eel House within 100m of the waterfall. The Annals of Loch Ke note that in 1586 Donnell O’Conor Sligo built the second bridge at Ballysadare. This may have been in the same location as the current bridge. If so it may have been from this time that the town of Ballysadare began to move from its location at the Abbey.

From the Dublin Government’s suppression of the Monasteries in 1536 monasticism in Ireland came under threat but the Augustinian Abbey at Ballysadare appears to have continued in use until 1588 when it was seized by the Crown and “the site and precinct of Ballysadare spiritual and temporal were leased to Bryan Fitzwilliams for 21 years”. The subsequent Royal Inquisition noted that the Abbey property consisted of a Church partly thatched, dormitory, 2 other ruined buildings, 3 cottages with gardens and a ruined cemetery. Land included 3 quarters of land (each c.120 acres) in the townland of Assdara, 40 acres of arable and pasture, 60 acres of stony mountain, the rectory and vicarage of Ballysadare (called Templemore[this refers to St. Feichin’s Church]) and 3 parts of the tithes in the lands called the Termon lands (O’Rorke 1878, 16).

By 1605 the lands had come into the hands of John Crofton and an inquisition of 1607 noted 3 houses within the precinct of the Glebe of the Great church of Assdara (St. Feichin’s Church), were occupied by the McGilleboy’s (O’Rorke 1878, 15).

In October and November 1641 the Sheriff of Sligo, Andrew Crean, called meetings of the landowners of the County at Ballysadare to deal with the Northern rebellion (O’Dowd, 1991, 117). The following year Ballysadare, which was filled with refugees from Co. Leitrim, was attacked and destroyed during a raid by Sir Fredrick Hamilton O’Rourke (1878). If the town had not already moved to its current location, it was rebuilt to the south on the eastern and western sides of the Owenmore River following the raid. The town had certainly moved by the time William Petty produced his map in 1654 indicating the presence of the town on both sides of the later bridge over the Owenmore River.

Layout of the site
The exact layout of either abbey or the old town of Ballysadare is not known. However, the evidence suggests that much of the activity associated with the Abbeys and town would have been situated in the area between St. Feichin’s Abbey and the Augustinian Abbey.

The archaeological testing carried out in 2004 (04E1468-9) uncovered deposits of shells and animal bone in the area to the west and north-west of St. Feichin’s Church as well as a stone building foundation directly west of the church. I personally collected fragments of a rotary quern to the west of the pathway near St. Feichin’s church. Test excavation carried out in 1999 in fields to the south also uncovered midden material (99E0245) and midden material was uncovered during the widening of the access road to St. Feichin’s Church in the early 1970s (see RMP file 020-109 held in RMP archives, Dublin). This midden material represents the refuse of settlement activity associated with St. Feichin’s Abbey and probably the old town of Ballysadare. Oblique aerial photography of the area also indicates a series of linear features which may be associated with the settlement. This suggests that this activity centred in the fields to the west of the pathway, in the area between the two monasteries.


O’Dowd, M. 1991 Early Modern Sligo 1568-1688.

O’Rorke, T. 1878. History, antiquities, and present state of the parishes of Ballysadare and Kilvarnet, in the county of Sligo; with notices of the 0’Haras, the Coopers, the Percevals, and other local families.

Wiggins, K 2004. Kilboglashy, Ballysadare, Co. Sligo Site SL020-10902 (graveyard) Excavation Report.

Wiggins, K 2004. Kilboglashy, Ballysadare, Co. Sligo Site SL020-10907 (middens) Excavation Report.

Wiggins, K 2004. Kilboglashy, Ballysadare, Co. Sligo Site SL020-10906 (enclosure) Excavation Report.

A note on some Beaker period pit burials in Ireland.

Mount, C. 2013. A note on some Beaker period pit burials in Ireland. Journal of Irish Archaeology XXI, 1-6.

This is an abstract of a paper on Beaker burials that I published in the Journal of Irish Archaeology in August 2013. If you would like to read more and you don’t have a subscription to the journal who can order it from Wordwell.

The macehead from Lismullin, Co. Meath (photo by John Sunderland, courtesy of Aidan O'Connell & the NRA).

