Archaeology 2025: Development-led Archaeology

Archaeology 2025 is a 10 year strategy which will inform the journey for Irish archaeology. The Royal Irish Academy Standing Committee for Archaeology, in collaboration with The Discovery Programme, recognise the need to review the infrastructure and profession of archaeology in Ireland to ensure that its unique status as a cultural, scientific and social resource plays a part in Ireland’s current recovery.

Consultation on an all-island, and EU, level will probe how archaeology best adjusts within new political, economic and social landscapes. The Archaeology 2025 Strategy will be published in 2016, and will be drawn from extensive archaeological consensus. The aim is to:

• guide the profession from the lessons learned towards a solid path to the future
• connect with other relevant spheres in a meaningful way
• bring vitality, growth and sustainability to archaeology

Below is the text of my submission to Archaeology 2025 on the subject of development-led archaeology. It is also my submission to The Grand Challenges for Archaeology: A Blogging Carnival at Doug’s Archaeology.

Development-led archaeology
In Ireland most archaeological work is carried out as a result of development that has an impact on archaeological heritage. Developers do not have an automatic right to carry out developments that impact archaeological heritage, the competent authority grants the developer the right to carry out the development on the basis that they implement a stated form of mitigation. This mitigation is often preservation by record of the archaeological heritage impacted. This process is an implementation of the Polluter Pays Principle which mandates that that the polluter must pay for the full economic cost of the damage done to the environment. However, many of the problems encountered with successfully completing archaeological mitigation projects arise from the fact that many developers do not pay the full economic cost of mitigation. As a result many mitigation projects remain uncompleted and the statutory authorities responsible for overseeing the process are underfunded and short-staffed.

Archaeological preservation by record is a multi-stage process that involves not only the onsite excavation work but the post-excavation process, final reporting and the curation of the artefacts and archaeological archive. The curation of archaeological artefacts has continuing cost well into the future which needs to be recognised. However planning conditions related to archaeology are often vague and do not explicitly sate what the complete mitigation process entails and that the developer is responsible for funding the whole process to completion. In order to clarify the situation planning conditions relating to archaeological mitigation should be much more detailed in their requirements. They need to explicitly state that archaeological preservation by record is a multi-stage process that is not complete until the competent authorities have been furnished with a final excavation report, all finds have been conserved and have been curated by the National Museum. The conditions should require the developer to furnish the competent authority with a final excavation report that has been certified by the National Monuments Service and a receipt from the National Museum for the curated finds.

To ensure that the finance is available to bring all archaeological mitigation work to a successful conclusion the developer should be required to provide an archaeology bond. Bonds are currently attached as planning conditions and may be drawn down in the event of a developer failing to complete the development to the required standard. Once the archaeology work has been fully completed and the developer completes a release of bond application the bond can be released to the developer. If the developer for whatever reason fails to fully fund the archaeological mitigation the bond can be used by the competent authority to fund the completion of the work.

Most archaeological contracts in Ireland are of the fixed price type which transfer the financial risk of the archaeological mitigation from the developer to the archaeologist. The risk to the archaeologist is increased by the fact that project tenders are often accepted on the basis of lowest price to the exclusion of other criteria. As it is not possible to be certain of the nature of buried archaeological remains before they are excavated, even if they have been the subject of assessment, archaeological mitigation projects run the risk of encountering archaeology that is more complex or of greater extent than identified in the original assessment. As a result these projects may run over budget. The management of this risk has important consequences for the successful completion of the archaeological mitigation project.

Where it is a recognised principle that the risk of encountering archaeology that is more complex or of greater extent than identified in the original assessment lies with the developer, in line with the Polluter Pays Principle, then sufficient funds should be negotiated to fully complete the archaeological mitigation work. However, where the developer insists that the originally agreed fixed price stands irrespective of the actual complexity or extent of archaeology then a situation arises that will jeopardise the successful archaeological mitigation. The developer has the right to have the archaeological mitigation carried out at a reasonable cost but should not have the right to transfer the risk of cost overruns onto an archaeologist who is a third party and does not have primary responsibility for the implementation of the planning conditions. This is contrary to the Polluter Pays Principle that the developer must pay the full economic cost of mitigating the impact. In this situation the developer should be required to fund the additional work, irrespective of any prior agreement with the archaeologist. Where a dispute arises as to the extent of the additional costs the dispute should be subject to arbitration by the archaeological licencing authority. Ultimately, unless the archaeological mitigation is completed, the final report is produced and the finds are curated the developer will not have complied with their planning conditions and any party could seek an order from the competent authority to have the conditions enforced or to have the recommended archaeology bond forfeit.

Who pays the cost of overseeing the licensing and excavation process?
Currently the National Monuments Service is funded directly by the State. However part of its functions are concerned with development control and the related issues of excavation licensing, archaeological reports, etc. As this workload would not arise where it not for the proposals of developers the Polluter Pays Principle suggests that the developer should pay a contribution towards the costs of the administration of this system. An Bord Pleanála, for example, charges a range of fees for its services relating to development proposals, and a similar range of charges should be considered by the National Monuments Service.

