For nearly 150 years, starting in the late 17th century, millions of people living in Ireland subsisted largely off one crop: the potato. Then, in 1845, farmers noticed that their potato plants’ leaves were covered in mysterious dark splotches. When they pulled potatoes from the ground, most were shrunken, mushy and inedible. The blight spread alarmingly quickly, cutting yields from that year’s harvest in half. By 1846, harvest from potato farms had dropped to one quarter of its original size.
The disease—along with a political system that required Ireland to export large amounts of corn, dairy and meat to England—led to widespread famine, and nearly all of the few potatoes available were eaten, causing shortages of seed potatoes that ensured starvation would continue for nearly a decade. Ultimately, over one million people died, and another million emigrated to escape the disaster, causing Ireland’s population to fall by roughly 25 percent; the island has still not reached its pre-famine population levels today. Read more.
A HOARD of almost 900 metal-detected objects dug up by a treasure hunter have been handed over to the National Museum of Ireland.
Gardai from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation uncovered the collection of archaeological objects with the aid of police in the UK.
The items were collected by a British national, now deceased, who was operating in the Co Tipperary area with the aid of another man living in the UK.
The collection emerged following a tip-off from the British Museum to the National Museum of Ireland that an important hoard of medieval silver coins from Ireland had been exported illegally to the UK. Read more.
Initial funding has been secured for an ambitious archaeological project to uncover a lost 17th-century town in Northern Ireland.
The site beside Dunluce Castle on the scenic Causeway Coast has been hailed as potentially the region’s own “little Pompeii”.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has now provided more than £300,000 for an excavation project and signalled the potential for a total support package of £4 million.
The ruins of the castle have stood on the rocky coastal outcrop near Bushmills in north Antrim for centuries but it was only four years ago that archaeologists re-discovered a lost settlement beside the famous landmark. Read more.
Chemical investigations suggest that raw material for Ireland’s prehistoric gold hoard may have been sourced from near neighbours. An alternative explanation is that there are forgotten Irish deposits rich in gold. Visit the National Museum on Kildare Street, Dublin, and you will be struck by the sheer number of gold objects. The desire for this precious metal was strong in prehistoric, pagan Ireland. The array of gold ornaments includes collars, torcs and bracelets, mostly from the Bronze Age, 2,200 to 800 BC.
“It is highly significant in European terms and disproportionately large given the size of the country,” says Mary Cahill, curator of the museum’s Bronze Age collection. Yet Ireland is not renowned for its gold deposits, so where this gold came from has puzzled archaeologists. Read more.
One of Ireland’s richest archaeological digs has won another week-long reprieve – but that’s it.
Roads Minister Danny Kennedy says there can’t be any more delays to work on the A32 Cherrymount Link Road near Enniskillen which has been held up by the treasure trove of historical artefacts discovered.
Archaeologists are working round the clock to excavate as much material as possible from the Fermanagh site, before the major roads project goes ahead.
Mr Kennedy had previously granted a week’s extension to the dig which was due to come to a halt at the end of March. It has now been extended again until April 15. Read more.
A Fermanagh bog is revealing how our ancient farming ancestors were far more sophisticated than we could ever have imagined.
Archaeologists have hit the jackpot with the first crannog to have been dug up in Northern Ireland in 50 years — saying the internationally important find is rewriting our understanding of Ulster’s history.
Normally the approach taken is to avoid disturbing crannogs, but this one at Drumclay on the outskirts of Enniskillen lay in the path of the Cherrymount Link bypass and will eventually vanish beneath the Tarmac.
But since the summer a small army of archaeologists has been busy trying to extract as much information as possible from what is proving to be one of the most significant crannogs ever uncovered in Ireland. Read more.
Concerns have been raised with the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) and other heritage agencies about the potentially inadequate excavation in advance of the imminent destruction of a crannog site at Drumclay in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, as part of a road-building scheme.
IfA met with archaeologists of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), which has a curatorial role for the site. NIEA explained that the original proposal was for site preservation below the road. However, engineering works elsewhere on the scheme led to a sudden ‘dewatering’ of the bog in which the crannog stood. Initially, road stone was imported to support the collapsing crannog but it was over a year later before archaeological excavation actually took place.
In view of the crannog’s now extremely fragile state, the decision was taken to excavate rather than to seek to preserve the medieval occupation levels (there also appears to be potential for prehistoric activity). Read more.
Claims that tsunami type waves may have hit the Kerry coastline in medieval times have been backed up a leading archaeologist.
Alan E Hayden, the director of more than 200 medieval excavations in Ireland, believes the grouping of islands off the Kerry coast suggests earthquake and tsunami wave style damage.
The Irish Times reports on Hayden’s views on the theory that the south Kerry coast has, over the centuries, been struck by long tsunami waves of over 50 feet.
Hayden cross-checked folk tales with archaeological and geological evidence and said the grouping of Valentia, Beginish and Church islands may ‘bear the scars of earthquakes and tsunami-type waves in medieval times’. Read more.