Humanities at DkIT

Digital Humanities at Dundalk Institute of Technology, DkIT

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Meath/Westmeath postgraduate research prizes

Meath Archaeological and Historical Society (Cumann Seandálaíochta agus Staire na Mí)


Meath County Council Heritage Forum (Fóram Oidhreachta Chomhairle Chontae na Mí)


Ríocht na Midhe – €3,000 in prizes for postgraduate research


Meath Archaeological and Historical Society and Meath County Council Heritage Forum offer six prizes of €500 each for postgraduate research in any discipline, commencing in or after September 2011, devoted wholly or in significant part to any aspect of the heritage (archaeology, history, literature, etc.) of the Meath-Westmeath region.


Entries should be submitted in the form of one or more articles for publication in Ríocht na Midhe. Each entry must be vouched for by the writer’s Supervisor of Research. Adjudication will be by a panel appointed by MAHS. Entries to Séamus Mac Gabhann, editor, Ríocht na Midhe.



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Digging the Monto: The Landscape and Communities of the 1913 Lockout

LockoutPicSee the original item on the Heritage Council website.

This project, funded by a grant from the Heritage Council, investigated the urban landscape relating to the 1913 Dublin Lockout from an archaeological perspective. In contrast to mainstream archaeological approaches, involving a small number of experts, the project was conducted in close collaboration with members of the communities in which the investigations took place. The project concentrated on an investigation of daily life in Dublin’s north inner city with particular focus on the capital’s infamous tenements of the so called ‘Monto’ area. The Heritage Council grant-aided the project to the value of €5,000 under the Heritage Education, Community & Outreach Grants Scheme 2012.

The central aim of the project was to engage local communities in Dublin in investigating the physical and historical remains associated with the 1913 Lockout that can be found in their local area. This was done with a view to preparing a lasting record of this heritage in the run-up to the centenary of the Dublin Lockout in 2013.

The project involved the following aspects:

  • The grant-recipient worked in close collaboration with the 1913 Committee and other local groups, encouraging members of local Dublin communities to investigate the heritage of the 1913 Lockout;
  • Local communities carried out investigations of key locations associated with the Lockout and/or daily life in 1913 Dublin;
  • The grant recipient organised seminars, public talks and walking tours relating to the heritage of the 1913 Lockout;
  • An exhibition of documentary, photographic, oral history and archaeological evidence of the 1913 Lockout was held for a two-week period in the LAB, Foley Street.

Read the full report here.

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New Technology Used to Decipher Ancient Text

See the original item on the BBC website.

25 October 2012 Last updated at 13:01 GMT

Breakthrough in world’s oldest undeciphered writing

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent

Proto-Elamite script

The world’s oldest undeciphered writing system, which has so far defied attempts to uncover its 5,000-year-old secrets, could be about to be decoded by Oxford University academics.

This international research project is already casting light on a lost bronze age middle eastern society where enslaved workers lived on rations close to the starvation level.

“I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough,” says Jacob Dahl, fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and director of the Ancient World Research Cluster.

Dr Dahl’s secret weapon is being able to see this writing more clearly than ever before.

In a room high up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, above the Egyptian mummies and fragments of early civilisations, a big black dome is clicking away and flashing out light.

This device, part sci-fi, part-DIY, is providing the most detailed and high quality images ever taken of these elusive symbols cut into clay tablets. This is Indiana Jones with software.

This way of capturing images, developed by academics in Oxford and Southampton, is being used to help decode a writing system called proto-Elamite, used between around 3200BC and 2900BC in a region now in the south west of modern Iran.

And the Oxford team think that they could be on the brink of understanding this last great remaining cache of undeciphered texts from the ancient world.

Tablet computer

Dr Dahl, from the Oriental Studies Faculty, shipped his image-making device on the Eurostar to the Louvre Museum in Paris, which holds the most important collection of this writing.

Jacob Dahl at the Ashmolean Museum

The clay tablets were put inside this machine, the Reflectance Transformation Imaging System, which uses a combination of 76 separate photographic lights and computer processing to capture every groove and notch on the surface of the clay tablets.

It allows a virtual image to be turned around, as though being held up to the light at every possible angle.

These images will be publicly available online, with the aim of using a kind of academic crowdsourcing.

He says it’s misleading to think that codebreaking is about some lonely genius suddenly understanding the meaning of a word. What works more often is patient teamwork and the sharing of theories. Putting the images online should accelerate this process.

But this is painstaking work. So far Dr Dahl has deciphered 1,200 separate signs, but he says that after more than 10 years study much remains unknown, even such basic words as “cow” or “cattle”.

He admits to being “bitten” by this challenge. “It’s an unknown, uncharted territory of human history,” he says.

Extinct language

But why has this writing proved so difficult to interpret?

Dr Dahl suspects he might have part of the answer. He’s discovered that the original texts seem to contain many mistakes – and this makes it extremely tricky for anyone trying to find consistent patterns.


  • Proto-Elamite is the name given to a writing system developed in an area that is now in south-western Iran
  • It was adopted about 3200BC and was borrowed from neighbouring Mesopotamia
  • It was written from right to left in wet clay tablets
  • There are more than a thousand surviving tablets in this writing
  • The biggest group of such texts was collected by 19th Century French archaeologists and brought back to the Louvre
  • While other ancient writing, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sumerian and Mesopotamian, have been deciphered – attempts with proto-Elamite have proved unsuccessful

He believes this was not just a case of the scribes having a bad day at the office. There seems to have been an unusual absence of scholarship, with no evidence of any lists of symbols or learning exercises for scribes to preserve the accuracy of the writing.