The macehead from the Beaker burial at Lismullin, Co. Meath (photo by John Sunderland, courtesy of Aidan O’Connell & the NRA)


Not long ago Beaker period burials in Ireland had only been identified in association with megalithic tombs, primarily Wedge and Court Tombs. However, in recent years a small number of pit burials of the Beaker period or Chalcolithic have been found. This note describes the burials that have been identified to date.

There are a number of pit burials, all found since 1998, from Lismullin, Co. Meath, Corbally, Co. Kildare, Brownstown, Co. Kildare, and Waterunder, Mell, Co. Louth that are characterised as having small quantities of cremated human bone, or in one case an inhumation, often associated with sherds from one or more Beaker vessels as well as stone artefacts and food remains. More Beaker associated pits that may have included human remains are known from Carrigrohane, Co. Cork, Broomfield, Co. Dublin and Rathjordan, Co. Limerick and an old burial find from Co. Wexford may date to the Beaker period.

Pit burials are notoriously difficult to identify, they are substantially under-represented in the archaeological record, and the small number discussed are likely to be indicative of a larger original number. The possibility that small quantities of cremated bone in simple pits without associations may also date to the Beaker period should also be considered.  The deposition of Beaker period burials in pits after 2450 cal BC represents an alternative practice to burial in megalithic tombs, that has the capability of filling a chronological and distributional gap, and provides a background for the development of the flat cemeteries in the Early Bronze Age.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. A note on some Beaker period pit burials in Ireland. Charles Mount’s Blog, 8 August 2013.

The decline in archaeological excavation in Ireland has stopped!

Excavation Licenses issued quarterly January 2012 - June 2013.

Excavation Licenses issued quarterly January 2012 – June 2013.

New data confirms that the decline of archaeological excavation in Ireland has stopped!

In the second quarter of 2013 there were 139 excavation licenses issued by the National Monuments Service in the Republic of Ireland. This is an increase of just under 7%  on the number issued in the same period in 2012 and reverses the small decline seen in the first quarter of the year. Overall in the first half of the year there were 251 licenses issued which is almost identical to the 250 issued in the first half of 2012. If this trend continues through to the end of the year 2013 would be the first year since 2006 in which there hasn’t been a decline in excavation licenses.  The new data confirms the observation made in my April post that the rate of decline in archaeology had slowed. The new data suggests the decline may have stopped, for the moment at least. Whether this is a temporary pause or a reversal of the trend is not clear as other data is not as encouraging.

The archaeological licensing data contrasts with the Ulster Bank Construction PMI Report which recorded a reading of 41.9 for the month of April and 42 for the month of May indicating a further contraction in construction activity. This may be explained by the fact that archaeological data incorporates archaeological testing that precedes construction activity and the licensing data may now be signalling a slowing of the decline of activity in the construction sector. This should become more clear as the year progresses. Another encouraging sign is that the Central Statistics Office has reported that seasonally adjusted GNP increased by 2.9% in volume terms in the first quarter of the year.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. The decline in archaeological excavation in Ireland has stopped! Charles Mount’s Blog, 3 July 2013.

The Early Bronze Age Bog Body from Cashel Bog, Co. Laois, Europe’s Oldest Bog Body

The Early Bronze Age Bog Body from Cashel Bog, Co. Laois

The Early Bronze Age Bog Body from Cashel Bog, Co. Laois

The remains of the Cashel bog body were found by a Bord na Mona worker in August 2011 in Cashel Bog, Co. Laois, south of Portlaoise, and promptly reported to the National Museum of Ireland. The find was investigated by Eamonn Kelly, Keeper of Antiquities. As Bord na Mona Project Archaeologist I was also notified of the discovery and visited the site during the investigation. Eamonn Kelly has just published his preliminary findings in a paper entitled “The bog body from Cashel Bog, Co. Laois” in the Ossory, Laois and Leinster No. 5. The remains are those of a naked young adult male placed in a crouched position, either on the bog surface or in a shallow pool, on his right side with his legs tightly flexed and aligned north-south with the head at the south. The burial site was marked with two stakes of hazel wood placed into the bog at an angle that crossed above the head of the body. The head, neck and left arm were removed by peat milling and the torso was damaged but the mandible, teeth, ribs, clavicle, vertebra and other fragments were recovered nearby.

