Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Where has this Roscommon Bronze Age landscape gone?

This is the sort of thing that makes my blood boil. I was perusing 'Reading the Irish Landscape', an excellent book written by the late Frank Mitchell in collaboration with Michael Ryan. It was first published in 1986 but I have the 2003 edition which is a revised edition. On page 188 there is a lovely aerial photo of a 'surviving' Bronze Age landscape at Knockadoobrusna, County Roscommon, consisting of ritual sites including earthen embanked enclosures, mounds and barrows. That photo is reproduced below:

I decided I would have a look for this fairly pristine Bronze Age landscape on Google Earth, to see if I could find it. You can imagine my horror, upon zooming in on the quaintly named Knockadoobrusna, and seeing that some of the sites in the above photo from the Mitchell/Ryan book appear to have been obliterated by a golf club. See the Google Earth image below:

Obviously I am not armed with enough knowledge to say whether the construction of the golf club was responsible for the damage, but it is clear from comparing these photos that the two monuments visible in the foreground of the Mitchell/Ryan photo appear to have been largely obliterated in the second.

I wonder do the golfers in Boyle really know when they are driving the wee white ball around the place that this landscape, not too long ago, was a fairly well preserved Bronze Age landscape dating back perhaps 4,000 years? And that some of the monuments that had survived until recently were now obliterated under the surface of their fairways?

It is typical of this country, and the sort of madness that prevailed here during the decade or so of the so-called Celtic Tiger, that our most ancient treasures were sacrificed in the name of 'development', and that, ironically, this development now consists in many cases of 'ghost estates' - unfinished housing developments - and all manner of ill conceived projects which have blighted the landscape. The term 'concrete jungle' may be something of a cliche, but it applies to many places around Ireland which were once beautiful. Take, for example, the once quaint and attractive seaside village of Bettystown, County Meath, now a mass of concrete consisting of apartments, retail developments and housing estates.

The site of the destroyed henge (lower left in the Mitchell/Ryan image) at Boyle Golf Course,
Knockadoobrusna, Roscommon. The outline of the enclosure can still be seen.
Unsurprisingly, Roscommon County Council skirts around the issue of where the Boyle monuments have gone in its  County Development plan, even referring to Bronze Age barrow monuments "such as Knockadoobrusna close to Boyle Golf Course". What about the bloody sites that were destroyed???? I say unsurprisingly because, in my opinion, local authorities around Ireland in the past couple of decades have become almost completely pro-development, and at almost any price. Sure what's a few auld ringforts eh?

Welcome to modern Ireland. Well, you can have your bloody stupid golf course. Frank Mitchell would, no doubt, turn in his grave.

Further reading: http://paulmalpas.com/archaelogy/years-ago/


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Thank you very much. That's just what I need. A golf product placement in reply to this blog post. I am, of course, deleting your post. But the irony is incredible all the same.

  2. Humans repeating history. To create the Bronze Age landscape the incomers accelerated the pulling down and clearing of middle to higher level forests of pine, birch, rowan, alder, willow, some ash at lower levels, even oak and elm, to establish their farming culture, while pushing the hunter gathering species more towards the coastline.

    This actually started in the latter stone age but the bronze agers accelerated it and accelerated the creation and use of weapons too.

    The new farmland became less and less fertile, minerals fixed by the former forests leached away and acidity came into the soil. Yields reduced and the druids, like today's politicians, came along with promises of fixing it with various tricks, including enslaving people to build these ancient sites that we swoon over, until they were too entombed and the temple cairns became tombs. Then the surrounding land became blanket bog.

    Yes, a golf course is a pain. What I would personally prefer is a replanting of the native trees that were once there before humans meddled, before the bronze agers meddled.

    1. That's an interesting perspective John. You might be interested in my thoughts about the Bronze Age in the new Newgrange book. I agree, in part, with your sentiments. Some native trees would be good. There's a lot of spruce forests in this country. Don't think that's native, is it??

    2. Indeed I would never ever include spruce in my suggestions for reforesting, as they cause a similar acidity problem that the earliest farmers triggered into motion.

      Where the blanket bogs are now, I would only suggest the trees I listed in my response as these are the trees that have shown presence in ancient samples.

      Forestry in Ireland at this present time is ridiculous. 10% coverage, and 90% of this coverage is spruce. Native trees are only 1% of the entire woodlands of Ireland.

      Some say this was due to heavy English colonialism, but even when they came to Ireland here was covered in blanket bog. Bog that seems to have been caused by the effects of naive farming after forestry clearances by the old stone age and bronze age.

      Its an awful challenge, though, as these new stone age and bronze age people seem to be of cereal diet and depended on farming to exist. The last thing they would do is replenish forests they cut down, I feel, as they would have probably believed that to be a pathway to starvation. Unfortunately they were probably not aware that their farming methods were probably a way to starvation too eventually. Of course, their druids, or whatever they were called, seem to have been like our politicians and convinced the people of magical ways to resolve. Maybe one way was with a form of orgone generator, for example, but eventually there ways seem to have been overcome. Nature won.

      But to get back onto your topic here ... they would have been far worse off if they built golf courses :-)