Thursday, August 25, 2011

Radicarbon, the Recession and me

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For those of you who don’t already know, I run the Irish Radiocarbon & Dendrochronological Dates facebook page. The point of the page is the promotion of archaeological dates in general and the grandiosely titled ‘Catalogue of Radiocarbon Determinations and Dendrochronology Dates’ in particular. The Catalogue is a free-to-all, downloadable resource for Irish archaeology.

I started keeping this list in 2007, purely as a personal reaction to an immediate research need. I had just received the radiocarbon dates from one of my excavations – a Bronze Age burnt mound – when a colleague said to me something along the lines of: ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to compare the dates of this one and others … you’d never know what you might find … pity there’s no easy way to do it’.

For him it was a passing remark, but for me it has resulted in (so far) four years of research, cataloguing, checking, and general pleading with people to let me use their dates. The Catalogue currently stands at 5346 radiocarbon and 232 dendro dates and this is likely to grow further, once I find the time to sort through the figurative mound of PDFs I’ve accumulated since the most recent update in March of this year.

In an effort to promote the resource among the Irish archaeological profession, I have changed from an old-style Facebook ‘group’ to a ‘page’ format for (among other things) ease of communication with the members. So, if you’ve not already done so, please visit the site and ‘like’ it. In the coming weeks I will also be launching a personal website with a significant portion given over to the IR&DD, including revamped notes and download facilities. With a bit of luck, there will even be an updated version of the Catalogue available by late this year or early 2012.

Right now the biggest problem that I face in keeping this resource alive is purely financial. The current recession and the horrendous impact it has had on field archaeology means that I do not have the ability to purchase all the books I need to keep the Catalogue up to date – it is as simple as that. There is no need to go into details about the pay-cuts and short working weeks that all of us in the profession have had to accept, just to keep our jobs. I had seriously considered abandoning this project, or seeing if it could be undertaken by someone else. Instead, I have decided to attempt a different approach – I’m not sure if it will work, but I’m willing to give it a go! This is why the new website will also have a page dedicated to ways you can help the project. Apart from sending me your dates and joining the Facebook page, there will be a ‘wish list’ of books that any interested publisher/commercial company/organisation can feel free to donate to the project in return for advertising – In the long run it may actually turn out to be a remarkably cheap form of promotion for your business, so please do think about it!

On the other hand, if you want a way to financially help the project that will cost you nothing, please click on the Amazon button at the bottom of this post – there will be several similar ones displayed prominently across the new site. If you use this as your means of accessing Amazon a small percentage of your transaction (up to a maximum of 10%) gets donated to the upkeep of this resource and the purchase of new books. I would thank you very much for the support.

Please suggest the IR&DD site to any friends or colleagues who may find it useful!

Robert M Chapple

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Killora & Killogilleen graveyards in Craughwell, Co. Galway

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The weekend before last I travelled to Craughwell, Co. Galway, to see the newest additions to our family - my lovely new nephews Ben & Bobby.

While I was there I had planned to take an hour or so and go visit the historic graveyards of Killora and Killogilleen. I was employed by the Parish Council in the mid-90s to produce detailed books of gravestones for both sites, and I maintain an interest in the sites. My intention was to take some photographs for use in a lecture I have been (provisionally) asked to prepare on the sites. Once I got there I realised that the light wasn't great for photography and that, in all probability, I had more than enough decent photos, taken on sunnier days.

I've also been looking at the work done by Historic Graves, especially the simple, but effective, videos they've been posting on their YouTube Channel and decided to rip off their ideas engage in the sincerest form of flattery! With this in mind, I shot a few minutes of video at each of the graveyards ... nothing special, just a couple of panning shots and a few detailed shots. I'm hardly Scorsese!

The one thing that kept coming to mind for me was how much the sites had changed - I worked in Killora in 1995 and in Killogilleen in 1996 - they are the inevitable changes of the grass growing, the ivy making a surging comeback, attempting to swallow the building whole ... even the dappled lichens colonising the eyes of stone angels. Some new gravestones have been added, and some of the old ones have disappeared. At Killora one of these stones has been broken up and stacked on  the east window of the church. To me this illustrates the fault line between the historical value that we as archaeologists, historians, and genealogists place on these sites and the ownership of individual stones within a living burial site.

I have tried to illustrate the changes in the graveyards by incorporating my old photos of the sites into the videos. In some places I think it works rather well ... and slightly less so in others ... take a look and tell me what you think! You can find Killora here and Killogilleen there!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

The dreaded first test post!

An irregularly updated blog about archaeology and related madness! ... might just be good!

** I'm always looking for guest writers! So if you have something that you want to say about archaeology, please get in touch! **

[** If you like any of the posts on this blog, please consider making a small donation. Each donation helps keep the Irish Radiocarbon & Dendrochronological Dates project going! **]