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Opening the ground: archaeology and education in Ireland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Gabriel Cooney*
Department of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland


In Ireland I think it could be said that while archaeology plays an important role in national identity, this role is implicit and not very welldefined. Images of monuments in mist or glorious sunshine and artefacts displayed as treasure or jewellery are very widely deployed. This constructed past serves a variety of different purposes for a rapidly changing present, from utilization as a symbol of the long tradition of Ireland's high technological expertise — nowadays being best expressed in the computing industry, as a backdrop for the sustained (as opposed to sustainable) drive to increase tourism, to the context for a call of a revitalization of Celtic spirituality (see discussion in Gibbons 1996). More traditionally, of course, material remains played a very important role in the construction of national identities in Ireland (e.g. Crooke 1999). For these varied reasons archaeology is seen in a positive light, as a positive project, both by political decision-makers and the public. One illustration of this is the Discovery Programme, a government-funded research initiative set up in 1991 to enhance knowledge of Ireland’s past through integrated programmes of archaeological research (Waddell 1997; Eogan 1998).

Special section: Archaeology in education
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2000

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