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Archeology versus animal welfare

by Bruno Van de Casteele

January 19, 2014

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Donate It's not easy being a fan of historical and archeological things. Most of the time nice things are being found when constructing roads (as I wrote elsewhere) or houses. Called "rescue archeology", the detailed excavation takes time that hinders the initial project.

As I wrote earlier on this blog, the construction of new things might spoil entire ancient landscapes. The example I gave was when a wind turbine (in essence a good thing) in England was rejected because of its close proximity to the Duddo stones and their place in the landscape. Sometimes a though decision, and I feel there is no "right" decision.

Here's another one, as related by the Archaeo News podcast. In Ireland, in the county of Kerry plans were made to create a donkey sanctuary near the Conor Pass. That pass is the highest mountain pass and Ireland and contains dozens of archaeological monuments.

The project from the Dutch "Dierenwelzijn" (Ireland branch) seems very nice in itself. Some details can be read on their website. However, you should know that these donkeys won't stay in their stable. A Bronze Age cooking pit and a 12km field wall are at risk of erosion, and probably the manure isn't helping either.

My initial thought when reading the reporting is that there seems to be an administrative error. The shed and connecting roadway are agricultural in nature, and do not need special permission. But someone forgot to check where exactly this shed was going to be constructed.

In the case of the wind turbine near the Duddo stones, I could partially defend that the renewable energy was more important than some ancient landscape with old stones in it. But here I don't understand why a troop of donkeys would get priority over an important archeological area. I don't think the Dierenwelzijn-guys understood either. They acquired a piece of land in an existing (commercial) forest, and probably didn't know the importance of the area. At least I hope, because if they care more about retired donkeys ...

Anyway, egg on the face of the council. Laws and procedures exist to stop this kind of costly mistakes before they begin. Because not only is the place now at risk (the constructed roadway went through an archeological area). The foundation already has started work and is now facing challenges by the county council, who might reverse its own decision. Talk about secure investing ... from a foundation who isn't probably swimming in loads of cash either.

I don't think a compromise is possible, given the location. So again a sad story where nice, humanethings threaten old things past. What, dear reader, is your opinion on this?

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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