Unusually for an early Bronze Age burial the remains had indications of violent trauma. The arm had been broken by a blow, the spine was broken in two places and cuts to the back appear to have been inflicted with an axe. A radiocarbon date of 3678±31 BP (cal BC 2141-1960 BC) was obtained for the human remains and a second date of  3605±3o BP (2033-1888 BC) obtained for one of the hazel stakes. This makes the Cashel body the earliest fleshed remains found in a bog in Europe to date and would place the death of the young man into the early phase of the Bronze Age just at the stage that inhumations (2215-2095 BC), Bowl Food Vessels (2160 BC) and cists (2160-2065 BC) were coming into use in Ireland. In fact the posture closely resembles a contemporary burial in dryland. Grave 4 at Keenoge, Co. Meath, for example, contained a similar inhumation of an adult male, in a crouched position, lying on his right side aligned north-south in a simple pit in the ground (Mount 1997a, 13).

This discovery opens a new chapter in the record of Bronze Age burial in Ireland. Over 900 Irish Early Bronze Age (2200-1600 BC) burial sites are now known and at these sites people practised a wide range of burial forms in a range of different monument types. The use of megalithic tombs continued from the Chalcolithic and newly built cairns and earthen barrows or ring ditches also came into use. The largest single type of burial site known from the period are flat cemeteries consisting of graves dug into the ground that were either stone-lined cists or simple pits. The burial of the unburned remains of men, women and children developed and people could be inhumed in a variety of positions from extended to flexed, crouched and contracted. The remains could also be buried singly or in groups and be either articulated or disarticulated. Some of the graves contained surprisingly large numbers of burials. For example at Altaghderry Co Donegal a cist contained the remains of 10 individuals including 5 adults, identified as 2 men and at least 1 woman as well as 2 children under 7 years, one infant 7-11 months old and 2 foetuses less than 5 months (Halpin and Roche 2011). In the region where the Cashel body was found about 11% of the Bronze Age burials contained multiple burials (Mount 1997b, 156-7). One explanation for the multiple burials in cists and pits is that the graves were re-opened for later burials, and this appears to have been the case at sites like Carrig, Co. Wicklow (Grogan 1990). However at other sites, like Ballyveelish, Co. Tipperary where five individuals appear to have been cremated intact and buried simultaneously, burial of all individuals took place at one time (Doody 1987, 19). We should also be open to the possibility that the remains of individuals were stored until an appropriate moment and then interred in a grave at one time. Therefore Cashel Bog may not have been the intended final resting place for the young man but a temporary first stage resting place where the body lay, marked by the stakes, until the right moment when a final grave, a cist or pit, in a family cemetery or mound was made ready.

Doody, M. 1997. Early Bronze Age Burials, Ballyveelish 3, Co. Tipperary. In R.M. Cleary, M.F. Hurley and E.A. Twig (Ends) Archaeological Excavations on the Cork – Dublin Gas Pipeline (1981 -82), 10-35.

Grogan, E. 1990. Bronze Age cemetery at Carrig, Co. Wicklow. Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 4, No. 4, 12-14.

Halpin, A. and Roche, H. 2011. 3.9 Altaghaderry, Co. Donegal, 02E1474. In M. Cahill and M. Sikora (Eds) Breaking ground, finding graves- reports on the excavations of burials by the national Museum of Ireland, 1927-2006, Vol. 1, 98-111.

Kelly, E. 2012. The bog body from Cashel Bog, Co. Laois. Ossory, Laois and Leinster No. 5.

Mount, C. 1997a.  Adolf Mahr’s Excavations of an Early Bronze Age Cemetery at Keenoge, County Meath PRIA 97c, 1-68.

Mount, C. 1997b. Early Bronze Age burial in south-east Ireland in the light of recent research. PRIA 97c, 101-93.


Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. The Early Bronze Age Bogy Body from Cashel Bog, Co. Laois, Europe’s Oldest Bog Body. Charles Mount’s Blog, 23 May 2013.

