Attitudes of archaeologists need changed
Dear Sir - The following is a telling insight into the methods and attitudes of certain archaeologists who have been practicing in this land for too long. In this newspaper, 29 November 2012, I questioned these aspects concerning the people who are presently digging the crannog in Enniskillen, causing the stoppage of work on a new road, and invited them to respond. No response.
In January 1996, a blackened human skull was discovered beside a prehistoric monument called a burnt mound in Enniskillen, which had been discovered and excavated by me with significant results in 1994. It was carbon-dated to 3,800 years old.
The Impartial Reporter newspaper contacted the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment about the discovery, and in a long article in this newspaper, 25 January 1996, this spot-on account appeared, which name-checked a DOE chief, and me.
"The skull was discovered 88 yards off the Tempo Road and just about 10 yards from where an early Bronze Age 'burnt mound' was excavated in 1994. According to Mr Williams such sites have proved difficult to interpret and he would like to find one which would provide enough information to enable archaeologists to unravel the mystery. When he was told about the skull he immediately contacted Mr Carroll who had led the original dig at Killynure Lough."
Later a group of archaeologists descended to dig the skull find-spot. Disaster. These archaeologists ripped up a huge part of the vicinity using a JCB. They reported that they had discovered nothing.
When I arrived soon after to survey the damage, it was immediately obvious that these people had ransacked the wrong spot, and had not even reinstated the area, which they had left strewn with their rubbish, all photographed by me. I catalogued this to the DOE, backed up by the CID who had originally staked out the find-spot and whose measurements were published as above.
An embarrassed DOE chief was obliged to write to me on 7 March 1997 admitting, "I can confirm that EHS contracted for an excavation in the wrong location".
To highlight the unprofessional attitude of these archaeologists, I quote from a DOE document dated 14 June 1993, addressed to these people.
"The impression given by the unnecessary dirt in accommodation and transport and rough treatment of equipment is of a careless attitude to the resources and those who make them available and those to hope to use them in the future. This in turns creates a suspicion that a similar attitude might extend to the archaeology of the site and its recording."
We therefore have to enquire whether, or not, the same sort of archaeologists are now being paid by the taxpayers for the "old hat" dig on the crannog in Enniskillen now, coming across the sort of fairly modern bric-a-brac that a charity shop would not dare to retail.
This already road-killed crannog was not the eighth wonder of the world, as these archeologists would like you to imagine now, after they had ignored it.
Could they respond at last, and will they disassociate themselves from the Tempo Road fiasco in Enniskillen?
This letter appeared in Impartial Reporter 03 Jan 13