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Dublin launches Community Archaeology pilot programme

Dublin launches Community Archaeology pilot programme

Running from September to November 2021, the programme allows people to discover the rich cultural history of St Anne’s Park and Dublin’s archaeological heritage in engaging ways

Dublin City Council has launched a new pilot programme aimed at giving people an opportunity to take a dig, and not just metaphorically, into the diverse archaeological heritage of Dublin City.

Highlighting the Viking Age

St Anne’s Park Community Archaeology Pilot Programme officially kick-started on Saturday, 18 September, with a Living History display themed Viking Age Ireland & the Battle of Clontarf. During the event, experts demonstrated artefacts, costumes and skills brought over by Ireland’s early seafaring invaders such as sword fighting, textile production and leather craft. The associated Big Dig event allowed children to step into the shoes of real-life archaeologists, excavating a replica of a Viking house full of exciting artefacts.

Speaking about the Programme, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland said, as quoted by the city website: “St. Anne’s Park became a municipal park in the 1950s. At 107 ha it is the largest municipal park in the city and one which the residents of North Dublin city and beyond have formed a deep connection with across the generations.

Through this free community archaeology programme, supported by the Heritage Council and Creative Ireland, communities will have an opportunity to participate in this wide-ranging programme and discover the rich cultural history of the Park and the city’s archaeological heritage in a number of engaging ways.

City Parks Superintendent Leslie Moore recalled that in recent years key historical features of the Park were conserved including the Red Stables, the Annie Lee Bridge folly and Greek revival floor tiles discovered in the Herculaneum Temple. This summer, archaeological testing of the remains of St. Anne’s house was carried out. Moore said the parks’ management is eager to share with the public these discoveries and celebrate St. Anne’s as a unique 19th-century designed landscape.

Events tailored to all tastes

The St Anne’s Community Archaeology Pilot Programme runs from September to November 2021, and comprises a series of events suitable to all ages taking place both in the park and online. All events are free of charge and include live re-enactments, demonstration digs, experimental archaeology, exhibition, online talks, walking tours and local history research training.

The programme is an initiative of Dublin City Council (Parks and Landscape Services, and the Heritage and Archaeology Offices) with grant support from the County Heritage Plan Grant Scheme 2021 and Creative Ireland. It is being managed by Archaeology and Built Heritage Ltd.

Public engagement in archaeological practice

City Archaeologist Dr Ruth Johnson lifted the veil on the Park’s history, saying, “The aim of the public archaeology programme is to examine the history and archaeology of St Anne’s, a 19th-century designed landscape named after an ancient holy well that stands in its grounds. The Guinness family, who owned St Anne’s, had a fascination for archaeology. They built archaeological follies on the estate for their pleasure, including a Roman Tower based on the ‘Tomb of the Julii’, a Herculaneum Temple, a hermit’s cave and a druidic circle of yew trees.

In recent years archaeological work at St Anne’s has revealed that substantial basement and first floor remains of the house still exist under the grassy mound at the end of the long avenue. The parks team have noted many other unusual features that are not yet fully understood and there are occasional surprise finds, such as the well on the avenue, so there is clearly much more buried underground. We hope that next year the public will be able to work with professional archaeologists and engage in archaeological practice using authentic methods and techniques, such as research, survey and excavation.

Programme summary

A series of Living History displays, one per month, will be centred on three key themes in chronological order: the Vikings and the Battle of Clontarf, 16th Century Ireland and the War of Independence. Practitioners in period costume will display artefacts and give demonstrations along with short public talks.

Each month there will be a ‘Schools Day’ in the park for primary and secondary schools. Pre-booking is required. Juniors will have the opportunity to take part in The Big Dig, a replica Viking house and workshop excavation for children aged 5-12 years. Teachers can avail of activity sheets based on St Anne’s Park for subsequent education in the park or classroom.

An on-site Mobile Museum will engage secondary school pupils with a suite of replica artefacts through which they will learn about both the daily life of ancestors (dress and accessories, weaponry, craft and trade) and key historic events.

An exhibition about the park, the Guinness family, the original house of St Anne’s and the recent archaeological excavations will be displayed in the park for the duration of the programme. Walking tours of the park, bookable in advance, will be organized on the first Friday of each month.

The online programme of events includes a series of evening lectures by guest speakers with expertise in a range of topics related to the park and local area. A bookable online course ‘Know your Locality’ will be delivered in five evening workshops.

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