Is there a future for development-led Archaeology in Ireland?

Graph of Irish excavation licences issued in 2012 and possible future activity.

Graph of Irish excavation licences issued in 2012 and possible future activity.

Since 2008, following the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy, Ireland has endured one of the deepest recessions on record. The country has lost its economic sovereignty and continuing austerity has decimated investment in both the public and private sectors. The decline in archaeology has been continuing since 2007 and there has been a massive decline in the number of archaeological excavations carried out annually in Ireland that have now fallen 78% below the level of 2006. The years since then have seen many of the consultancies and companies involved in archaeology close and most of the people working in archaeology have lose their jobs. Everyone remaining in the profession, whether in the public or private sectors, has endured salary reductions, staff reductions, budget reductions and worsening conditions. Anyone involved in archaeology would be forgiven for wondering if the decline is going to end and if there is a future for development-led archaeology in Ireland. The answer is that there are reasons to be optimistic.

The recent publication by the Central Statistics Office of the provisional 2012 Seasonally Adjusted Indices of Production in all Building and Construction records another reduction of 7.8% in the volume of construction output for 2012. While another reduction might not seem like good news the data indicates that the rate of decline is now slowing. There is now a likelihood that in the medium term construction activity may return to growth. This view is supported by the 2012 figures for Irish GDP and GNP which indicate growth gradually returning to the economy. In line with this trend the decline in licenced excavations has begun to slow and was down only 6.6% in the first quarter of 2013 in comparison to the same quarter in 2012. The indications are that development-led archaeology may now be moving into a period of stability as the Irish economic growth begins a slow recovery.

But what is the future for archaeology going to be? It is unlikely that there will ever be a return to the levels of activity seen in the early part of the last decade. At the height of the boom the construction industry increased to become more than a fifth of the Irish economy which was a wholly unsustainable level. But what future level of construction output is considered sustainable? The Irish Construction Industry in 2012 report Produced by DKM Economic Consultants for the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland notes that in 2012 the value of construction in the Irish economy is estimated to have been €7.5 billion, making it just 4.7% of GDP. DKM estimate, based on comparison with the size of the construction industry in other countries, and the long term trend in Irish construction output, that the Irish economy should be capable of sustaining a construction industry equivalent to 10% of GDP. In other words an industry producing an output more than twice as large as it currently is. As I have noted previously there is a close correlation between construction output and the number of excavations carried out in Ireland so an increase in construction would result in an increased requirement for Archaeological investigations.

The conclusion is that, after 6 years of precipitate decline development-led Archaeology in Ireland can now start to look forward to a period of sustainable growth in line with growth in the general Irish economy.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. Is there a future for development-led Archaeology in Ireland?. Charles Mount’s Blog, 18 April 2012.

New data is good news for Irish archaeology indicating the decline in excavation is slowing.

Graph of excavation licences issued per quarter January 2012-April 2013.

Graph of excavation licences issued per quarter January 2012-April 2013.

New data suggests that the rate of decline in archaeological excavation in Ireland is slowing.
In the first quarter of 2013 to the 31 of March there were 112 excavation licenses issued by the National Monuments Service in the Republic of Ireland. This is a small reduction of 6.6% in the number issued in the same period in 2012. Although the total number of licences issued is still declining, the rate of decline is slowing. In my last post I noted that in 2012 the rate of decline in excavation licenses was running at more than twice the rate of the decline in construction output of 7.8%. This new data suggests that the rate of decline in archaeology is now tracking construction more closely. If this is the case we may entering a period of greater stability in the sector.


Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. New data is good news for Irish archaeology indicating the decline in excavation is slowing. Charles Mount’s Blog, 4 April 2013.

Continuing decline in Irish archaeological activity outstrips the decline in construction

Licences chart

Chart of the percentage decline in archaeological licences and building output by volume 2007-12.

