New archaeology archive is a treasure trove of heritage data

More than 1,500 sites excavated during road and rail building now freely available online

Details of more than 1,500 archaeological excavations across the country are now freely available online as part of a new initiative launched on Monday at the Royal Irish Academy.

The Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) Digital Heritage Collections represent 80 per cent of all excavation reports commissioned by the National Roads Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency during Ireland's extensive programmes of motorway and light rail building between 2001 and 2016.

The project, a collaboration between TII, the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) and the Discovery Programme, makes it possible for anyone to explore Ireland’s archaeological heritage from every time period and region, with sites ranging from the Bronze Age village of Ballybrowney in Co Cork to a Tudor burial discovered outside Trinity College, Dublin, during excavations for the Luas Cross City.

Hundreds of sites

In the course of building the national roads network and the light rail system, TII excavated hundreds of archaeological sites.


“These collections represent the endeavour of numerous archaeologists and site directors, who painstakingly excavated these sites,” said Rónán Swan, head of archaeology and heritage at TII. “For TII, making this information accessible and available for the long term through the DRI is entirely consistent with our stated objectives.”

The DRI curates, preserves and provides access to a broad range of Ireland's humanities and social sciences data. Its director, Dr Natalie Harrower, said the project was the result of a collaboration between parties with complementary areas of expertise.

“The collections provide an amazing corpus for researchers and general-interest browsing, but also, importantly, TII and the Discovery Programme were committed to ensuring long-term preservation, enhanced discovery and widespread access from the very beginning,” she said.

Variety of platforms

While the data is held by the DRI, it can also be accessed through a variety of other national and international platforms, including (an initiative of the Heritage Council). Online users can browse via semantic search or interactive maps to find what they’re looking for.

Anthony Corns, technology manager at the Discovery Programme, whose mission is to explore Ireland's past and its cultural heritage, said the new initiative was an important step not just in preserving information for researchers, but also opening up access to wider audiences. "Significantly, this means access for local communities across the country to information that relates deeply to their surrounding environment and heritage," he said.

The data can be accessed through, and

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast