The Discovery Programme
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The Discovery Programme is a public institution for advanced research in Irish archaeology. As distinct from the other public bodies that deal with Irish archaeology, the Discovery Programme’s sole activity is to engage in full-time archaeological and related research, in order to enhance our knowledge of Ireland’s past. Our only other concerns are to communicate the results of that research, as appropriate, to scholars and the general public, and to promote the introduction of new technologies and new techniques into Irish archaeology.
The Discovery Programme was set up in 1991 and was funded initially by the government through direct grants. Now, as an independent body, it is mainly funded by an annual grant from the Heritage Council.
The Discovery Programme undertakes to answer, through investigative research projects, questions in Irish archaeology that arise from time to time. The organisation is governed by a Council and Directorate whose members comprise leading Irish archaeologists from the whole of the country (north and south).
The Discovery Programme is an archaeological research institution. Its primary aim is through archaeological and related research, to work towards a coherent and comprehensive picture of human life in Ireland from earliest times. Its second aim is to publish the results of this research, scientifically and in ways which can be appreciated by the general public.
In May 1992, the Discovery Programme (established originally on 11 May 1991) published its first booklet The Discovery Programme -Strategies and Questions. This set out the future work for the organisation. It included, as part of its general strategy, the intention 'to identify those major research questions which can most rewardingly be addressed by co-ordinated programmes of research.'
The Programme decided that, initially, it would emphasise a 'core period' for research. The Late Bronze Age and Iron Age were chosen as it was felt that 'this period and the various transitions and intrusions that took place within it should be better understood, in particular the emergence of a complex Celtic society'. This was the background to the setting up of the four initial main projects, The Western Stone Forts Project, The Ballyhoura Hills Project and The North Munster Project, all of which are currently in their final phases, and the Tara Survey, which was completed and published in 1997.
The Discovery Programme initiated two new research projects in 2001 which are more thematically based. These are investigating Medieval Rural Settlement and Lake Settlement in Ireland. Both projects are based on the results of feasibility studies begun in 1997 and published in 1998.
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