In my last post I noted that archaeological excavation licences issued in the Republic of Ireland in 2012 had fallen by 18.6% from the number issued in 2011. I suggested that this indicated that both archaeological and related construction activity had continued to decline in 2012. This has now been confirmed by the publication by the Central Statistics Office of the provisional 2012 Seasonally Adjusted Indices of Production in all Building and Construction. This records a reduction of 7.8% in the volume of construction output for 2012. This indicates that while construction activity has declined for six consecutive years since 2006 the rate of decline is now slowing. A worrying trend is that the rate of decline in archaeological activity has barely slowed and is now running at more than twice the rate of the decline in construction activity. This may indicate that there are other factors causing the decline of archaeological activity other than just the aggregate decline in construction activity.

Next month I will be presenting the first results of the quarterly tracking of archaeological activity that was commenced in 2012. The current evidence is that these figures will indicate continuing decline in activity in the sector in the first quarter of 2013.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. Continuing decline in Irish archaeological activity outstrips the decline in construction. The Charles Mount Blog, 22 March 2013.

Excavation Licenses indicate continued reduction in archaeological and construction activity in 2012


Excavation licences 2000-2012


Archaeological Licenses indicate that in 2012 archaeological activity in Ireland continued to contract for the sixth year reaching a fifteen year low.

Figures provided by the National Monuments Service indicate that the total number of archaeological excavation licenses issued for the year 2012 was 454. This is a reduction of 18.6% from the 558 licenses issued in 2011 and indicates that both archaeological investigations and the construction activity that they relate to continued their decline. This now represents a drop of 78% from the peak of archaeological activity in 2006. The level of activity is comparable to the year 1997 when 467 excavation licences were issued. As indicated in my December 2011 post on the topic excavation license and construction output show a high degree of correlation and it is anticipated that this almost 19% drop in archaeological activity will be mirrored by a similar drop in construction activity. In view of the current economic trends it is not clear when the decline in Irish construction and archaeological activity will stop. Current analysis would indicate that the trend will continue through 2013. I have been reporting the figures on a quarterly basis since the first quarter of 2012 and will be reporting changes in quarterly activity from March 2013.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2012. Excavation Licenses indicate continued reduction in archaeological and construction activity in 2012. The Charles Mount Blog, 21 December 2012.

Indicators suggest that archaeological and construction activity in Ireland continued to decline in the third quarter of 2012.

Indicators suggest that archaeological and construction activity in Ireland continued to decline in the third quarter of 2012.

Indicators suggest that archaeological and construction activity in Ireland continued to decline in the third quarter of 2012.

At the end of the third quarter of 2012, 375 archaeological excavation licenses had been issued by the National Monuments Service. This represents just 67% of the 558 licenses issued in 2011. These quarterly results will not have analytical value until year on year comparisons can be made beginning in 2013, however, if this trend continues the number of licenses issued in 2012 will be at least 10% less than 2011. The continuing decline in archaeological activity is paralleled in the Irish construction industry. The Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Manager’s Index fell to 40.7 in August from 42.2 in July and 42.5 in June the fasted pace of decline since September 2011.


Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2012. Indicators suggest that archaeological activity in Ireland continued to decline in the third quarter of 2012. The Charles Mount Blog, 4 October 2012.

Environmental impact assessment and the demolition of national monuments


The national monument at Lismullin, Co. Meath which was identified during road construction.

The national monument at Lismullin, Co. Meath which was identified and demolished during road construction.

New regulations introduce an important change in the way environmental impact assessment is carried out in Ireland in order to comply with a ruling of the European Court. In future environmental impact assessment will be the responsibility of the competent authority that will come to a decision after receiving an environmental impact statement from the developer. The change means that from now on the demolition of national monuments like Lismullin, Co. Meath (pictured) will be the subject of an environmental impact assessment carried out by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.


On the 9th of July 2012 the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht commenced the European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment of Proposed Demolition of National Monuments) Regulations 2012. The requirement for the regulations result from the decision of March 2011 of the European Court in case C-50/09 the European Commission vs. Ireland, that Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive as it had (amongst other things) excluded demolition works from the scope of legislation transposing the Directive into Irish Law. In other words demolition of a significant heritage building or structure where the works would constitute a significant impact on cultural heritage should have required an environmental impact assessment.


