Wednesday 21 March 2018

Volunteers in trenches digging for age-old secrets of the castle

Alan Keogh and Cormac Smith at the Swords Castle Digging History Project
Alan Keogh and Cormac Smith at the Swords Castle Digging History Project
Ciarraí O'Sullivan, Christine Baker, Nichola McGrattan and Christine Flood

For the third year in a row, the Swords Castle: Digging History project is up and running, or should that be down and digging?

Volunteers are poised, trowels in hand, to uncover more secrets of the castle and the people who have lived there down through the centuries.

It is all under the watchful eye of Fingal County Council's, Community Archaeologist, Christine Baker who has overseen the project from the beginning.

Before Christine and her merry band of volunteers broke ground last week, she told the Fingal Independent how much she was looking forward to resuming the project.

Christine said: 'We are doing a third year in Swords in August. It is literally back by popular demand - I can't walk down the street in Swords without people asking me when it's coming back. We are moving down the slope this year and following ditches we found last year and just trying to find out what is going on in a different area of the precinct.

'We have learned a huge amount about Swords Castle. In terms of research, we have pushed the dates for activity in that area back over 200 years. The fact that there was this burial enclosure there beforehand wasn't really well known and we are now mapping that. We found out that there were several more buildings there, some of them in stone and quite fancy. We know where they were butchering their animals and storing their seeds - we built a whole picture of life there that nobody knew before.'

As part of Fingal County Council's Creative Ireland programme and Heritage Week 2017, members of the public are invited to take part in a real and exciting archaeological excavation in Swords Castle which has already begun and continues to September 6.

Christine Baker, Fingal's Community Archaeologist, commented: 'Nothing beats the excitement of hands-on archaeology, where we can discover how people lived thousands of years ago in a real-life dig. We are trying to answer questions about Swords Castle, it's past and the community in Fingal. How old is the castle? What was it used for? And to do this we need lots of people to come and help us dig.'

She continued; 'It is a unique experience and a rare opportunity to take part in a research dig. There are so many elements to an archaeological excavation from artefact processing to drawing plans, sieving and bone washing, organising paperwork, photographs and recording - there is something for everyone to get involved in.'

Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, Paul Reid, speaking about the Digging History event said: 'Fingal County Council is delighted to support this project as part of Fingal's Creative Ireland programme This project is not only a means of archaeological research but it allows the community to come together and learn about this important heritage and tourist site.'

Swords Castle will be open for digging from 10am to 4pm each day, except Mondays. Volunteers should arrive at 10am.

Fingal Independent