Archaeological evidence of a national monument halts M3 work

Despite a long-running campaign to have it rerouted away from the Tara/Skryne valley and the associated and significant archaeology, work on the M3 motorway officially began on Monday, courtesy of Irish Transport Minister Martin Cullen. Today another government minister, Environment Minister Dick Roche, halted that work when a massive prehistoric site was discovered at Lismullin, beside the Hill of Tara. It’s described as “a substantial national monument” in the RTÉ report and, by the BBC, as “the size of several football fields and is a circular structure used possibly for ceremonies in ancient times.” Or, in TaraWatch’s view, a rare henge.
From the quoted statement from Environment Minister, Dick Roche

The archaeologists were excavating known adjacent sites under the directions issued by the Minister for the archaeological works on the motorway scheme.

In the course of these excavations, additional archaeological features were discovered on the edge of the area of the excavations and, as required by the Minister’s directions, the area being excavated was expanded. Two lines of stake holes (15 – 20 cm in diameter), have provided evidence for the existence in the expanded area in the past of a circular enclosure (80 m in diameter) with a smaller inner central enclosure (16 m in diameter). Two further rows of stake holes show evidence of an entrance and passageway from the outer enclosure to the inner enclosure. The monument has been heavily truncated by ploughing in the past and the surviving features are shallow and fragile.

The report received by the Minister was made to him under the relevant provisions of the National Monuments Acts. These require that where a National Monument is discovered during the carrying out of a road development, the matter shall be reported to the Minister.

Pending any directions by the Minister, no works which would interfere with the Monument may be carried out, except works urgently required to secure its preservation, carried out in accordance with measures specified by the Minister. In this instance, the archaeological team was authorised to continue to clean back the surface of the area, to complete a plan of the features and to check for associated features outside the enclosure. A small number of the stakeholes are also to be excavated to try to recover sufficient material for radiocarbon dating.
No further excavation of the enclosure will take place pending the decision of the Minister on any directions to issue in relation to the monument.

btw if anyone at the BBC reads this.. you might want to check the links you’ve provided at this report.. that Tara-Skryne link is Not Safe For Work.

Adds It would appear someone at the BBC does read Slugger..

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  • SuperSoupy

    They can’t say they weren’t warned this was likely when the route was first proposed but if this route hadn’t been choosen the new find would never have surfaced.

    Makes you wonder what else is hidden just a few feet below the ground.

  • SuperSoupy

    Pete,

    btw what the hell is going on with that BBC link? I assume it has nothing to do with Tara, I didn’t risk clicking through the warning.

  • Pete Baker

    SS

    It leads to a warning of adult content rather than the direct site.. which is something I suppose.

    I’m assuming it’s been hijacked from the original owners of the domain name since it’s been linked to before, by the BBC and others.. including Slugger.

  • miss fitz

    My daughter got some work on the dig, as an archaeologist. She was desperately excited going down there, as it was her first experience post qualifying. She felt she was finally going to mingle with her peers, and the prospect of preserving the Tara site with dignity was appealing.

    On the day she arrived, she found that her 36 work colleagues were all from Poland, and she was the only english speaking, remotely Irish person within a horn bellow of Tara. God help her, she only lasted a week, not believing the way in which the archaeology of Ireland was being managed or handled at this particular site. None of the Poles were qualified, although there was one overall site manager who went between different areas.
    I am most pleased that this has been recognised and found, but I thought this vignette might be of interest….

  • SuperSoupy

    Pete,

    Cheers. Easy mistake. Lapsed blogs are suffering from this trend too, IIRC even Slugger’s blogroll has/had many dead links or even hijacked dead addresses.

    Did you drop the beeb an email? It’s the sort of story schoolkids may click through.

  • Pete Baker

    SS

    Indeed it’s an easy mistake if you just copy and paste links without checking. I have emailed but I suspect there’ll be a quicker response if someone at the Beeb spots this post.

    Miss Fitz

    Thanks for that vignette. Definitely of interest.

  • SuperSoupy

    Miss Fitz,

    The manpower required is clearly beyond that available to the NRA and the local authority:

    http://www.nra.ie/Archaeology/

    I’m shocked that unqualified staff would be used in such a significant area. Are you sure they weren’t qualified Polish staff?

    Sure a language barrier didn’t result in your daughter not being unable to understand the Polish staff’s qualification?

