Autumn 2013 Volume 27 No. 3 Issue No. 105

05 CONTENTS

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F E A T U R E S

09 Bullauns—relict agricultural processing utensils?

12 Rock art: questions and answers?

16 De Profundis

18 Iron Age wedding trumpets?

22 Know your monuments:

Children’s burial grounds

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26 A twisted torc

28 Under the fairy tree

32 Uncovering an Anglo-Norman manor and deserted medieval village

36 Patrolling the Berm

L A R S

R E G U

04 News

07 Quote…unquote

08 Net news

41 Letters

42 News extra

44 Events

45 Book news

50 Hindsight

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Cover: Bronze Age gold bar torc, Corrard, Co. Fermanagh. (© National Museums Northern Ireland, Collection Ulster Museum.)

LIVING IN THE PAST ‘The past’ is a term that is used to designate everything that has gone before. Although it is commonly referred to, the past is not any one thing. Each of us has an individual past but together we all share a collective past. For some, the past can be seen as an emotional place. Watch, for example, any of those ancestry programmes in which experts ‘dig up’ documents and records of some celebrity’s forebears. You may see some individuals react with pride and pleasure to the discovery that one of their ancestors was a notable historical character; for others the past brings tears to their eyes, when they realise that one of their relatives had a hard life and experienced the most trying of social conditions. The past, like the present, can elicit the full range of human emotions.

The legacy of past generations, both the physical remains left behind and the psychological impact of their memory on our consciousness, is a curious phenomenon. Individuals and communities no longer alive have left us structures and artefacts that they wanted us to find and things that would awaken a sense of awe and wonder. They also inadvertently left us the stuff that they threw away, unaware of its considerable informational value to a future generation of specialists. It is through the systematic study of such things that archaeologists investigate the course of history and prehistory, tracing the highs and lows of long-gone populations.

At the heart of the discipline of archaeology lies the concept of reconstructing the lives, the trials, the tribulations and the achievements of numerous individuals and populations from the past—a daunting task. Archaeologists, of course, operate on the understanding that, given the differential survival of evidence, their reconstructions of the past will at best be fragmentary and speculative.

The litany of sayings and proverbs that encourage us to forget the past, plan for the future and embrace the present is a sure indication that not everyone shares the same view of the past or of its value. More often than not, the proverbial past is seen as a problem—a container for all that was/is wrong with the world. We have all heard the phrase ‘living in the past’ being used in that unmistakably accusatory tone, often applied to someone who is extolling the merits of an older method of doing something or other. Unfortunately, the use of this phrase not only implies a total condemnation of former times and the people who lived through them but also displays a lack of interest in understanding the substance of what we are and what surrounds us.

In one form or another, everything in the present once belonged to the past, and that is why the past interests us. Archaeologists are often at their best in explaining things when the theme ‘living in the past’ is the centre of their research frameworks.

Tom Condit

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