Who pays the cost of curating archaeological finds from development?
Currently the National Museum is funded directly by the State. However part of its functions relate to development control and the related issues of excavation licensing, archaeological reports, and the eventual curation of archaeological finds from developer-led excavations. As is the case with the National Monuments Service this workload would not arise where it not for the proposals of the developer and the Polluter Pays Principle suggests that the developer should pay a contribution towards the costs of the administration of this system. Archaeological consultancies charge developers fees for the storage of archaeological finds and samples and similar charges should be considered by the National Museum of Ireland.

Archaeological Consultancies
In Ireland most archaeological work is carried out within the parameters of the commercial sector of the economy whether the work is commissioned by the for-profit private sector, the commercial semi-state sector or the not for-profit governmental sector. The Irish commercial archaeological sector has relatively low barriers to market entry and relatively low start-up costs which combined with competitive project tendering determined by lowest cost, results in all participants competing on low price. As a result any advantages that might be gained from investments in buildings, training, staff, equipment or innovation are eroded away in the face of price competition. Is this the most appropriate model for conducting development-led archaeology?

The objective of archaeological consultancies in the development-led process is to implement State policy and create public goods by preserving by record a non-renewable cultural resource for current future and generations. Therefore archaeology can be defined as a public good. If we accept the principle that archaeology is providing a public good is it appropriate that the organisations carrying out the work are organised and funded as for-profit commercial companies. Should these organisations not be organised and funded in the manner of not-for-profit non-governmental organisations providing public goods such as public service broadcasters, charities, educational or arts organisations?

Recommendations
• In order to clarify what the complete archaeological mitigation process involves planning conditions relating to archaeological mitigation should be much more detailed in their requirements.

• To ensure that the finance is available to bring all archaeological mitigation work to a successful conclusion the developer should be required by the competent authority to provide an archaeology bond.

• Where an archaeological mitigation project encounters archaeology that is more complex or of greater extent than identified in the original assessment the developer should be responsible for the additional costs irrespective of any fixed price agreement in place.

• Developers should pay a contribution towards the costs of the National Monuments Service related to development control and excavation licensing.

• Developers should pay a contribution towards the costs of the National Museum related to development control, excavation licensing and the long term curation of artefacts.

• Consideration should be given as to whether the for-profit commercial model is the most appropriate for archaeological consultancies.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2016. Archaeology 2025: Development-led Archaeology. Dr. Charles Mount Blog, 29 January 2016. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/index.php/archaeology-2025-development-led-archaeology

A strong start to Irish archaeology in 2015

 

Excvation licences issued quarterly 2012-15.

Excavation licences issued quarterly 2012-15.


The first quarter of 2015 saw a strong increase in Irish archaeological activity against a background of a general a loss of momentum in the recovery of the Irish construction industry.

In the first quarter of 2015 to the 31st of March there were 138 new excavation licences issued by the National Monuments Service in the Republic of Ireland. This is an increase of 7% over the number of 129 new licences issued in the first quarter of 2014 and the largest number of licences issued in the first quarter since I started tracking quarterly activity in 2012. In addition there were 6 Ministerial consents for works, 30 diving licenses, 7 Ministerial consents for excavation, and 2 Ministerial Directions for excavation.

The archaeological licensing figures contrast with the Ulster Bank Construction PMI Report  for March which registered a slight pickup in activity after four months of declining construction activity. While commercial construction continues to increase and housing activity improves civil engineering activity continued to decrease. Overall there is a loss of momentum in the recovery of the Irish construction industry.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2015. A strong start to Irish archaeology in 2015. Dr. Charles Mount Blog, 22 April 2015. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1468

Irish Archaeological Activity Steady in 2014

Although the fourth quarter of 2014 saw a decrease in archaeological activity compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, as a whole 2014 was on a par with 2013.

Licenses issued quarterly 2012-14.

Licenses issued quarterly 2012-14.

Data Provided by the National Monuments Service indicates that in the fourth quarter of 2014 to the end of December there were just 56 new excavation licences issued in the Republic of Ireland. This is the lowest number of new licenses issued since I began tracking licenses quarterly in 2012. This also represents a decrease of 71% in comparison to the 96 licenses issued in the fourth quarter of 2013. Overall 2014 was just 2% behind 2013 with 462 licenses issued compared to 472 in the same period last year.

Licenses 2000-2014

Annual licenses 2000-2014

In addition in 2014 there were 11 Ministerial consents for works, 46 diving licenses, 37 Ministerial consents for excavation, and 15 Ministerial Directions for excavation.

The stagnation in archaeological activity contrasts with the expansion in construction output which has been sustained for more than a year. The Ulster Bank Construction PMI Report  for December registered a statistic of 63.4 (a figure above 50 indicates expansion in activity), which indicates a continuing rise in construction activity. All the individual construction sectors are now growing, activity in civil engineering is at 57.4, housing construction is at 63.5 and commercial construction is at 65.  The picture of expansion is supported by the  Central Statistics Office which has reported an increase in the number of grants of planning permissions in the third quarter of 2014 to 4,238 from 3,875 in the third quarter of 2013, an increase of 9.3%. It is not clear why archaeology, which precedes development, should not be reflecting the strong growth seen in the Irish construction sector.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2015. Irish Archaeological Activity Steady in 2014. Dr. Charles Mount Blog, 28 January 2014. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1452

Investigating the peat bogs of Ireland

 

Leather shoe from Toar Bog, Co. Westmeath.

