Neither Harry nor June Welsh require an introduction in Northern Irish archaeology, being the authors – both jointly and separately – of two publications on the province’s heritage: Tomb Travel (2011) and The Prehistoric Burial Sites of Northern Ireland (2014). Their most recent is very much the companion volume to the burial sites book.
Methodologically, the text fuses aspects of Historic Landscape Characteristic (HLC) assessment with an archaeological gazetteer to present details from the Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record (NISMR) entries in a convenient way. This volume makes light work of accessing that information, yet provides much more. The book uses the expertise and knowledge one would expect from active members of Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, succinctly summarising the material evidence for human activity at each of the 1,580 known sites across Northern Ireland – alphabetically, by county, and with NISMR references. There is also a useful appendix of radiocarbon dates for each site, gleaned from various sources, and collated in one place. Perhaps most importantly, the text provides a much-needed and overdue proposed standardisation of site and feature classification between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which has not existed previously.
Unusually for this kind of publication, the book is sumptuously illustrated, featuring finds from particular sites and stunning landscape photographs, reminding all of us of the beauty of this province. It also, delightfully, includes features and sites that are not common knowledge, and perhaps are all the more fascinating for that.
This book will certainly appeal to archaeology students, but professional archaeological consultancies will find it a boon for cross-referencing, reducing the time needed to write reports. Most importantly, it sets an admirable standard of methodology in writing about sites, as well as providing a benchmark for standardising site classifications for Irish archaeology of the 21st century. This is not just an authoritative reference book, but a necessity for the practising archaeologists in Ireland and the UK.
This review appeared in CA 342.