New archaeological sites, uncovered during the winter storms of the last two years, will be the subject of a special international conference in IT Sligo next weekend. The inaugural Weather Beaten Archaeology Conference is being hosted by the Institute’s Department of Environmental Science. It will run over two days: Saturday March 7th and Sunday March 8th.
Coastal archaeological sites are always vulnerable to erosion but, in recent years, this vulnerability has become a contentious issue when a variety of archaeological sites across Northern Europe were impacted by the winter storms that battered our coast. In Ireland, stone forts fell into the sea and castles crumbled to the ground, whilst shipwrecks, timber trackways and ancient drowned forests were revealed for the first time in centuries. Heritage venues were closed due to flooding and a number of archaeological sites were washed away entirely and lost forever.
The conference – organised by Dr. James Bonsall, a lecturer in Archaeology at IT Sligo – will hear from local researchers who are working in County Sligo as well as archaeologists, geologists, meteorologists, government policy makers, botanists, historians and commentators from Ireland, the UK, France, Iceland and Canada, who are coming together for the first time to share their experiences of discovering and protecting coastal archaeology.
“It is the first conference of its kind and will establish a forum for the exchange of experiences of extreme weather events and their impact on archaeological sites,” explains Dr Bonsall. “Just last week, large timbers from a Spanish Armada shipwreck at Streedagh were exposed during record low tides. Thankfully, quick thinking locals notified the Sligo Heritage Officer and the timbers were removed for expert conservation.”
The citizen science schemes, which have successfully encouraged local people living along the coast to report and monitor new archaeological discoveries, will also feature over the course of the weekend.
Students and staff from IT Sligo have been involved in several recent archaeological discoveries.. Dr. Fiona Beglane, lecturer in Archaeology at the Institute, will be presenting her research from Staad, near Grange, Co. Sligo at the Conference. Dr. Beglane and her colleagues have been monitoring the rate of erosion at Staad medieval church over the past 20 years. “Our work has shown that 10 metres of land has eroded over the last one hundred years and the sea is now less than four metres from the building” says Dr. Beglane. “Archaeology is being washed into the sea with every high tide, and we expect to start losing the church itself within a decade.”
The Weather Beaten Archaeology Conference takes place on March 7th & 8th, 2015, at IT Sligo.
Further information and tickets, visit www.weatherbeatenarchaeology.com or contact Dr. James Bonsall on 087 24 27 846. Email: Bonsall.James@itsligo.ie.