Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Robert M Chapple's Christmas List for the discerning archaeologist ...

Although I don’t celebrate Christmas*, I’m not unaware that it’s on its way … with that in mind, I recently put out the call on social media to my archaeologist and related friends (“Heritage+” if you will) asking what they’d like or are currently promoting. So, here, in no particular order, are the best of the suggestions from the ArchaeoHiveMind, coupled with a smattering of my own selections …

Let’s be honest – archaeologists love books … we read books, we write books, we buy books … so let’s have some books!

Where better to start than with Marion Dowd’s award winning The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland [Amazon | Oxbow]? It won the Current Archaeology’s prestigious ‘Archaeology Book of the Year’ in 2016. If you don’t already have it … why not? … now’s the time to add it to your collection! While you’re at it, look for Marion’s new book Archaeological Excavations in Moneen Cave, the Burren, Co. Clare: Insights into Bronze Age and Post-Medieval Life in the West of Ireland [Amazon | Archaeopress]. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy as a gift & can thoroughly recommend it!

Another great book out there – holding as much interest and delight for the professional as the interested non-specialist – is Neil Jackman’s Ireland's Ancient East: A Guide to its Historic Treasures [Amazon | The Collins Press]. The Collins Press have an excellent selection of archaeology titles available [here]. These include Archaeological Excavations at Tullahedy, County Tipperary: Neolithic Settlement in North Munster by Rose M. Cleary & Hilary Kelleher [my review | Collins Press | Amazon] and Iverni: A Prehistory of Cork by the unmistakable Billy O'Brien [my review | Collins Press | Amazon]. There’s one particular volume that I don’t have in my own collection: Archaeological Networks: Excavations on six gas pipelines in County Cork by Kerri Cleary (just a hint, no pressure) [Collins Press | Amazon].

Recently released by Four Courts Press & just in time for Christmas is William Marshal and Ireland edited by John Bradley, Cóilin Ó Drisceoil & Michael Potterton [Four Courts] ... a prefect gift for the Medievalist in your life! Also for the Medievally-inclined and well worth a look is The Tribes of Galway: 1124-1642 by my old friend Adrian Martyn []. Another volume that comes highly recommended to me is Remembering St. Comán - Patron Saint of Ros Comáin by Noel Hoare and is available from the Rathcroghan Online bookshop [here].

The heavy hitter in Irish archaeology books is, obviously, Wordwell and their selection is always worth a look, no matter the time of year. Right now that have two excellent offerings relating to Archaeology Ireland magazine. The first is a one-year subscription to Archaeology Ireland (posting to RoI/NI) and comes with a binder [here] and the second is what they bill as “Retro Reads” - 4 years - 16 issues of Archaeology Ireland from 2009 to 2012 [here]. A quick perusal of their stock includes a really long list of books that are worth their space on any archaeologist’s shelf & I can heartily recommend all or any of these:

If you’re looking to get a bunch of the NRA monographs on the cheap, take a look at this offer: Monographs 1-5 in a bundle!

As I say, all of the above I own and can recommend highly. Wordwell also have a selection of new and newish titles that I don’t own, but would rather like (again, hint hint, no pressure!)

I want to single out one of the new books from Wordwell for special mention: Meitheal. The Archaeology of Lives, Labours and Beliefs at Raystown, Co. Meath by Matt Seaver. This is a long-awaited publication on the Raystown milling centre – a nationally-important site of Early Medieval date. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to skim through a few pages in a bookshop, but the little I’ve seen assures me that this is a significant work from a skilled writer and thinker – I look forward to reading more in due course. The aforementioned Neil Jackman also runs the delightful Abarta Heritage which, among other things, have produced a free audiobook to accompany the Meitheal volume. How cool is that? The free audio book is here, but please do go check out their other offerings here.

I’d like to take a moment to put in an additional plug for Trevor Rice, a former colleague of mine and exceptional archaeologist, who has spent recent times writing on the early history of Christianity in his series The Christ Illusion. While frequently controversial, Trevor’s writing is always thought provoking and engaging. Each portion is available for £2.29 for Kindle, or free if you have Kindleunlimited, and are high-quality, intellectually challenging reads. Go take a look!