Leather shoe from Toar Bog, Co. Westmeath.

I am the Bord Na Móna Project Archaeologist and this year we are inaugurating a new 3 year campaign of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental investigations in the peatlands of Ireland. This is a link to my contribution to Day of Archaeology 2014 on the work.

New Irish archaeological excavation licences on par with 2013.

 

Chart of quarterly excavation licences issued 2012-14.

Chart of quarterly Irish excavation licences issued 2012-14.

Overall the first half of 2014 is similar to 2013, with 253 new excavation licences issued by the National Monuments Service in the Republic of Ireland in comparison to 251 last year. However, in the second quarter of 2014 to the 30th of June there were only 124 issued, a decrease of 10% over the 139 new licences issued in the second quarter of 2013.  In addition there were 25 extensions to licences taken out in previous years and 10 Ministerial Consents for excavations were issued, a reduction in the numbers issued in the first quarter.

The archaeological licencing figures contrast with the Ulster Bank Construction PMI Report  for May which registered a statistic of 60.2 (a figure above 50 indicates expansion in activity), which was down from 63.5 in April, but still indicated a sharp rise in construction activity. If we look at the individual construction sectors, activity in civil engineering has continued to fall, though at a lower rate, and now stands at 47.9 for May up from  41.8 in April. The continuing decline in civil engineering construction probably accounts for the general lack of increase in new excavation licences this year. The figures indicates that Irish archaeological activity is still largely driven by the civil engineering and in the absence of significant government investment is lagging the general growth in construction output.

 

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2014. New archaeological excavation licences issued in first half of 2014 on par with 2013. Dr. Charles Mount Blog, 3 July 2014. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1415

Unwrapping the past, virtually. Review of Ancient lives new discoveries eight mummies, eight stories. By John H. Taylor and Daniel Antoine 2014. British Museum.

Ancient lives new discoveries eight mummies, eight stories. By John H. Taylor and Daniel Antoine 2014. British Museum. ISBN 978 0 7141 19120

Ancient lives new discoveries. Courtesy of the British Museum.

Ancient lives new discoveries. Cover image courtesy of the British Museum.

As a boy I was fascinated by mummies and whenever I was brought to a Museum I would insist on visiting the Egyptology section first. Of course after a while I began to notice the galleries were also filled with statutes, reliefs, pottery and much more, and from there my interest in archaeology developed. My interest in burials eventually lead on to my post-graduate research work on Bronze Age burials in Ireland. This is why I was delighted to receive a copy of John Taylor and Daniel Antoine’s Ancient lives new discoveries an investigation of eight mummies from the British Museum. John Taylor is the curator at the British Museum specializing in ancient Egyptian funerary archaeology and Daniel Antoine is the British Museum’s curator of physical anthropology.Their soft cover book is 192 pages long with a chronological table, map of the sites mentioned in the text, 209 colour illustrations, Bibliography and comprehensive index. The book has been written and published to accompany the exhibition Ancient Lives, new discoveries at the British Museum in London which runs until the 30th of November 2014.

This book is of great interest not only because it is about mummies, well written, profusely illustrated and beautifully produced, but because it demonstrates the groundbreaking results that can now be obtained through the use of non-invasive computerized tomography (CT) scanning. This technique produces 3D images of the mummies that allow the internal structures to be studied in situ and the remains to be virtually segmented into skin, muscle, bone, etc. as well as viewing through through vertical cuts. Another new technique known as Dual Energy CT scanning can provide additional information on material density so that the composition of artifacts on or within the mummy can be determined. The eight mummies that are the focus of the book range from c. 3,500 BC to AD 655-775 and are mostly old finds collected in the nineteenth century and taken into the care of the British Museum. Only the woman from from near et-Tereif in Sudan is a new find. The mummies represent a range of types from natural to embalmed mummies with men, women and children represented. Thanks to the curatorial policy of the British Museum the mummies have never been unwrapped and are well preserved. The new scanning techniques facilitate the non-invasive analysis of the mummies so that the age, gender and stature of the mummies can be established. The scans also provide a fascinating wealth of new information on health, diet and the embalmers arts, including their mishaps and quick fixes.

Scans of a mummy from the Roman period. From Ancient Lives new discoveries p. 139. Courtesy of the British Museum.

Scans of a mummy from the Roman period. From Ancient Lives new discoveries p. 139 courtesy of the British Museum.

