Island worlds and silent worlds: the cultural landscape of archipelagos and amphibious piracy

Connie Kelleher

The inclusion of coastlands and islands on early maps and charts reflects the use of these areas by mariners, whether for licit or illicit reasons. One such chart, dating from 1612, illustrates the ‘pirates harbours’ of West Cork and the archipelago of Roaringwater Bay at a time when piracy was in its heyday along the south-west coast of Munster, and with connections extending across the Atlantic to places like Newfoundland and north-west Africa. Identifying archaeological markers for this activity is where the difficulty lies. Certain sites, however, are providing insight into the use of remote coastal areas, both shorelines and islands, and the cultural sculpting of those places to suit the needs of such users. Sites include rock-cut steps and platforms, sea caves, careening places, names and place-names, as well as certain shipwreck sites; in addition, supporting contemporary historical accounts and comparative evidence from elsewhere assist in our understanding of how such maritime landscapes were utilised and manipulated.

New sites can throw new light on activities that depended on silence and secrecy for success. Many provided the littoral link between land and sea. The archaeological identification and recording of these coastal access points and submerged sites is therefore critical, particularly when considering the threat from climate change or loss through other cultural impacts, before time and tide remove them forever.

Connie Kelleher works with the National Monuments Service’s Underwater Archaeology Unit in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and is visiting lecturer in the Department of Archaeology, University College Cork.

Understanding value and loss at Irish coastal heritage sites

Anthony Corns and Louise Barker

The CHERISH climate change and coastal heritage project is a six-year EU-funded Ireland–Wales project (2017–22), under the auspices of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the Discovery Programme, Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences and Geological Survey Ireland. Its aim is to raise awareness and understanding of the past, present and near-future impacts of climate change, storminess and extreme weather events on the rich cultural heritage of the Irish and Welsh seas and coast. The team link land and sea and employ a variety of techniques and methods—ranging from terrestrial and aerial laser scanning, geophysical survey and seabed mapping to palaeoenvironmental sampling, excavation and shipwreck monitoring—to study some of the most iconic coastal locations. We will be looking at the methodologies of the project and, through a series of case-studies, showcasing work undertaken on the coast and islands of Ireland and Wales.

Anthony Corns has been the Technology Manager for the Discovery Programme for the past twenty years, responsible for the management of the applied technology research, including project management, 3D data capture at a range of levels, GIS for cultural heritage, dataset management and archiving, and more. He has participated in several EU-funded projects and is currently the chairman of the European CARARE Network and a member of the management board of the COST Action SEADDA: Saving European Archaeology from the Digital Dark Age.

Louise Barker is a senior archaeologist with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales and has worked as an archaeologist since graduating from Newcastle University in 1996. She specialises in landscape survey and interpretation and has worked on a wide range of sites and landscapes spanning all periods from prehistory to the present day. She is part of the EU-funded CHERISH project, investigating the impact of climate change on the maritime and coastal zone of Wales and Ireland, and has a research interest in coastal promontory forts and the islands of Wales, having worked on many during her sixteen years with the Royal Commission.


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