Digging History: Excavations 2015-17.
Swords was once a major administrative centre, the headquarters of a vast estate belonging to the archbishop of Dublin, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country. It was especially ﬁtting that in 1996 Fingal County Council selected Swords as its headquarters, the splendid new oﬃces now overlooking this ancient seat of authority. And the year 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the ﬁrst serious investigation of the castle, when the late Tom Fanning excavated a highly decorated tiled ﬂoor, leaving us in no doubt that this was the site of a stylish medieval residence as well as the headquarters of a manorial estate. In the decades that followed, attention turned to the architecture of the castle, with various programmes of restoration and reconstruction.
It is only in the last decade, however, that our understanding of the site has been dramatically expanded, thanks to a series of excavations, the most important being those carried out under the direction of Christine Baker between 2015 and 2017 and detailed in this book. Over the course of 50 years the discipline of archaeology has been transformed, and at Swords the latest scientiﬁc techniques have been employed to unlock the past in a most exciting way, producing all manner of information about those who lived and worked within the castle boundaries. One of the great merits of this volume is that it goes far beyond the recent excavations. There is an account of the early history of Swords, along with valuable summaries of earlier excavations, providing a complete picture of what archaeology has achieved in recent years and in so doing enhancing our understanding of a major Irish monument.
Christine Baker is the Heritage Officer for Fingal County Council and has previously published Partnership & participation: community archaeology in Ireland (Wordwell, 2020), Antiquities of old Fingal (Wordwell, 2010) and The archaeology of Killeen Castle, Co. Meath (Wordwell, 2009).
||Published March 2022, paperback.