The oldest body investigated are the remains of the naturally mummified remains of Gebelein Man B from Upper Egypt. Gebelein B dates to approximately 3500 BC, making him older than Ötzi the ice mummy in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. This small young man was in his early twenties when he died. Remarkably his brain, lungs, kidneys and possibly liver and heart have survived. His digestive tract has also survived with what looks like his last meal. Analysis of small biopsies of these preserved organs will undoubtedly provide a wealth of new data about his health, diet and ancient human biology.

It is clear from the book that things didn’t always go according to plan in the embalmer’s workshop. An adult male mummy dating to about 600 BC from Thebes, which came to the Museum in a coffin belonging to someone else, a woman called Shepenmehyt, had extreme dental wear and multiple dental abscesses. The CT scan identified the remains of a small wooden implement lost by the embalmer in his skull cavity while removing the brain. More seriously a mistake made during the embalming of Padiamenet, the Doorkeeper and Barber of the Temple of Ra, appears to have caused his head to come off. The embalmers put it back on with the aid of two poles stuck inside his neck. Despite the possibility that this damage could have prejudiced Padiament’s chances of eternal life no ritual steps were taken to repair the damage of the loss of his head. To add insult to injury, his coffin was not made to measure and Padiamenet at 170cm was too tall to fit his coffin. The embalmers took the expedient step of placing Padiamenet’s mummy into the coffin with his feet protruding through the base and then wrapped them with linen. On another occasion a clay bowl was accidentally glued to the back of the head of the priest Nesperennub. The bowl was hidden by wrappings and the poor man has had to wear the bowl for the rest of eternity.

The embalming process took about 70 days to complete and involved the removal of the perishable parts of the body such as the brain and internal organs and the drying of the body. This was followed by the ritualized rebuilding process in which the nose and face were reconstructed, cavities filled with cloth and false eyes provided. The ritual required that embalming incisions be “healed” with small plates of metal or wax and other areas such as the nails could be gilded. The bodies were provided with amulets and wrapped in layers of linen and enclosed within coffins decorated with symbolic images. Tjayasetimu, a temple singer, was about 7 years old when she died but was buried in an adult-sized cartonnage case which unusually depicted her as alive. Child mummies, despite the high rate of child mortality, were very rare before the Roman period and those that have been found were usually members of high status families. Tamut, the Chantress of Amun at Karnak and daughter of a priest of Amun, was at least thirty years old when she died about 900 BC. The arteries in her legs were well preserved and contain calcified plaque deposits indicating that she suffered from atherosclerosis. Arterial plaque has been found in other mummies, such as Padiamenet, and suggests that cardiovascular disease was frequent in ancient Egypt.

Interesting results have also come from internal organs preserved in canopic jars. Histological analysis of lung tissue belonging to Henutmehyt, who died about 1250 BC, indicated that she suffered from the pulmonary diseases anthracosis and emphysema. The most recently dated body analyzed was the natural mummy of a Christian woman from near et-Tereif in Sudan dating to the seventh or eight century AD. Both of her lower canine teeth had been removed while she was alive and she had a tattoo of dots on the inner thigh of her right leg and very unusually a monogram of the Archangel Michael on her upper right thigh resembling the shape of a cross.

This book amply illustrates how much information the application of new scientific techniques can provide us about the people of the past. It also demonstrates how much old finds, when curated by institutions like the British Museum, still have to tell us. These human remains are a treasure trove of ancient human cultural and biological material that are providing us with new insights into human culture and biology thanks to the development and application of new scientific techniques.

My thanks to Hattie Clarke of the British Museum for sending me a copy of the book and sourcing the images for the blog post.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2014. Unwrapping the past, virtually. Review of Ancient lives new discoveries eight mummies, eight stories. By John H. Taylor and Daniel Antoine 2014. British Museum. Dr. Charles Mount Blog, 25 June 2014. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1388

The role of the Internet in Irish archaeology

This is the the text of my contribution to Trowel Vol. XIV 2013. My thanks to the editors Bernard Gilhooly, Joseph Cully, Chris Coffey and Rowan Lacey.

 

Trowel Vol. XIV 2013

Trowel Vol. XIV 2013

One of the abiding memories of my early days studying in UCD in the 1980s was of spending time in the library thumbing through the old card catalogues looking up call numbers for references and then searching the stacks. Of course after a few months you knew the call numbers off by heart. Irish Archaeology was 936 so you could head straight to the stacks to find the book or journal you needed. Only there was usually only one copy available and if it was a current course topic it probably wasn’t there. The Library tried to get around this problem with the multi-copy section where a number of copies of the more important papers were available but for everything else you had to search the tables and library carts to find what you were looking for. If a book was miss-shelved, then it was lost for months. The other option was to photocopy everything you needed to read throughout the year. During my postgraduate research photocopying corpus studies became a tedious and time-consuming pastime.

As undergraduates we wrote our notes and essays by hand but when we became postgraduates we got computer access. I started my MA on the old UCD VAX system using the tortuous Waterloo Script word processing language, and by 1989 I had migrated to my own PC using WordPerfect. But my PC wasn’t networked, I had no access to email and the files couldn’t be read by any machine that didn’t have the same software. Today I still have the floppy discs with my MA files but I need a digital archaeologist to read them.

