Winter 2015 Volume 29 No. 4 Issue No. 114

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CONTENTS

F E A T U R E S

10 Cannons, saints and sunken ships—an Armada wreck revealed

16 Who did you write it for,

anyway?

19 New grave-slab discoveries

22 Molana abbey—a fortified house?

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26 Christmas in the graveyard?

Nativity scenes on County Louth headstones

30 Still going strong!

32 How to transform a castle

37 Know your monuments—

Historical bridges

41 ‘Swords Castle: Digging History’

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L A R S

R E G U

04 News

08 Net news

09 Quote…unquote

45 Events

46 Book news

50 Hindsight

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Cover: The St Peter cannon on the seabed following its excavation, with details clearly visible.

‘JANE IS IN THE MUD’ Back in the days when primary school teachers educated Low Babies and High Babies (now junior infants and senior infants), progress was measured by the colour or number of the reading book that you ‘were on’. Dick and Dora were still kicking around when I was being instructed. The books were illustrated with simple colour pictures, and basic sentences were presented for the children to learn.

For those being initiated into the world of literature, the simple words and images in such school books provided an intriguing combination. An appreciation of the picture could help you to work out what the words ‘said’; alternatively, the words, if you could read them, allowed you to appreciate the significance of the static picture. At their most basic, the words simply described a scenario. Nevertheless, as sociologists, psychologists and educationalists will attest, there can be more to this stuff than meets the eye.

One image in the book portrayed Dora’s doll lying outstretched on the ground in some dark material. The immortal five-word sentence at the top of the page read ‘Jane is in the mud’. Dora was depicted standing nearby in a semi-tragic pose (possibly suffering from a psychological trauma), while her naughty dog Nip was in close attendance. The text that followed assured us that Jane, an inanimate object, ‘fell in the mud’. This latter statement is more difficult to substantiate. If the image was a factual representation, Jane was either dropped into the mud by Dora, deliberately or accidentally, or was deposited there by Nip, who had possibly seized the doll from Dora’s arms.

When you think about it, all the forms of popular communication have at their root words and images. Whether it is ink on paper (handdrawn or printed) or digitally displayed on an LCD screen, we seem to be attracted to the mental stimulation or relaxation that words and pictures provide. It is worth remembering, however, that archaeological interpretation is often based on incomplete evidence, and the ability to critically ‘read between the lines’ is almost a necessity.

These days there is a good deal of quality literature available to attract those with an interest in Irish archaeology. There are books and articles dedicated to specialist studies, and other volumes that synthesise millennia of settlement evidence. In a similar fashion to the children’s reading book, many archaeological publications present information in the form of words and pictures. The articles and contributions broadcast by digital media have made possible not only the exploration of maps and photographs but also computerised three-dimensional presentations of objects and sites that can be visually investigated in detail. The modern multi-media presentations can give the impression of great advances in knowledge. In fact, the improvements in illustration are more likely to indicate advances in the recording and presentation of images.

Nowadays the pictures in many modern reading books for children are elaborate, colour-rich, highly attractive artistic renditions, but the sentences and words are still of the basic variety. Conveying sense in the form of words has not changed. If we are to advance our archaeological knowledge, it is necessary to explain the imagery, not just use it as eyecandy. Well-written words should express what the author means, while the associated images should illustrate and support the author’s text. Otherwise, how Jane ‘fell’ and ended up in the mud may never be known for certain!

Tom Condit

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