  • SuperSoupy

    Sorry, even an illiterate like me can spot my double negative above.

  • Miss Fitz

    SS
    No, she was really clear about that. Indeed, I have to say she became totally disillusioned about archaeology in general after this incident. She was really despondent that 4 years of study gave her no standing in the field (so to speak). She was getting the same pay as the unqualified staff who were there. And as you say, as they cannot find Irish people for the digs, at present there is a mainly Polish presence on many of the sites.

  • Aquifer

    Frank MacDonalds book ‘Chaos at the Crossroads’ documents the lamentable state of physical planning and heritage protection in the boomtime republic. It would be less confusing to say there is no physical planning.

  • SuperSoupy

    Miss Fitz,

    I’m unaware how these things work. Is it a norm to have unqualified staff doing work under supervision? Is this particularly low paid work?

    I’m at a loss to understand why this work would have such a high level of Polish staff unless they were qualified and/or working on low wages.

    To me the work should be carried out by qualified staff or under strict supervision. Nationality isn’t much of an issue beyond a possible indication these roles are very low paid.

  • Miss Fitz

    SS
    Personally, I would have thought that such work would have been carried out under great scrutiny and care, by qualified persons.

    I have no idea what the norm for a dig is, having only been on one in Kent some years ago, but we were all enthusiasts working under close supervision.

    I gather that the company in charge of the dig was unable to get either qualified staff or indeed local people who were unqualified. Hence the need to literally bring people over from Poland as they were willing to do the work.

  • George

    SuperSoupy,
    a mate of mine did some archaelogical “labouring” on a stretch of the N11.

    Low labourer’s wages where they were on their knees digging up the top soil basically ahead of the motorway proper.

    As it was a building site, they were made wear hard hats in the middle of a field and weren’t allowed listen to the radio “on site”.

    He found a spearhead but just left it in the ground as he didn’t want to the give the “resident” foreman the pleasure.

  • SuperSoupy

    I agree with you but it seems Poles got the job done without enthusiastic amateurs, professionals or locals willing to do the job for low wages.

    Well done the Poles. What would Ireland do without them?

    They just gave us heritage Irish people wouldn’t.

  • SuperSoupy

    George,

    You believe your mate found a spearhead in topsoil? Then buried it?

    Seriously?

  • George

    SuperSoupy,
    seriously, I have no reason to doubt him.

  • George

    If not topsoil, in whatever amount of soil they have to scrape off as part of the clearance work, which is supervised by archaelogists ahead of the motorway work proper.

  • SuperSoupy

    George,

    We all can do stupid things or have stupid friends.

    I hope you convinced him of his mistake or have made sure he doesn’t have the chance to destroy our heritage again.

    I can’t help but wonder where and from what period..could have just been an odd shaped stone though it’s not like he’d know by the sound of him.

  • SuperSoupy

    George,

    Was it metal? He should feel ashamed and you are the only one that can do it.

    What a smartarse. I hope he enjoys telling the tail until he gets the smack in the mouth he deserves.

  • George

    SuperSoupy,
    he’s a very clever guy and I don’t think any less of him for it. It’s his heritage too and he made a value judgement.

  • Pete Baker

    Btw SS

    That link has now been removed from the BBC report.. and the earlier report too.

  • WO

    Miss Fitz–the way much archaeology is conducted in Ireland ought to leave newly qualified professionals disillusioned, however the disillusionment your daughter felt after having to work alongside Poles rather than ‘enthusiasts’ seems based on inexperience, even prejudice. Did your daughter not spend her university summers on digs? If so, surely she would have discovered that site labourers are precisely that, labourers. For all it’s current crookedness, Irish archaeology has always relied on unskilled labourers.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I knew an archaeologist working in NI who spent most of her time waitressing to top up abysmal wages, with poor conditions, and precious little fieldwork. Presumably the waitressing has gone to Poles now too. It is a scandal what has been thrwon away by EHS in terms of our heritage, and the talent we need to conserve it. Don’t hold your breath for a change in priorities post 08/05/07 either.

  • joeCanuck

    I believe that the use of unskilled labourers on archeological digs is common worldwide and I don’t see any problem with that (especially in poor countries). What is key is that they be closely supervised by trained archeologists.

  • crow

    No Indiana Jones’s then?