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[Believe it or not, the post-excavation at Carrickmines is till
continuing!] Vincent Salafia

Archaeological treasures being 'left exposed in open-air sites'
Massive road-building programme has seen a surge in historical finds

By JOHN DRENNAN

Sunday Independent - May 04 2008

Priceless archaeological treasures are being "left exposed in open-air
sites" because the National Museum of Ireland has accumulated so many
artifacts that it has no place to store them.

An unanticipated consequence of the massive road-building programme is
that archaeology is one of the State's largest growth industries.

This year more than 25m of the National Road Authority's 1.68bn road
programme will be spent digging up historical sites in the path of
roadways and saving the material unearthed for the future.

But while the NRA's archaeological programme meets the highest European
standards, the huge turnover of material has created a crisis for the
cash-strapped National Museum.

Collins Barracks in Dublin was the main storage area for finds. But,
according to Fine Gael spokesperson on the arts Olivia Mitchell, it is
now so full that "curators cannot even gain access to the material let
alone catalogue it''.

A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General revealed that
1.5 million objects were awaiting classification and that there had
been a four-fold increase in excavation licenses in a decade.

The Roads Authority says it expects to spend 300m on archaeological
digs over the life span of Transport 21.

"It's like a conveyor belt at the moment, it won't stop. The museum is
even telling archaeologists not to give them any more material," said
the Fine Gael Deputy.

"We have a wealth of knowledge lying in an undocumented heap exposed to
the elements or buried in an Indiana Jones-like crypt in. It really is
appalling. People are on their hands and knees picking material out of
sites and then it's being dumped in a heap."

The controversy is set to be even more embarrassing because Ireland
will be hosting the World Archaeological Conference shortly -- and
distinguished guests may be told that while unused e-voting machines
are stored with care and attention archaeological treasures are dumped
in the open air.

- JOHN DRENNAN



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