In the 1980s archaeological data was available only on paper. The sites and Monuments Record (SMR) was still being collated and the maps and manuals could only be accessed in libraries or in the SMR office itself. Unpublished excavation reports were only available from the excavators themselves or in the files of the National Museum and the National Monuments Service. Aerial photography mainly consisted of the oblique photos taken by St. Joseph, that were available in the National Museum, and high level photography taken for the Ordnance Survey that could be consulted in the Geological Survey and photographic reproductions ordered from the Ordnance Survey.

Today all that is changed. I hardly write any notes by hand anymore. I make my notes in a cloud-based notebook on my phone, tablet or PC. I often publish preliminary versions or summaries of papers or lectures as blogs. Digital versions of my draft papers are emailed to editors and all the editing and refereeing is done via the internet. I can search and access thousands of archaeological publications and excavation reports online and view historical Ordnance Survey maps and a wide variety of aerial photographic archives. I regularly have online discussions with my archaeological colleagues. All this change has been brought about by the internet.

The information web

To make this revolution in knowledge management and dissemination possible took not only the development of the internet and the access provided by Internet Service Providers. It also required the development of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee’s triad of URLs, HTML and HTTP, the development of web browsers like Mosaic and Netscape and new file formats like PDF, JPEG and the slightly older TIFF.

It was perhaps the PDF file format more than anything else that ushered in the era of internet archaeology. No other digital format has contributed as much to making archaeological reports and publications available to students, professionals and the general public. Once a report consisting of both text and graphics was converted to PDF it could be emailed, stored in an internet database and downloaded via a website or shared through a peer to peer system. Anyone who wanted to read a PDF file could download a free reader from Adobe that would work on any device irrespective of the hardware manufacturer or operating system. The combination of universality and free access had made PDF the de facto portable document standard by the late 1990s. PDFs meant that thousands of articles, papers, journals and books could be stored digitally and made available across the internet. But what’s more excavation and assessment reports would no longer remain in filings cabinets but could be disseminated. It was the new digital formats like PDF and TIFF that allowed the development of internet-based knowledge management sites such as JSTOR.

JSTOR was founded in 1995 to provide digitized back issues of academic journals. Today it has grown to include books and primary sources, and recent issues of journals. JSTORs Irish archaeology section includes: Proceedings of Royal Irish Academy, the Journal of the Royal Society of Archaeologists of Ireland, the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, and Archaeology Ireland. JSTOR was originally only available to participating institutions but in 2010 JSTOR was opened up to non-academic Irish archaeologists who were members of the IAI. This was accomplished through the good offices of the Nick Maxwell of Wordwell. While a number of other Irish archaeological journals have become available through the internet, such as Decies, some newer resources have also become available. The Eachtra Journal was established in 2009 by John Tierney to curate the work of that consultancy and contains excavation reports, articles, lectures, posters and other documents. To date 16 issues of the journal have been published online.

Wordwell was responsible for another important step in bringing Irish archaeology onto the internet. Wordwell had been publishing the Excavations Bulletin since the 1980s and over that time the size of the publication had increased from just a few hundred entries to over a thousand a year by 2001. In that year Wordwell secured funding from the National Monuments Service and the Heritage Council to make the excavation summaries available on the web at excavations.ie. Since then the site has been both updated and backdated and now has summaries dating back to 1970. The ability to access and search excavation summaries from Abbeyknockmoy to Youghal has made excavations.ie one of the most important resources in Irish archaeology.

Another part of the mosaic had been established as early as the year 2000 when Dúchas, the old name for the Heritage Services, established a heritage data website (now taken down). This allowed consultants who managed their own GIS applications to download the data files of the Archaeological Survey of Ireland (ASI). In 2007 The National Monuments Service website went online and included a new GIS based map/search facility for the ASI records. This data set has been continually updated with summaries of monument descriptions and updated mapping, aerial photography, historic mapping and drawing capabilities and details of approximately 150,000 monuments. More recently the development of the National Roads Authority (NRA) excavations database has begun to transform access to full unpublished excavation and specialist reports related to the many excavations carried out on national road schemes over the last decade.

As information became available on the internet a major challenge was to make it searchable. Libraries had the decimal system of organizing information and catalogues but nothing similar existed for the web. The development of search engines would change this. WebCrawler and Yahoo became available in 1994 and Google in 1998. These search engines allowed websites to be searched using key words.

In the last decade the web has moved from providing pages of information and PDF and image files to making books available. In fact the ability to make books available electronically predates the web. Gutenberg was founded as far back as 1971 to make out of copyright eBooks available in digital format. But issues of copyright and digital rights held back the availability of in copyright books until the late 1990s when some of the first eBook readers were launched. Arguably it was the launch of the Amazon Kindle in 2007 that commenced the era of books in copyright being made available on the internet. While most books on Irish archaeology are still published only in print editions one can purchase some eBooks such as Jim Mallory’s Origin of the Irish and a range of internationally published books such as Richard Bradley’s The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland, and instantly download them for a fraction of the cost of the paper version.

