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Everybody must be aware, at this stage, of the calamitous crash of Ireland’s economy. While the whole world has wobbled, but stayed erect, this once golden state has fallen heavily and into a hole of its own excavation.
The much-praised ‘tiger’ economy and government funding-model would now seem to have been based, for the last number of years and largely, on constructing and swapping houses, for progressively greater amounts of cheap, borrowed money. New roads and motorways helped to bring new areas into the city hinterlands, areas that then ‘needed’ more houses, which then, obviously, needed more roads. People became, notionally, very wealthy, but only as long as a platform of confidence remained. Once interest rates rose and house prices dropped, this began to be pulled away.
According to the Irish Independent, more than 1800 archaeological sites were discovered and excavated, since 1993, as a result of this boom in motorway and road construction. Whatever your views on the morality of destruction of sites, for progress, or preservation only by record, this is a significant amount of knowledge that would not otherwise have been available at this point. Many astounding objects were unearthed, among them “one of the earliest images of man’s face on a ceramic bowl”, found while working on the N8, near Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. [His pronounced nose rather spoils a comparison to Gudea of Lagash (ruled 2144-2124 BCE).]
Of course, this construction work is now mostly gone and the company archaeologists who did the excavations are also now staring into the national void. Due to the downturn, less than 60 sites will be investigated this year, compared to 210 last year and to a peak of over 500 in 2007.
Loss of livelihood, or a slowdown in learning, is never welcome news, but perhaps one point of reflection is in order. It’s an obvious thing to say, but excavation process and techniques of information retrieval are only as effective as they can be at the present time. A period of calm will mean that future, improved methods will have a chance to become available. Hopefully nothing vital has been lost in the Irish rush.