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Irish Peatland Archaeology Across Time (IPeAAT) is a 2 year project, funded by the Irish Research Council COALESCE/INSTAR+ scheme, University College Cork, and involving colleagues from ABH Ltd, University College Dublin, the National Museum of Ireland, Bord na Mόna and the National Monument Service. 

Peatlands are wetland ecosystems where the peat is formed of semi-decomposed plant matter under waterlogged, low oxygen conditions. They formed in Ireland following the retreat of the ice sheets around 10,000 years ago. Their ability to preserve organic material makes them an unparalleled archaeological resource, with finds in Ireland including kilometre-long wooden trackways, wooden artefacts, and ancient human remains. They also preserve records of our past environment and climate through ancient pollen grains and other micro and macrofossils. 

Since 1946, peatlands in Ireland have been cut for fuel on an industrial scale by the semi-state company Bord na Mόna, which has led to the discovery of nearly 4000 archaeological sites. This, along with other commercial projects, has produced a unique resource of knowledge on the distribution and character of the peatland archaeological resource on a national scale. 

The IPeAAT project is collating these archaeological, chronological, and environmental datasets, derived from archaeological excavation and associated analyses, from industrially extracted bogs. We hope to gain a better understanding of the timing, nature and purpose of human activity in Ireland’s peatlands, in relation to environmental and climatic changes. We also aim to better communicate this amazing resource to different interest groups, in particular the public, and projects and organisations which are  involved in peatland conservation and rehabilitation. 

As commercial peat extraction ceases on Bord na Mόna bogs, the focus is shifting to peatland rehabilitation. Archaeology presents an unparalleled opportunity to connect people in a very real and tangible way to Ireland’s peatlands. However, so far the role of heritage in promoting peatland rehabilitation has been underexploited. 

Irish Peatland Archaeology Across Time (IPeAAT)