Drumclay Crannog wins at Current Archaeology Awards

Drumclay Crannog wins Rescue Dig of the Year

18th March 2016

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Image: From l-r Dr Nóra Bermingham, Director of the excavation and Dr Caitríona Moore, archaeologist, with Dr Matthew Symonds, Current Archaeology at the recent awards ceremony.

The Drumclay Crannog excavation in Enniskillen, which unearthed around 1000 years of lakeside living, has been awarded Rescue Dig of the Year at the Current Archaeology Annual Awards.

 Drumclay Crannog scooped the title at the awards ceremony in London at the end of February, making it the first archaeology excavation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to ever win at the Awards.

Crannogs are a medieval artificial island built in areas of wetland, which were commonly found in Ireland and Scotland from prehistoric times. Although there are approximately 140 known crannogs in Co. Fermanagh, the crannog at Drumclay is a particularly significant example with its excavation described as ‘one of the most significant excavated wetland settlements worldwide’.

From June 2012 until April 2013, more than 5,500 artefacts were discovered on the site including pieces of a medieval board game, an ancient bird headed comb and a rare cheese press.  The wetland nature of the site enabled the preservation of thousands of finds shedding light on people’s lives nearly a thousand years ago.  This was the first scientific excavation of a crannog in Northern Ireland and the information gleaned from the site is likely to rewrite the history books.

During the excavation, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, through its Museum Services at Fermanagh County Museum, in partnership with the Department of the Environment (DoE), helped bring this history to life for many by organising and facilitating visits to the Drumclay Crannog site for more than 2,000 people.

Dr Nóra Bermingham, Director of the excavation and Dr Caitríona Moore, archaeologist were presented with the Rescue Dig of the Year award at the London ceremony.

Speaking about receiving the award sponsored by Export and General Insurance, Dr Bermingham said:

We were delighted to win the award.  Drumclay was a wonderful site, and it was a privilege and pleasure to have excavated the crannog.  There was great interest and support for the excavation, both locally and internationally and that support continued when people liked and voted for the article on which the award was based.  Their support is greatly appreciated. 

Wetland sites offer levels of preservation not typically encountered and Drumclay has shown just how rewarding and inspiring wetland archaeology can be.  Thank you to everyone who voted.”

Speaking about the award, Current Archaeology’s Deputy Editor, Carly Hilts, said:

“We nominated the Drumclay Crannog excavation because of the remarkable finds uncovered on this site, and the project’s potential to revolutionise our understanding of settlements like these.

Crannogs are known across Ireland and Scotland, but very few have been investigated using modern scientific techniques, making this a very significant project. It was a rare opportunity to explore a kind of early medieval settlement about which much is not fully understood – and the astonishingly diverse array of objects and well-preserved house structures that the team uncovered, spanning some 1,000 years of occupation, opens a vivid window on the past and how a lakeside community evolved over centuries. Drumclay is sure to enter future textbooks as a new type-site for crannog studies.

This emphasises the amazing contribution that development-led archaeology makes to our understanding of the past.”

Speaking about the Drumclay Crannog award, Sarah McHugh, Manager of the Council’s Museum Services, said:

“It is wonderful to see our local heritage through the Drumclay Crannog excavation receive this recognition. The Council’s Museum Services assisted the dig team in organising a series of open days during the excavation. 

Our relationship with this important site will continue as the story of Drumclay Crannog and crannogs in Fermanagh will form a key part of new displays due to open in Fermanagh County Museum this summer.”

Fermanagh County Museum is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment programme as part of a multi-million pound Heritage Gateway project.

The £3.5 million Heritage Gateway project, to refurbish four existing buildings including Fermanagh County Museum and part of the Castle courtyard within the Enniskillen Castle complex is ongoing and is expected to be ready for summer 2016.

Works to transform the site into the cultural and heritage gateway of the Fermanagh and Omagh district and beyond include a new state of the art Visitor Centre with a tourism, heritage and genealogy information service, café, shop, four new galleries and exhibition spaces and interactive activity areas.

The £3.5 million project has received funding from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Tourism NI, the European Regional Development Fund, the Historic Environment Division of the DoE, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and the Friends of Fermanagh County Museum.