I realise that the above is a pretty formidable selection of books. I’m told that people also like things other than books … I can’t say I fully understand it myself, but there you go! If you’re looking for some truly beautiful reproductions and heritage-inspired pieces, you’ll not do better than Colm Moriarty’s shop [here]. They have so much lovely stuff, but I particularly like the bronze penannular brooch modelled after the original from Ballyspellan, Co. Kilkenny [here].

Nord Emporium is a vendor I’d not previously encountered, but came highly recommended to me [here]. This guy is producing some absolutely stunning items in a range of metals and prices. His website is a joy to behold and while I adore his range of beard beads, I don’t think I’ll be regrowing my facial topiary any time soon. Instead, I would particularly recommend his belts … just gorgeous! Staying with the jewellery theme: Tatjana Kytmannow is the mind and the talent behind Sligo-based Queen Maeve Jewellery. She produces some absolutely gorgeous items, many with a distinctly Elizabethan feel - go give her page a look and send some business her way!

Jane Brideson is a wonderful artist who creates sumptuous, richly-detailed images inspired by Irish myth and legend. Take a look at her work on her website: The Ever-Living Ones – you won’t be disappointed!

Another new discovery for me was a recommendation for Tillerman Beads. My word, but their beads are delightful! The entirety of their website deserves time to explore and savour, but their historic bead collection in particular is simply wonderful. Their Anglo-Saxon and Viking beads are superb … but when they get down to the level of identifying beads by the exact cemetery and grave they were originally excavated from, you know that you’re dealing with something special [here | here]. I’m not terribly sure if I could carry off a full-size Viking replica necklace at my time of life … but I’m willing to give it a go!

One of the conversations that came about as part of my original request for suggestions was ‘what drone to buy for archaeological work’ … I have a little drone of my own that, when I have the opportunity, I love to fly about. It has a little camera on it that’s really basic … it’s cheap and cheerful, but no one is going to pretend that it’s suitable for serious archaeological or photography work. The recommendation from a respected archaeological photographer was the Phantom 3 Standard [DJI | Amazon]. True, it’s a bit pricey for me, but if you want high quality photography and a reliable drone, this is the way to go!

When I originally asked for advice and recommendations, there was one repeated Christmas Wish from archaeologists. Some put is seriously, while others phrased it in more comic terms, but the core message was the same: lots of people would like a job that pays the rent! It wouldn't seem like a terrible lot to ask, but the archaeological sector remains fragmentary, and poorly paid. I'd love to have a link to click on where you could purchase that kind of happiness and security, but it's not that simple, is it? Maybe not. However, the best advice I can offer here is for every archaeologist still practicing on this island is to join the archaeological branch of the Unite union. Start by going to the Unite Archaeologists - Digging for a Living Wage Facebook page, then watch their video, then go to their Website and click on the link to join the union [here!]. If you want a future in Irish archaeology, this is the best chance you have of seeing it. Give yourself the gift of still having a career next Christmas ... join Unite ... do it today!

Whoever you are, wherever you live, and however you celebrate this season at the fag-end of the year, I hope you have a great one, filled with peace, harmony, and joy ... and maybe a few gifts off this list! Have a Happy Whatever Doesn't Offend You!


PS ... want to help me have a good Christmas? If so, please consider dropping something in the Tip Jar on the top right or using the Amazon search portal in The Reading Room section. Each product bought in this manner generates literal pence for me and costs you nothing!

PPS ... did I miss something? Something an archaeologist would love? Something that an archaeologist is selling? Let me know & I'll add it in as an update!

PPPS ... It's not yet published but Margaret Hickey's Ireland's Green Larder promises to be an excellent read and a great collection of food lore and cooking experiences. Maybe not one for Christmas this year, but a pledge of even £10 could go a long way to helping this volume see the light of day! Check out her page on

* It’s true! I don’t celebrate Christmas. Instead, I celebrate the traditional feast of Yule. It encompasses all the best bits – feasting, gift-giving, bringing random bits of greenery indoors, but without all the tedious stuff like praying and getting up to go to church. If that sounds like what you do for Christmas, you might be accidentally celebrating Yule too!

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