“Archaeology of Darkness”

Writer Brian Keenan will be among a panel of experts who will probe the theme of darkness at a conference in IT Sligo during the Halloween Bank Holiday weekend.

Fifteen speakers from Ireland, Britain and the US will address the “Archaeology of Darkness” conference   on such diverse subjects as ancient art, religion, prehistoric mining, caving, photography, and seasonal folk traditions during the one day event on Saturday, October 27th.

In his address “Bargaining with the Boatman”, Keenan will give his own unique insight into confinement and darkness as he describes the impact of four and a half years in captivity, as a hostage in Beirut from April 1986 to August 1990.

Emmy award winner Professor Jack Santino from Bowling Green State University in the US, will reflect the Halloween theme with a lecture about darkness and seasonal folk traditions, while another highlight will be Co Clare caver Tim O’Connell’s account of the 11 days he spent in 2010  in the world’s deepest cave. The Krubera-Voronja cave in Abkhazia, a disputed breakaway Georgian republic on the Black Sea, has been dubbed the “underground Everest”.

The conference is organised by Dr Marion Dowd a lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology in IT Sligo and Dr Robert Hensey, an expert on religious practices and belief systems in Neolithic Ireland, particularly the Irish passage tomb tradition.

In her lecture “In Search of Solitude in Darkness: Cave use in Late Bronze Age Ireland”, Dr Dowd will detail some of the fascinating artefacts she has uncovered in Irish caves. Dr Hensey will discuss people’s responses to darkness in the past and present in his address.

The eclectic programme will also include a lecture by Colman O Clabaigh OSB,  a monk of Glenstal Abbey and a medieval historian,  about  the role and experience of anchorites or religious recluses in Ireland between the twelfth and the seventeenth centuries. .

Professor Muiris O’Sullivan, Associate Professor of Archaeology and former Head of the UCD School of Archaeology will discuss the enigma of prehistoric art in Irish passage tombs.

In his lecture “Dark Places and Supernatural Light in Early Ireland”, Dr John Carey of UCC will explore the view that darkness was synonymous with enlightenment in early Gaelic tradition, while archaeological photographer Ken Williams will recount photographing some of Europe’s most spectacular dark places.

The event is open to all but places are limited. Further information and registration forms can be found at www.archaeologyofdarkness.com

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