In the 1980s examination of maps, especially historic ones, required a trip to a map library. In the early part of the last decade the Ordnance Survey Ireland began offering mapping data through its website. The importance for archaeologists was the inclusion of historical mapping, especially the 1st edition Ordnance Survey maps and aerial photography. Then in 2004 Google acquired EarthViewer 3D, which maps the Earth by the superimposition of images obtained from satellite imagery and aerial photography, and made the basic version of the application freely usable over the web as Google Earth. The potential of Google Earth for archaeology was quickly grasped and it came into use not only as an off-the-peg method of presenting spatial data but was used to identify new archaeological sites.

Since 2004 Google has been providing Google Scholar as a freely accessible site that indexes the full text of scholarly papers across an array of publishing formats and disciplines. Released in beta in November 2004 Google Scholar includes many online journals of Europe and America’s largest scholarly publishers, plus scholarly books and other non-peer reviewed journals. Google Scholar now also provides data on paper and author citations that allow archaeologist and students to tell what authors and what papers are the most influential.

The social web

The first stage in the development of the internet was about providing information that people could easily access. The second stage, the social web, is about interaction and collaboration between the users of the internet through the use of social media sites like Facebook, and the generation of content by users in the form of blogs, images and videos. One of the earliest approaches to user-generated content was Wikipedia which was launched in 2001 as a collaboratively edited encyclopaedia. The site has grown to over 30 million articles and has a range of Irish archaeological articles that are often used by the media as source material for articles.

The most successful social media application for Irish archaeology is undoubtedly Facebook. Since its foundation in 2004 Facebook has attracted many millions of users. Ireland is the biggest user of Facebook in the English-speaking world (Independent.ie) and the ubiquity of its use has encouraged many archaeologists to become involved with pages and groups related to archaeology and heritage. In recent years a number of pages related to archaeology have developed. Irisharchaeology.ie with over 23,000 followers has brought archaeology to tens of thousands of Facebook users. Other groups such as Archaeology Ireland Network, Early Medieval and Viking Research Group, and Togher: Irish Raised Bog Archaeology, to name a few, host discussions of archaeology. Other groups such as UCD Experimental Archaeology showcase ongoing experimental research and provide important insights into the development of the archaeological record. Facebook has also allowed the development of campaigns aimed at preserving archaeology and heritage such as Cherrymount Crannog Crisis which successfully campaigned for the full excavation of the Drumclay Crannog in Fermanagh.

Since 2008 a number of websites have developed that allow scholars to share their published research with their peers. Mendeley was launched in 2008 and is a desktop and web program for managing and sharing research papers, discovering research data and collaborating online. Academia.edu, launched in 2008, is a social networking website for academics with 3 million registered users. The platform is used to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field.

Another development in Irish archaeology has been blogging. Over the last few years Irish archaeologists have started to write about archaeology and heritage on the internet through the medium of their own blogs. Blogging is a less formal and more interactive way of publishing and discussing archaeological material and has the capability of reaching out beyond the confines of the archaeological community of practice to a wider public. One of the oldest, the Moore Group Blog, has been published since 2007 and has been a regular finalist in Irish Web Awards. Brian Dolan has been writing Seandalaiocht since 2009. I started writing Charles Mount’s Blog in 2011 to discuss my research and areas of interest and as a sounding board for ideas. I often publish early versions of papers intended for publication in order to get feedback as well as abstracts or summaries of published papers. Other notable blogs are Robert Chapple’s Blog Robert M Chapple, Archaeologist which features his own writing and contributions from a range of guest writers. Colm Moriarty’s Blog Irisharchaeology.ie contains a wide range of stories about Irish archaeology and has a large following. Other blogs are Terry O’Hagan’s Vox Hiberionacum which specialises in Early Medieval Ireland and Chris Corlett’s Blog on a range of archaeological and historical topics.

Blogging has made archaeology increasingly accessible to the public and media and bloggers are often contacted by journalists to comment on archaeology. The trend of using social media for archaeologists to collaborate and reach out from the discipline to a wider audience using social media is exemplified by the project known as Day of Archaeology. Each year the project collates and publishes blog posts from archaeologist throughout the world to the document their work and their lives. The most recent day in July 2013 featured over 300 posts with a number of Irish archaeologists participating.

Conclusion

Over the last 20 years the internet has begun to transform how we do archaeology in ways that no one could have imagined. It has provided archaeologists with access to primary information. It has allowed them to connect and collaborate with one another. Most recently it has provided archaeologists with new ways to communicate and reach out beyond the confines of the profession to a wider public. But this is only the beginning, and as the internet reaches into every corner of world and every aspect of people’s lives, the greatest impact of the technology on archaeology is probably still to be seen and the future will undoubtedly hold even greater surprises.

