DfC Historic Environment presents an annual HERoNI Lecture Series, providing an insight into our local heritage, archaeology and more. All of the HERoNI events are free to attend and will be hosted on Zoom at the date and times listed. To book your spot on any of the lectures just click on the Eventbrite link associated with your chosen event from the list below.

Pottery, status and people with Dr Cormac McSparron

Friday 26 January 2024, 1pm (via Zoom)
Speaker: Cormac McSparron

Pottery production in Ireland commenced with the first Neolithic farmers around 3900BC. For thousands of years potting was an everyday technology that was used for cooking, processing and storage of food, and for ritual purposes. Then, around 800BC, something unusual happened in Ireland, but also in northern Britain and some parts of western Europe. Pottery all but disappeared, with its use only continuing in a few niche industrial processes. The disappearance, of domestic potting in Late Bronze Age and Iron Age Ireland has been described as “inconceivable” and a “conundrum” by Barry Raftery. There seems no practical or technological reason for the abandonment of this most useful artefact type. What is more, when domestic pottery is finally re-introduced to Ireland, the best part of a millennium later in the eighth century AD, its spread is limited to parts of Ulster. Native ceramics do not become common across Ireland again, until the thirteenth century AD. With no apparent practical, or technological reason for pottery’s abandonment in Ireland, it seems reasonable to make the assumption that there must have been cultural factors influencing society to abandon potting. Using the work of anthropologists Claude Levi-Strauss and Mary Douglas, on the associations of food, food preparation and dining, with status and masculinity, this lecture will outline some possibilities as to the kinds of cultural process which may have made the early Irish eschew pottery.

The Chronicles of Clandeboye

Friday 23 February 2024, 1pm (via Zoom)
Speaker: John Witchell

My research is multidisciplinary, across geography, archaeology, history, archival science, and the digital humanities. My collaborative PhD (PRONI & Newcastle University) aims to weave strands of these disciplines to revisit the original idea of William Least Heat-Moon in his seminal work, PrairyErth (a deep map) (1991) – to go deep - to the marrow.  The outcome will be a deep map of the Clandeboye Estate, and the source materials will include archival, object-based, map-based, and oral histories.

I perceive a deep map as the lens through which a slow travel writer sees the world, as they absorb history and landscape by travelling both vertically through time and horizontally through the space in which they roam.  My research takes the narrative one step further and delivers it using GPS, geofencing techniques, and a smart phone app that will use voice, pictures, and text to merge history into its physical location.  This is not a guided tour, but a series of digital ‘finds’, with all the excitement of coming across an ancient artefact and creating a narrative around it – the essence of experiential learning.

The Madill Archive Project of traditional boats

Friday 22 March 2024, 1pm (via Zoom)
Speaker: Dr Wes Forsythe

In recent decades many of our traditional boats have given way to more modern forms using very different materials and manufacturing techniques. Realising that traditional craft were dwindling, Portstewart native Harry Madill drew on his engineering background to discover, describe and draw the last remaining craft around the northern coasts of Ireland, from Down to Mayo. His work is a unique decades-long attempt to record the last of these vessels and Harry augmented his collection by recording interviews with the individuals using these craft, as well as photographs, and documentary material.   The Madill Archive Project was established to catalogue and digitize Harry’s primary archive to make it more readily accessible to those interested in maritime heritage. Beyond the interests of heritage managers and academics, the work has served as guidance for community groups preserving and using vernacular boats, as well as the new generation of traditional boat-builders. The Madill Archive Project is a collaboration between Ulster University, the Public Record Office (NI), National Museums and Galleries NI, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and Ulster Maritime Heritage. It is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

Northern Archaeological Consultancy Ltd

Friday 26 April 2024, 1pm (PRONI Lecture Theatre)
Speaker: Mr Stuart Alexander, Northern Archaeological Consultancy Ltd

Over the last 5 years (NAC Ltd) have undertaken a number of interesting excavations across Northern Ireland. This talk will discuss some of these excavations and discoveries. These  include, two large Early Neolithic Houses in Derry, the discovery of pre-Viking Norse burial on Rathlin Island and with one of the earliest dated Norse brooches ever discovered in the British Isles, a battlefield site related to the 1689 Siege of Charlemont Fort, which includes the first ever archaeological excavated musket from the Williamite Wars, and an Early Medieval rath at Portglenone where the waterlogged ditch preserved numerous wooden artefacts, a bronze cauldron and an original bridge used to cross the ditch of the rath, the first bridge to be excavated since Lissue rath in the 1940’s.

Making and Remaking Emain Macha

Friday 24 May 2024, 1pm (PRONI Lecture Theatre)
Speaker: Dr Patrick Gleeson

This lecture will present the latest results of remote sensing and excavation in the Navan Fort landscape. Famed as Emain Macha, the capital of Ulster, new work is transforming our understanding of this archaeological landscape, its transformation through time, and its place in the wider context of later prehistoric and post-Roman Europe.

Faces From the Past with Bronagh Murray

Friday 21 June 2024, 1pm (PRONI Lecture Theatre)
Speaker: Bronagh Murray

Ireland has an enigmatic and ancient tradition of representational stone sculpture which emerged at, or perhaps just before, the dawn of written history. These supposed pre-Christian sculptures mostly take the form of stone heads, and are found in many locations across Ireland, with several concentrations in Ulster. The main focus of this lecture is a group from Co. Armagh located in Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral. These sculptures display a range of forms, with animals interpreted as dogs or bears, a figure of what has been interpreted as a solar deity, and the Tandragee Idol, which has been suggested as representing one of a number of characters from Early Irish mythology. This lecture will examine this tradition of sculpture in Ireland, its forms, iconography, dating, European comparanda and the rich folklore that surrounds them.

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