This first case of educational underinvestment proved fatal for the writing system, which was corrupted and then completely disappeared after only a couple of hundred years. “It’s an early example of a technology being lost,” he says.

“The lack of a scholarly tradition meant that a lot of mistakes were made and the writing system may eventually have become useless.”

Making it even harder to decode is the fact that it’s unlike any other ancient writing style. There are no bi-lingual texts and few helpful overlaps to provide a key to these otherwise arbitrary looking dashes and circles and symbols.

This is a writing system – and not a spoken language – so there’s no way of knowing how words sounded, which might have provided some phonetic clues.

Dr Dahl says that one of the really important historical significances of this proto-Elamite writing is that it was the first ever recorded case of one society adopting writing from another neighbouring group.

But infuriatingly for the codebreakers, when these proto-Elamites borrowed the concept of writing from the Mesopotamians, they made up an entirely different set of symbols.

Why they should make the intellectual leap to embrace writing and then at the same time re-invent it in a different local form remains a puzzle.

But it provides a fascinating snapshot of how ideas can both spread and change.

Mr One Hundred

In terms of written history, this is the very remote past. But there is also something very direct and almost intimate about it too.

You can see fingernail marks in the clay. These neat little symbols and drawings are clearly the work of an intelligent mind.

Inside dome of imaging device

These were among the first attempts by our human ancestors to try to make a permanent record of their surroundings. What we’re doing now – my writing and your reading – is a direct continuation.

But there are glimpses of their lives to suggest that these were tough times. It wasn’t so much a land of milk and honey, but porridge and weak beer.

Even without knowing all the symbols, Dr Dahl says it’s possible to work out the context of many of the messages on these tablets.

The numbering system is also understood, making it possible to see that much of this information is about accounts of the ownership and yields from land and people. They are about property and status, not poetry.

This was a simple agricultural society, with a ruling household. Below them was a tier of powerful middle-ranking figures and further below were the majority of workers, who were treated like “cattle with names”.

Their rulers have titles or names which reflect this status – the equivalent of being called “Mr One Hundred”, he says – to show the number of people below him.

It’s possible to work out the rations given to these farm labourers.

Dr Dahl says they had a diet of barley, which might have been crushed into a form of porridge, and they drank weak beer.

The amount of food received by these farm workers hovered barely above the starvation level.

However the higher status people might have enjoyed yoghurt, cheese and honey. They also kept goats, sheep and cattle.

For the “upper echelons, life expectancy for some might have been as long as now”, he says. For the poor, he says it might have been as low as in today’s poorest countries.

The tablets also have surprises. Even though there are plenty of pictures of animals and mythical creatures, Dr Dahl says there are no representations of the human form of any kind. Not even a hand or an eye.

Was this some kind of cultural or religious taboo?

Dr Dahl remains passionate about what this work says about such societies, digging into the deepest roots of civilisation. This is about where so much begins. For instance, proto-Elamite was the first writing ever to use syllables.

If Macbeth talked about the “last syllable of recorded time”, the proto-Elamites were there for the first.

And with sufficient support, Dr Dahl says that within two years this last great lost writing could be fully understood.

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A Recent Archaeological Discovery near Kinnegad

The Irish Times – Monday, December 10, 2012


Museum to examine remains found in Co Meath bog



The National Museum of Ireland is to begin examining the remains of Ireland’s latest “bog person” discovered at a Bord na Móna site in Co Meath last week. The headless body was found among a stack of peat by workers on Friday morning near Kinnegad.

An archaeological team from the National Museum was dispatched to inspect the remains which were excavated on Saturday and transported to Dublin.

It is unclear at this stage the age, sex or cause of death, though those details are likely to emerge this week following examination by experts.

The discovery comes just over a year after that of the “Cashel Man” remains from a bog in Co Laois, which were thought to be those of a sacrificial victim.

There are just four such bodies on display at the National Museum on Kildare Street, Dublin.

“How ancient its year we won’t be able to say yet but it is a bog body of some antiquity,” said Maeve Sikora, an assistant keeper in the museum’s Irish antiquities division.

“Its upper body appears to be intact and further analysis should be able to tell us how much else is there. It seems like it has been exposed to the air for quite a while and that would be damaging but nonetheless its condition is very good.”

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What is (are) Digital Humanities?

DRI_2012_Realising the Opportunities of Digital Humanities_Conference

Realising the Opportunities of Digital Humanities Conference 2012

Confused about what we mean by ‘Digital Humanities‘? This is a new and exciting area which aims to make all kinds of humanities data available to as wide an audience as possible using the latest computer and internet technology. A recent conference by the Digital Repository of Ireland – Realising the Opportunities of Digital Humanities – explored the variety of approaches possible to bring the massive breadth of humanities data to life.

Follow this link to view a ‘media mashup‘ of the conference. Just click on each of the events in the programme to view video footage of the speakers along with slides from their presentations, images, and social media postings from a variety of participants and commentators.

We hope it helps!