The Journal of Irish Archaeology Volume XIX 2010: Review


One of the highlights of the archaeological year is the publication of the Journal of Irish Archaeology by the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland. This latest volume XIX for 2010 is edited by Prof. James Mallory of Queen’s University Belfast and includes six papers on a variety of topics ranging from prehistory to the post-medieval period. There are papers on the rock art of Loughcrew and George Petrie’s work on megalithic tombs. There are surveys of Inis Airc Island, medieval church altars and the limestone quarries of the Hook Peninsula, and there is also a report on the excavation of early medieval and prehistoric features at Ballyburn Upper, Co. Kildare.

Open-air rock art at Loughcrew, Co. Meath

Elizabeth Shee Twohig, Corinne Roughley, Colin Shell, Ciaran O’Reilly, Peter Clarke and Gillian Swanton

Elizabeth SheeTwohig et al. report on 10 new examples of rock art found in the vicinity of the Loughcrew, Co. Meath passage Tomb cemetery since 2003. They discuss the geology and location of the art and present a catalogue and drawings and review the earlier discoveries. They discuss the repertoire and organisation of the art. In the conclusion they suggest that the open-air rock art and passage tomb art could be contemporary.

Druids’ altars, Carrowmore and the birth of Irish archaeology

David McGuinness

David McGuinness in a paper on the history of archaeology explores how George Petrie’s work on the Carrowmore megalithic cemetery in 1837 and the opening of the Knockmary Tumulus in the Phoenix Park Dublin in front of the members of the Royal Irish Academy lead to the acceptance of megalithic sites as tombs rather than temples.

Reconsidering early medieval seascapes: new insights from Inis Airc, Co. Galway. Ireland

Ian Kujit, Ryan Lash, Michael, Gibbons, Jim Higgins, Nathan Goodale and John O’Neill

Field survey of Inis Airc, Co. Galway suggests that the island with its stone church, graveyards, cashel and possible oratory, holy wells and open air altar may have been an early medieval ecclesiastical settlement.

Settlement and economy of an early medieval site in the vicinity of two newly discovered enclosures near the Carlow/Kildare border.

Nial O’Neill

This is a report of the excavation of an unenclosed early medieval subsistence and manufacturing site as well as the testing of the two hilltop enclosures, one with a large burnt deposit at its centre, and a Bronze Age hut site at Ballyburn Upper, Co. Kildare. The discussion is focussed on the unenclosed subsistence and manufacturing site as this is an indication that not all activity took place within the enclosed farmsteads known as ringforts and cashels.

Altars in Ireland. 1050-1200: a survey

Griffin Murray

This assessment of eight stone alters from the medieval period finds that they were all of a uniform size and shape in order to hold a reasonable number of religious artefacts and that there decoration was influenced by altars of wood and metal.

Between the sea and the land: coastal limestone quarries on the Hook Peninsula, Co. Wexford

Niall Colfer

Niall Colfer discusses the post-medieval industrial limestone quarries of the Loftus Estate of the Hook Peninsula, Co. Wexford. He notes that the stone was used to construct many of the landscape features we see on the peninsula today.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. The Journal of Irish Archaeology Volume XIX 2010: Review. The Charles Mount Blog, August 25, 2011.

The archaeologist who designed the monument to Ireland’s golden age

The O'Connell Memorial at Glasnevin

After reading Peter Carvill’s comments on the “Monuments and created and appropriated continuity” post about the O’Connoll memorial at Glasnevin, I decided to have another look around the site. Glasnevin is an excellent example of a created continuity. The site today appears to have a vestige of antiquity about, but is in fact an invention of the mid-nineteenth century.

As part of the project of Irish national development the early archaeologist George Petrie was invited in 1851 to design a monument for the Irish nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell. Petrie, regarded by some as the founding father of Irish archaeology, had been head of the Placenames and Antiquities section of the Irish Ordnance Survey and President of the Royal Hibernian Academy. In 1833 he was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Irish Academy for his essay Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland that proved beyond challenge that the most prominent monuments in the Irish landscape, the Round Towers, were not built by invading Danes but by the Irish of the Early Christian era. In the following years the Round Tower had become one of primary symbols of Irish national resurgence.

The site chosen for the monument to O’Connell was not a historical site like the Hill of Tara, with its existing history and mythology, but the site of the new catholic cemetery established in 1832 under O’Connell’s patronage in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin. The Committee of Glasnevin Cemetery, whose members were largely drawn from O’Connell’s Catholic Association established in 1823, had appealed to the O’Connell family for the body and had then paid for it to be returned from Italy where he had died. With O’Connell’s remains at Glasnevin the Committee planned to build a tomb and monument on the site. Although this was a new site the monument still had to refer back to what was perceived as the Irish golden age and Petrie was chosen as the acknowledged expert. His vision was to recreate the core structures of an Early Christian monastic site, the Round Tower, Church and High Cross. O’Connell’s tomb was placed in the crypt, which took the form of a circular barrow or burial mound enclosed by a ditch that gave access to the crypt beneath. Atop the barrow a massive 51m Round Tower was constructed, the largest ever built in Ireland. However, Petrie’s original plan was not fully realised as the whole plan was not completed. The mortuary chapel was not built until 1870 and the High Cross was never completed.

The result was an extraordinary monument and statement of national resurgance. O’Connell’s monument is a good example of the creation of continuity. The national icon O’Connell was not memorialised on an old site or at an old monument with its own history and mythology but at a completely new site where a new history and mythology were being created. Yet the form of the monument still looked back to and improved on an idealised golden age. Here at Glasnevin a new mythology could be developed by a new rising elite freed from the shackles of history but looking back to and claiming continuity with an imagined golden age. Here also one of the founding fathers of Irish archaeology found a role as the architect of the link to Ireland’s golden age.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. The archaeologist who designed the monument to Ireland’s golden age. The Charles Mount Blog, June 29, 2011.