Brú na Bóinne Research Framework Project
The Bend of the Boyne, or Brú na Bóinne, has been an important ritual, social and economic centre for thousands of years. Internationally renowned for its elaborate Neolithic passage tombs, and containing the largest assemblage of megalithic art in Europe, its universal value was recognised in 1993 when it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS), only one of three on the island of Ireland. The Heritage Council, in collaboration with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has published a research framework for Brú na Bóinne re-assessing key priorities and looking at where future research should be directed.
To date, a considerable body of research has been completed including large scale excavations at Newgrange and Knowth, field survey, analysis of the megalithic art and discussion of the landscape of the WHS. Nonetheless many key research questions need to be addressed such as the dating and development of monuments, changes in the settlement record, and how perceptions of the complex changed through time. Related management issues, preservation, conservation and interpretation within the WHS are also key issues.
On an international level, UNESCO has recognised that knowledge and understanding are fundamental to the identification, management and monitoring of World Heritage properties and the publication of a research framework for inscribed sites is widely seen as best practice in this regard. A series of public information seminars were undertaken to both inform and include all interested parties in this process.
The framework document compiled by the Heritage Council in liaison with local groups, the Irish university and state sectors, as well as the wider heritage community, is the first of its kind for Ireland and is only one of four in existence worldwide, Orkney, Avebury and Stonehenge in the UK being the other three published examples.
The Brú na Bóinne passage tombs (Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth) are nationally and internationally well known, containing the largest assemblage of Neolithic megalithic art in Western Europe. The Research Framework emphasises the central position that the Brú na Bóinne area as a whole has occupied in emergence of modern Ireland. From prehistory, to the arrival of Christianity, and the power struggles of 17th century Europe, this landscape has come to reflect in microcosm many of the processes that have shaped society on the island and the wider world.