References

Academia.edu http://www.academia.edu/

Archaeology Ireland Network https://www.facebook.com/groups/ARCHAEOLOGY.IRELANDNETWORK/

Robert Chapple’s Blog http://rmchapple.blogspot.ie/

Cherrymount Crannog Crisis https://www.facebook.com/groups/254450291340252/?fref=ts

Chris Corlett’s Blog christiaancorlett.com

Day of Archaeology http://www.dayofarchaeology.com

Decies http://www.waterfordcountylibrary.ie/en/localstudies/ejournals/decies/

Eachtra Journal http://eachtra.ie/index.php/journal/

Early Medieval and Viking Research Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/102550331629/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/

Google Earth http://www.google.com/earth/

Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com/

Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/

Ordnance Survey Ireland http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer

Independent.ie http://www.independent.ie/business/technology/irish-are-the-biggest-facebook-users-in-englishspeaking-world-29587083.html

Irisharchaeology.ie https://www.facebook.com/irisharchaeology.ie

JSTOR http://jstor.org/

Mendeley http://www.mendeley.com/

Moore Group Blog http://www.mooregroup.ie/blog/

Colm Moriarty’s Blog http://irisharchaeology.ie/

Charles Mount’s Blog http://Charles-mount.ie/wp

National Monuments Service http://archaeology.ie

NRA Archaeology ttp://archaeology.nra.ie

Ordnance Survey Ireland http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,591271,743300,0,10

Seandalaiocht http://www.seandalaiocht.com/

Togher: Irish Raised Bog Archaeology https://www.facebook.com/groups/317068375005156/

UCD Experimental Archaeology https://www.facebook.com/groups/286322324795899/?fref=ts

Vox Hiberionacum https://voxhiberionacum.wordpress.com

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2014.

The role of the Internet in Irish archaeology. Charles Mount’s Blog, 23 January 2014. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1339

 

Irish archaeology turns the corner in 2013

Excavation Licenses 2000-2

Excavation Licenses 2000-2013

Preliminary figures for the number of archaeological excavation licenses issued by the National Monuments Service indicate that the number of annual licenses issued in Ireland has risen for the first year since 2006.

472 licenses have been issued to date, a rise of 4% from the 454 issued in the whole of 2012. This indicates that the decline in archaeological activity in Ireland, which saw a collapse of an enormous 78% from peak to trough, has ended, and activity is beginning to increase again. Irish archaeological activity is closely correlated with activity in the construction industry (see here). Confirmation for the return to growth of the Irish construction industry comes from the Ulster Bank Construction Purchase Managers Index (see here) which recorded that construction industry activity grew in the third quarter of 2013 for the first time in six years, with October seeing the fastest pace of new orders seen since 2006.

It is no surprise that growth is returning to the Irish archaeology and construction sectors as confidence has begun to return to the economy with the stabilisation of the national finances and debt burden, the return of the economy to growth, the reduction in unemployment, and Ireland’s successful exit from the IMF-EU Bailout Programme. As a range of analysts including the Department of Finance, the ESRI, IBEC and the European Commission are forecasting that the Irish economy will continue to grow in 2014 the recovery in archaeological activity should continue.

I’d like to wish everyone who reads my blog a happy and peaceful Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year!

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. Irish archaeology turns the corner in 2013. Charles Mount’s Blog, 19 December 2013. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1330

Thoughts on razors and male grooming in Earlier Bronze Age Ireland

Razors, unlike most other types of metalwork, are as closely associated with their owners in death as they were in life.

r from Peafield, Co. Limerick. From Stanley 2013.

Fig. 1. Razor from Peafield, Co. Limerick. From Stanley 2013.

My report on a pair of bronze razors found in a pit burial at Peafield, Co. Limerick has just been published in River Road. The Archaeology of the Limerick Southern Ring Road. In this blog I am developing some additional thoughts about the Early Bronze Age razors with a new distribution map that includes the new finds. The discovery of the two Peafield razors and an example found in a house at Carrigatogher, Co. Tipperary, recently discussed by Michael Stanley (2013), now brings the total number of Bronze Age razors known in Ireland to just 47. Compared to some of the other artifact types of the period, such as the axes, razors are quite rare. They differ from axes in other ways as they are usually found in burials and never in hoards. In fact the interesting thing about the razors is that, unlike most other types of metalwork, they are as closely associated with their owners in death as they were in life.

The distribution of Bronze Age razors in Ireland. After Kavanagh 1991 with additions.
Fig. 2. The distribution of Earlier Bronze Age razors in Ireland. After Kavanagh 1991 with additions indicated as stars.

The razors indicate a fashion for the cutting of the beard and hair by some men. Harding (2008) in his paper on razors and male identify in the Bronze Age noted that a number of archaeologists have suggested that in continental Europe razors along with tweezers, spoons for applying make-up, and awls or needles for tattooing, formed toilet sets that were used by men for grooming. This special grooming was intended as a form of display by certain individuals and the association of the toilet sets with graves containing weapons indicates these men were probably warriors. The numbers of razors found in Ireland is quite small in comparison to continental Europe (see Kavanagh 1991 and Fig. 2) and none have been found associated with weapons, so there is no evidence that the Irish men who used razors were warriors. On the other hand razor matrices are found on moulds used to cast weapons such as spearheads, daggers and rapiers so that the razor owners certainly had access to weaponry (Kavanagh 1991, 82-3). Another possibility is that in Ireland razors were used by a small group of men to alter their appearance in order to differentiate themselves from their followers. I am going to call these men community leaders. When imagining the possible appearance of these men the ethnographic example of the Maori Chief springs to mind (Fig. 3).

