Aerial view of the Banqueting Hall, Hill of Tara, Co. Meath

Archaeology & Landscape

Here at the Discovery Programme we conduct research into the archaeology of the island of Ireland, from mountain tops to sea-bed, farmland, cities and off-shore islands. This research has included some of the earliest-known sites of human settlement in Ireland from the Mesolithic period (some 10,000 years ago) through to more recent industrial heritage and defence heritage of the past 200 years. We have conducted our research with institutions across Ireland, with the help and support of the landowners who look after these places today.

Our approach has always been multi-disciplinary, meaning that we use as many sources as possible, including documents, maps, aerial survey and remote sensing, excavation, artefact analysis, environmental archaeology and digital documentation. This has allowed us to work with a wide range of researchers, many from outside the discipline of archaeology.

When the Discovery Programme was founded in 1991, landscape archaeology was a relatively new area of study in Ireland. This new way of looking at archaeological sites and monuments along with advances in digital technologies that were embraced in the initial projects carried out by the Discovery Programme: The Tara Project, the North Munster Project, the Western Stone Forts Project and the Ballyhoura Hills Project. It continues to be used on our research projects.

Using a landscape archaeology approach means that our research comes into contact with other disciplines that enrich our understanding of the past. Landscape approaches look at sites in their wider context, the “neighbourhood” in which the sites are located. This provides a greater understanding on how sites developed and functioned. It also helps us to understand how the sites were used by the communities that built them, and how they were used in the centuries after their construction.