The Dowris Project addresses the assessment of the later prehistoric landscape
of the central Midlands of Ireland covering an area of about 9,000km²,
the great ‘Central Plain’, which is characterized by lowland pasture and extensive
areas of blanket peat. The principal goals of the work are to develop an understanding
of the development of later prehistoric landscape and society in this region,
to provide a usable and accessible understanding of this information to the
public and other interest groups such as farmers, planners and heritage managers.
The first step towards the preservation of the archaeological heritage in this
unique landscape, and its accessibility at a physical and intellectual level
by the public, is to assess the nature of the surviving material and provide
a meaningful and exciting interpretation. Due largely to the relatively poor
nature of the agricultural resource the economy in the region has gone through
a very difficult period creating long-term unemployment. Although new sustainable
developments, such as forestry, have improved the situation these initiatives
often have a negative impact on the archaeological resource. A wider understanding
and appreciation of the prehistoric cultural heritage can both enhance the protection
of this vulnerable resource, as well as providing an opportunity to develop
cultural tourism as an aspect of long-term sustainable economic growth.
The integrated landscape approach will combine assessments of all late prehistoric
sites, monuments and artefacts, within a suite of landscape analyses using the
established Geographical Information System (GIS) in the Discovery Programme.
The research strategy combines archival research, field study and survey, aerial
photography, palaeobotanical studies and museum research to provide the database
for the GIS analysis. Mapping systems, including 1:50000 coverage of topography
and drainage, soils and geology, have already been developed, as have a range
of landscape analysis modules.
The Discovery Programme
The Heritage Council