Those who recently read 'Chaos at the Crossroads' will be interested in this follow-up story from Fronk McDonald in the Irish Times:
Minister for the Environment Dick Roche has commissioned consultant archaeologists to carry out "targeted excavation" of the ninth century Woodstown Viking site in Waterford to establish the nature and extent of it.
The contract has been awarded to Archaeological Consultancy Services (ACS) Ltd. ACS is the company which carried out the initial archaeological investigations which uncovered the site in 2003.
This follows the recommendation of a working group that a supplementary research project should review all available information, including archaeological assessments and investigations of the site, which has been designated as a national monument.
The Woodstown site, at which substantial Viking elements have been uncovered, first came to light in 2003 during archaeological investigations in advance of the construction of the N25 Waterford city bypass. It is thought to be a Viking longphort (ship fortress).
Given its significance, the Minister issued directions in May 2005 under the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004 requiring that the site be secured and protected pending the development of a long-term strategy for its preservation and management.
Some 5,000 artefacts and the grave of a Viking warrior have been discovered so far. Following these discoveries, which were initially kept under wraps by archaeologists, the National Roads Authority (NRA) decided to reroute the bypass away from the core site.
However, Waterford solicitor Gerard Halley, who owns a farm in the area, has claimed that the site is much more extensive and that parts of it could still be damaged by the proposed road. He has taken legal action aimed at securing its preservation.
He is seeking to have a compulsory purchase order rescinded, arguing that the precise boundaries of the national monument have yet to be determined and that the land in question contains archaeological remains which could relate to the Viking site.
At his own expense, Mr Halley commissioned a geophysical survey of land along the alternative route for the bypass last March. He informed the Minister by letter that the survey found there was "considerable . . . archaeological potential in these areas".
However, minutes of the first meeting of the Woodstown Working Group on November 30th, 2005, show that Brian Duffy, the Department of the Environment's chief archaeologist, said it would have "no role whatsoever in relation to the alternative route".
Mr Halley has alleged "gross incompetence, lack of communication and manipulative dishonesty on the part of elements of the various State authorities involved" - a claim denied by John McDermott, acting principal officer in the National Monuments Service.