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Cultural Heritage and the Economy

category national | history and heritage | opinion/analysis author Monday August 01, 2011 22:38author by Sean Keir Moriartyauthor email seanachai51 at earthlink dot net Report this post to the editors

Considering the dismal economic state of a growing number of EU nations, it is more important than ever for them to protect their cultural heritage, as it is firmly linked to their economies in the form of tourism.  Though one tends to think of cultural heritage as something taught in schools and preserved in museums, it goes well beyond that, as evidenced by the attraction of archaeological and cultural World Heritage Sites to millions around the world. Though sites such as the Bend in the Boyne and Stonehenge play a significant role in our understanding of who we are and where we came from, every site, however small, is just as important, and they deserve to be indentified, excavated, restored and preserved for future generations.

"A scientist will never show any kindness for a theory which he did not start himself."  Mark Twain


The article ‘Of Cups, Rings and Cultural Heritage’ (Indymedia, August 1, 2011) briefly touched upon the issue that the archaeological community in Ireland has dismissed ‘out of hand’ the interpretation that the petroglyphs found in Ireland, Britain and other Atlantic/Mediterranean European nations, depict the monuments constructed at sites such as Tara and the Boyne.  Yet despite repeated invitations, not one has come forward with any evidence to refute this hypothesis.  What few responses there have been, border on the absurd.  In a reply to an email to Prime Minister Cowen criticizing a number of archaeologists, one of them could only offer the following, "As one of those mentioned in this email, I wish to point out that Mr. Moriarty's circular [‘Orthostat, the Mound of the Hostages’] uses my name without my permission."


Following are the links to the PDF's of 'Orthostat, the Mound of the Hostages' and 'Petroglyphs, the Bend in the Boyne'.


http://www.knowth.com/tara-pdf.htm


http://www.newgrange.com/petroglyphs-pdf.htm


In light of the foregoing, it was necessary to consult experts outside Ireland in order to confirm the ‘map hypothesis’, one being the international geo-sciences firm Fugro, which in response to a proposal, their Chief Operating Officer, Owen Goodman, responded, “If there is a willingness by one or more Irish Government agency to undertake further surveys at Tara, Fugro would be willing to contribute to the preparation of a survey specification document and may be in a position to contribute to the actual survey work itself."  That said, in July of 2010 another geo-survey of Tara was undertaken. Despite Fugro’s generous offer, not one of the parties responsible for conducting that survey consulted them.  Ironically, one of the archaeologists stated, "We need to do the right thing by this and other landscapes.  If history has told us anything it is you need consultation, consultation and more consultation."  


So who did they consult?It certainly wasn’t Fugro, or Dr. Anthony Freeman, manager of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA/JPL, who wrote, "Your idea that the orthostat is an early map of Tara is very interesting and certainly looks to me as if the features [symbols] line up with the terrain visible in the Lidar image[s] and aerial photos."  Nor did they consult Dr. Henry Chapman, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist at Birmingham University who commented, "Your argument seems very compelling and I'm very interested to look through your chronological information on the various sites in relation to this.  If they are maps, then it becomes curious to think of schematics versus accurate survey and themes of representation, but as you do mention, one of the critical measures is chronology."  Nor was it Dr. George Nash, an expert in Neolithic art at the University of Bristol who stated, “I am more than sure that this particular form of artistic endeavour does replicate the outside world (i.e. creating a type of stylised map).” “The mapping theory opens up potentially a whole new world, turning sites into landscapes.”


Regardless of whether the survey would have confirmed or refuted the ‘map hypothesis’, at the very least teaming up with Fugro would have saved thousands of Euros.The end result would have been a thorough mapping of Tara and eliminated an extremely significant issue.  According to one government agency in Ireland that was contacted regarding the ‘map hypothesis’, "no one here is competent enough to interpret the images", i.e., the symbols as compared to the Lidar and Magnetic Gradiometry images they obtained from earlier surveys.  Therefore, they turned the matter over to the archaeologists at one of Ireland’s national universities.  However, they too stated they weren't ‘competent enough’ to interpret the images.  Interestingly, the team who conducted the survey of Tara in the early 90’s, called upon the British firm Geoquest, though since that time the aforementioned university has supposedly developed an expertise in the field of geo-science… all evidence to the contrary.


Whether the mainstream interpretations of the symbols are that they’re abstract or depictions of visions by shamans, the arguments presented are not supported by any evidence, but are simply the imaginations of the ‘experts’ run wild, tenuously supported by the ‘opinions’ of previous researchers, none of which have ever nor can they ever be tested.  Mankind’s advances in science have always been based on evidence and sound reasoning, such is the case with the conclusions arrived at in ‘Orthostat, the Mound of the Hostages’ and ‘Petroglyphs, the Bend in the Boyne’.  Sadly, however, those who’ve come before have either overlooked evidence, or worse yet ignored it when it’s failed to support their opinions. “There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.”  Hippocrates


So what does all this have to do with Ireland’s economy?  Scientific research is about advancing our knowledge of the world around us that in some way benefits mankind, much of the funding for which is paid for with tax revenues.  Even taking into consideration the offer by Fugro, the survey would still have cost tens of thousands of Euros.  However, the return on that investment potentially would have been millions of Euros each year for centuries to come, not merely in the form of tourism and all that encompasses, but a dramatic increase in business for those in the private sector needed to conduct the mapping, excavations and restoration of the hundreds of sites in Ireland.  Now consider the tens if not hundreds of millions of Euros spent over the decades on salaries, grants, surveys, excavations and the like.With the exception of archaeologists such as Dr. George Eogan and Michael O’Kelly, and their respective excavations and restorations of Knowth and Newgrange, the return on ‘investment’ for the citizens of Ireland has been minimal.


As the potential cultural and economic benefits apply to other EU nations, it was repeatedly suggested to every member of the Oireachtas; from the Prime Minister(s) on down, as well as the Meath County Council, that by one or more government agencies taking the lead in a project to confirm the ‘map hypothesis’, it could prove extremely beneficial in supporting Ireland’s case that Tara be named a World Heritage Site.  Further that it would demonstrate to the EU, Ireland’s abiding concern for the heritage of its people, and as such request the EU drop its lawsuits against Ireland for heritage violations which have cost the country untold millions of Euros to defend.  Most importantly though, that it be used in support of Ireland’s requests that the interest rate on the EU/IMF bailout be lowered, which would save the citizens of Ireland hundred of millions of Euros over the course of the loan, thereby preserving at least some of the necessary services they rely on.  Sadly, all that fell on deaf ears, as evidenced by the response titled ‘Final Reply’ dated May 10, 2011 from Mr. Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, on behalf of the government, who stated, “The National Monuments Service of this Department has been made aware of, and has noted, your proposals. However, at present, the Department has no plans for further geo-physical surveying of Tara.”


“Science may have found a cure for most evils, but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.”  Helen Keller

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