> Before I do, bear in mind that about a year ago I used this mail
> group to argue the case *for* increased excavations in Ireland...
> and you argued against ;-)
True, and if it can be avoided I still am opposing increased excavation
activity - where it is not necessary, there's no need unless all the
old, mostly unpublished materials already excavated over the last
century have been taken care of.
But in fact, modern development activity cannot be avoided, and where
this interferes with archaeological monuments, the best should be made
of it, which, in the specific case, seems to be largescale excavation.
After all, we cannot decide if a development project is carried out or
not on wether or not it will damage an archaeological site, as this
would probably mean almost no new development projects any more.
Archaeology should not prevent such developments from happening, except
in cases where unique monuments would be destroyed, but rather work with
such development companies for the mutual benefit of both.
I don't know if this is possible in the specific case, but in fact, if
it is a large development project, the costs for good survey and the
excavation of the whole area wouldn't increase the overall costs of the
company considerably, at least as far as I can say from my practical
experiences. Thus, if one offers the development company the chance to
build a few more houses (in the place where now the ringfort is), they
most probably would earn more money even if they actually pay the whole
research activity and following publications.
> Of course. Agreed, but we're looking at about 10 acres here, not 1,000s of acres.
> Fair point, though.
But 10 acres is definitly better than what usually is possible (which
usually means: only small parts of the ringfort itself are excavated,
not even the whole ringfort, and even less anything in the surrounding
> > Similar possibilities could arrive from largescale development projects
> > non-rescue-conditions excavation) for the funds and time to excavate the
> > whole 10 acres of developmental area.
> An interesting possibility. You can build another three or so houses if we can be
> allowed to delay you another six months to do a proper job... Hmm... I wonder how
> acceptable that might be, though.
Most probably, a delay of several months is, most likely, not even
necessary. If the building activity is organised to go on in "segments"
that allows the archaeologists to excavate what will be done during the
next month, this would probably cause a delay of at worst one or two
months, or even less. That should be acceptable to any development
company, especially given that they would most probably have much
greater financial losses if the project is delayed indeterminably
because of opposition.
> > To the development company, this
> > exist if one comes to terms with the development company.
> As you well know I personally would love to see an area of several acres excavated
> around a ringfort. What, ideally, should happen in such cases, though, is that the
> site is carefully chosen after a series of surveys, and only because surface and
> sub-surface scans show good signs of unearthing a lot of stuff.
Of course, in an ideal world, we would have ideal possibilities.
However, this is not the world we live in. As such, one can only make
the best out of the existing possibilities. Which means, better
rescue-excavating such a site with its surroundings, with several
surveys carried out immediatly before the actual excavations, without
being able to choose what site it actually is, than strictly opposing
the project with "archaeological" arguments and in the end having to
work against rather than with the development company.
> All that said, this particular case in question in Sligo *will* see
> a substantial amount of the area surrounding the ringfort excavated
> when the houses are built (assuming the council's plans go ahead).
> The issue, perhaps, is rather one of whether archaeology's hand
> should be forced - whether the choice of site excavated should be
> dictated by modern development plans, or whether it should be
> chosen by trained archaeologists and for a specific set of good
Well, archaeology's hand is forced in most cases anyways, and in the
very rare cases that archaeologists have choices what site to excavate
next is rather based on personal preferrences rather than a specific set
of good reasons, as most often, such "good reasons" would depend on
massive survey work being carried out, survey work one usually can't
finance for even a limited choice of sites. Thus, usually, the site
would be choosen because it is close to the university which is doing
the dig, because it is a "famous" site (why is there a Discovery
programme centered on such sites as Tara and Dun Oengus rather than
nameless sites somewhere in the Irish hinterlands - which most probably
are archaeologically much more interesting than those "prominent"
sites?) or because it is close to the home of the one deciding about the
excavation site, or because he already has dug there in the past for
Even more than that, what does it help us to prevent development
projects being carried out and consequently excavation of site XY
because we would rather prefer to excavate site YZ, which we can't
excavate anyways even if we prevent the excavation of XY?
> We might also throw in this thought: where the development
> goes ahead, the County Council will have to pay the bill for any
> archaeological work done, while if the site were excavated through a
> university, for example, the university would presumably have to pay
> up. The council have no choice in paying... the question here would
> be whether a university could afford to dig up ten acres. I suspect
Well, wether it is the County Council that pays or the actual
development company doesn't matter in that case. No university could pay
for such a largescale excavation, so if someone else can (or even has
to), that's fine, isn't it?
> Random the site choice may be, but I guess its better than nothing.
> This does still leave the option of just leaving the damn site as a
> whole alone and building elsewhere. Both, I think, are valid
> solutions, though the effects will be very different.
Well, the question is: is there any other site which will cause less
problems and arise less opposition? If there is a choice of sites for
the development project, well, than of course it is better to leave the
archaeological site alone. But if there isn't, well, then make the best
out of it.
All the best,
Mag.phil. Raimund KARL <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Universität Wien, Institut für Alte Geschichte
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