The new regulations amend the National Monuments Act 1930 by introducing environmental impact assessment procedures in relation to the demolition of national monuments. The amendment adds a new section 14D and only applies in relation to consents under section 14 or directions under section 14A (as inserted by the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004) in relation to national monuments discovered in the course of construction of an approved road scheme under the Road Act 1993.


This new section requires the Minister, as the competent authority, before deciding to grant a consent or issue directions that would result in the demolition of a national monument to ensure that the proposed demolition has been the subject of an environmental impact assessment. Environmental impact assessment means an assessment, being an assessment which includes an examination, analysis and evaluation, by the Minister that identifies, describes and assesses in an appropriate manner, in light of each individual case and in accordance with Articles 4 to 11 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, the direct and indirect effects which proposed demolition of a national monument would have on the following:

(a) human beings, fauna and flora;

(b) soil, water, air, climate and landscape;

(c) material assets and the cultural heritage;

(d) the interaction between the factors referred to in paragraphs (a)

to (c).


The Minister, as the competent authority will receive information from the applicant in the form of an environmental impact statement, and will then carry out the assessment of impact on the environment of the proposed development. Environmental impact statement means a written statement of the direct and indirect effects, if any, which the proposed demolition of a national monument, if carried out, would have on the environment and which contains the information which an environmental impact statement is required to contain under this section. The Minister may after consultation with the Director of the National Museum and the responsible local authority grant an exemption from these requirements in exceptional circumstances. Where an applicant is required to submit an environmental impact statement a notice of this intention must be published in the press two weeks before the submission of the statement. The Minster must circulate the environmental impact statement to the Director of the National Museum and the responsible local authority. If the Minister considers the environmental impact statement is inadequate he may request further information. The Minister will then carry out an environmental impact assessment of the proposal and decide whether or not to grant a consent or issue directions to demolish the national monument. Once the Minister has decided whether or not to grant consent or issue directions for the demolition of a national monument he shall publish a notice in the press and arrange for the environmental impact statement and information on the decision to be made publicly available.


I will be speaking about EIS practice for quarry developments at the Portobello Institute 10 August 2012.  See here

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2012. Environmental impact assessment and the demolition of national monuments. The Charles Mount Blog, 19 July 2012.


Was there malaria in prehistoric Ireland?


The range of mosquito species Anopheles claviger (Meigen) from

The range of mosquito species Anopheles Claviger (Meigen) in grey from

Malaria could partly explain the widespread iron-deficiency anaemia seen in Irish Early Bronze Age cemeteries.

I am spending this summer writing a book on Ireland in the Bronze Age and at the moment I am working on a section on human health. The evidence from cemeteries where there is adequately preserved skeletal material, and these remains have been analysed for pathology, indicates that there was widespread iron-deficiency anaemia amongst the population, both children and adults. These deficiencies present in the preserved bone as porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia while dental hypoplasia indicates acute infection and fever. So far I have noted instances in a dozen cemeteries in Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster and there are probably more. Usually in the reports these diseases are interpreted as indicating a population that was poorly adapted to its environment or was under nutritional stress.

However I know from the sections that I have written on settlement and farming that today the areas in which these cemeteries are found are amongst the most fertile regions of Ireland and the fields surrounding these cemeteries, if not built on, are used to fatten cattle and grow cereals. When I look at the archaeological and palynological evidence for agriculture it indicates that Early Bronze Age farming was generally small-scale and often carried out in in clearings in the forest close to water that were restricted to the lighter and better drained lowland soils (Weir 1995). These clearings were laboriously made by hand to provide grazing land for cattle and pigs with some sheep and horses. There was some cereal cultivation of both wheat and barley but this appears to have been on a limited scale although preserved wheat and barley has been found at a number of settlement sites. The resources of the surrounding forest were also used and hazel nuts, wild apples and berries were collected. The farmers also hunted and the remains of red deer, wild boar and hare have been found at settlements.

