Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spotlight: St. Louis Professor's 'Irish Dig' Becoming Historical Treasure Trove

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spotlight: St. Louis Professor's 'Irish Dig' Becoming Historical Treasure Trove

Article excerpt

For 13 summers, St. Louis University history professor Thomas J. Finan has visited a remote field near Galway, Ireland, to play in the dirt.

Put another way, he's been taking groups of students for four weeks to help him with his archaeological work.

And this summer's trip has left him happier than, well, an archaelogist in dirt.

"I think we hit the jackpot," Finan said last week, several days after returning to the U.S.

The site Finan and his students work on is called Purt Na Carce ("Port Nah Carr-rick"). It is in County Roscommon in northwestern Ireland, about 60 miles north of Galway. These days, it's commonly known as Rockingham. Finan first told the Post-Dispatch in late 2013 that the site could be important because it appeared to be a secular settlement of about 250 people dating back to about 1200. Finan said then that this would be important because it would dispute the long- held notion that the Irish were nomads and did not live in communal settings back then.

"Our dig produced some pretty clear evidence. We've managed to build the skeleton, and now we can start filling that skeleton out," he said of the artifacts uncovered.

The Irish were not especially known for city-building, Finan has noted. The major Irish cities in the south Waterford, Dublin and Cork actually were established by Viking settlers in the 800s and 900s.

"In 2013, we were excited about finding this town, but it was pretty much supposition on our part. But now we have clear evidence that this was an important market town, a town engaged in the industrial market, metal-making and grain-processing, and trading with the English," said Finan, who also is the associate director of the university's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Finan said the well-preserved artifacts gleaned from the main excavation site also held the promise of providing evidence as to how already-documented global climate changes affected Ireland in the 1200s. …

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