Concerns have been raised with IfA about the apparently imminent destruction of a crannog site at Drumclay in Fermanagh as part of a road-building scheme, potentially with inadequate excavation. IfA has met with archaeologists of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which has a curatorial role for the archaeology of the site. NIEA tells us that the original proposal was for the site to be preserved under the road, but that engineering works elsewhere on the scheme led to a sudden dewatering of the bog in which the crannog stood. Road stone was imported to support the crannog, which was beginning to collapse. In view of its fragility, the decision was taken to excavate rather than to seek to preserve the occupation levels of the site, which have proven to be of medieval date. This six-week excavation has been completed by contracting archaeologists to NIEA’s satisfaction, and NIEA has assured us that no road building work will take place until the Minister for the Environment is satisfied that adequate investigation of the construction levels has taken place – crucially to establish whether the crannog has prehistoric origins. Discussions are taking place to see whether these earlier remains can be preserved below the road.
IfA will keep in touch with NIEA over the coming weeks, and will be keen to see that adequate provision is made for post-excavation work. Questions that remain to be answered include why the road was routed so close to an important site, and why the engineering decision was taken that so disastrously affected the hydrology of the site, precipitating an emergency archaeological solution. On the positive side, the issue has made clear to ministers the profile that press and public afford to archaeology.