Portrait of a Maori Chief with topknot and feathers, bone comb, facial tatoo, greenstone earring, tiki and woven flax coat. Partly shaved with small beard and moustache. By Sidney Parkinson the artist of on Captain's Cook first expedition. Source Wikipedia Commons.

Fig. 3. Portrait of a Maori Chief with topknot and feathers, bone comb, facial tatoo, greenstone earring, tiki and woven flax coat. Partly shaved with small beard and moustache. By Sidney Parkinson the artist of on Captain’s Cook first expedition. Source Wikipedia Commons.

Razors were personal to their owners in a way that tools and weapons don’t seem to have been and their consistent association with pottery and sometimes with beads, pins, whetstones and flint, in marked contrast to weapons and tools, indicates that the razors were seen as a domestic item, associated with the home. Although razors could be refashioned from old daggers, once they came into the possession of an individual they may not have been inherited as they are usually found buried with the deceased, and sometimes burnt on a pyre, thereby putting them beyond use (Kavanagh 1991, 79).

The discovery of the house at Carrigatogher Site 3, Co. Tipperary allows us for the first time to look at the type of home associated with the people who had razors. Here a razor was placed into a post hole, along with sherds of two cordoned urns and burnt animal bone, during the construction of the house. This was not a loss or discard but a symbolically significant deposit. The Carrigatogher house at 6.7m x 7m in diameter was large for the period, and was constructed with a bedding trench for the wall and an internal circle of posts. The other significant thing about the house is the presence of a large D-shaped entrance porch constructed with posts and 2 lines of stakes curving around the house from the entrance (Mulcahy and Taylor 2013). The deposition of such a rare artefact type, at a period when metal is rarely found in houses, its occurrence in a symbolic deposit in a relatively large house with an unusually elaborate entrance suggests this may have been the home of a significant community leader.

Razors are a rare artefact type with a restricted distribution and deposition that were closely associated with their owners in both life and death. They are also the only metal artefact that provides a link between the social identity of a small number of men found in burials and a contemporary house type. Because of this the significance of the razors vastly outweighs their small number.

References

Harding, A. 2008. Razors and male identity in the Bronze Age. In F. Verse, B. Knoche, J. Graefe, M. Hohlbein, K. Schierhold, C. Siemann, M. Uckelmann and G. Woltermann (Eds) Durch die Zeiten … ; Festschrift für Albrecht Jockenhövel zum 65. Rahden/Westf.: Leidorf.

Kavanagh, R.M. 1991. A reconsideration of razors in the Earlier Bronze Age”, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 121, 77-104.

Mount 2013. Peafield Bronze razors. In N. Bermingham, F. Coyne, G. Hull, F. Reilly and K. Taylor (Eds) River Road. The Archaeology of the Limerick Southern Ring Road. National Roads Authority, Dublin.

Mulcahy, M. And Taylor, K. 2013. N7 Nenagh to Limerick E3327 Carrigatogher Site 3 Co. Tipperary. Unpublished report for Limerick Co. Council

Stanley, M. 2013. Death with a close shave? Seanda 8, 22-3.

 

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. Thoughts on razors and male grooming in Earlier Bronze Age Ireland. Charles Mount’s Blog, 20 November 2013. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1310

 

After a stable year recovery appears on the horizon for Irish archaeology

Licences issued quarterly in 2012-13.

Licences issued quarterly in 2012-13.

New data indicates that archaeological activity in Ireland has stopped declining and can look forward to modest recovery.

In the third quarter of 2013 there were 125 excavation licences issued by the National Monuments Service in the Republic of Ireland. This is identical to the number issued in the same period in 2012 and continues the trend seen earlier in the year. Overall in the first three quarters of the year there were 376 licences issued which is almost identical to the 375 issued in the same period of 2012. If this trend continues through to the end of the year this will be the first year for 7 years with no decline in excavation licences.

The archaeological licensing data is corroborated by the Ulster Bank Construction PMI Report which recorded an increase to 49.7 for the month of August. This indicates a marginal and slowing fall in Irish construction activity. A PMI above 50 indicates expansion in the sector and the index is expected to move above 50 in the coming months. New construction orders grew at the fasted pace since 2007 and growth was recorded in the housing and commercial construction sectors in July and August. This was the largest expansion seen since 2006, although it was was offset by the continuing decline in civil engineering projects. The Central Statistics Office has also reported that the GDP value of building and construction grew by 4.2% in the second quarter of 2013.  The data suggests that, after years of decline, and barring unforeseen circumstances, Irish construction and archaeology look as though they are about to enter a phase of recovery.

 Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2013. After a year of stability recovery appears on the horizon for Irish archaeology. Charles Mount’s Blog, 1 October 2013. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1282

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.

 

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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. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=1004

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. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=990

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

Excavationlicences2000-2012

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. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=974

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. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=960