The pollen evidence indicates a gradual clearance of forest surrounding the settlements. For example at Roughan Hill, Co. Clare a system of irregularly-shaped fields enclosed by stone walls was laboriously cleared from the forest and contained dispersed houses within enclosures and family tombs covering an area of about 144 hectares (Note Roughan Hill is now dated to the Early Bronze Age see Jones 2008). An area this size might have produced 200-300 cattle annually as well as some cereals and there were all the resources of the surrounding forest. Settlements of the period were usually small scale consisting of just one or two houses for perhaps a single family group. The skeletal remains of the farmers tell the story of the hard work of cutting down trees, removing stones from fields and building stone walls. Many people suffered from injured backs with Schmorl’s nodes, periostitis, degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis. In my view the archaeological evidence suggests that the Early Bronze Age people were quite well adapted to their environment and don’t appear to have been outstripping the available resources. So I am not happy with widespread nutritional stress as an explanation for the anaemia.

An alternative explanation is that a low level of iron in the blood may be a defence against pathogens. During infection iron is sequestered in the liver, which prevents invading pathogens from getting adequate supplies of this vital element. If these people were being affected by a pathogen it would have to be one that could spread to small-scale low-density communities living close to rivers, lakes and bogs. Diseases like Typhus usually require a higher density of settlement to spread, however mosquito-borne pathogens are a possibility. Recent investigations of Egyptian Royal mummies, for example, have identified the DNA of Plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite in association with porotic hyperostosis, so the anaemia could be indicating malaria (Nerlich et al. 2008).

Although Ireland no longer has any mosquito-borne pathogens, it did in the past. Irish mosquitoes are known to have spread tertian malaria (Plasmodium vivax) and the last major outbreak occurred in Cork in the 1840s, 50s and 60s. As well as malaria mosquitoes also have the potential to spread yellow fever, dengue fever and encephalitic viruses. Today Ireland has 18 species of mosquitoes of which four are Anopheles (including Anopheles Claviger (Meigen)) the potential carriers of malaria. Although mosquitoes have not been recorded in archaeological or palaeoenvironmental samples they occur throughout Europe and were first scientifically recorded in Ireland in 1823 (Ashe et al.1991). From the environmental perspective during the Early Bronze Bronze Age the climate is thought to have been 1-2° warmer than today and provided a satisfactory environment for mosquitoes to breed. In fact the Irish climate is still viable for mosquitoes and some health workers fear that climate change could see the re-emergence of malaria in Ireland in the future.

So an alternative hypothesis to the suggestion that all the iron-deficiency anaemia seen in Early Bronze Age remains is caused by nutritional deficiency could be the presence of a pathogen or pathogens that triggered the anaemic reaction as a defence mechanism. This pathogen could have been malaria which was present in Ireland in the nineteenth century. In this scenario the opening up of the forest canopy close to rivers, lakes and bogs altered the ecology and provided new habitats for mosquitos to colonise. The increased populations of mosquitoes bred in close proximity to humans and spread malaria or other pathogens that caused the anaemic reaction. Although there is currently no direct evidence for mosquito-borne pathogens in the Bronze Age Ireland I think this is a useful hypothesis that is worth further consideration and testing.


Ashe, P., O’Connor, J.P. and Casey R.J. 1991. Irish mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae): a checklist of the species and their known distribution. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 91B, 21-36.

Jones, C. 2008. Roughan Hill prehistoric landscape. In M. Comber and C. Jones (compilers) Burren Landscape and Settlement, unpblished report for the Irish National Archaeological Research programme, 42-53.

Nerlich, A.G., Schraut, B., Dittrich, S., Jelinek, T and A.R. Zink 2008. Plasmodium falciparum in Ancient Egypt. Emerging Infectious Diseases 14(8): 1317-1318.

O’Sullivan, M. 2005. Duma na nGiall The Mound of the Hostages, Tara. Dublin.

Weir, D. 1995. A palynological study in County Louth. Discovery Programme Reports 2, 77-126.


About the author

Dr. Charles Mount has been involved in research on the Irish Bronze Age for more than twenty years and carried out his post-graduate and doctoral research on the period. Since then he has published extensively on the burials, monuments and artefacts of the period. This blog post is partly based on research he is preparing for a book on the period Ireland in the Bronze Age. You can learn more about Charles Mount’s publications here.

Mount, C. Was there malaria in prehistoric Ireland?. The Charles Mount Blog, 5 July 2012.