Archaeology & Development

Archaeology Zones

Archaeology in its various forms ranging from fragmentary buried remains to the fabric and contents of industrial buildings is a vital component of the culture, conservation and redevelopment of the city.

Cork City’s archaeological heritage is protected under the National Monuments Acts (1930-2004), Natural Cultural Institutions Act 1997 and the Planning Acts. The National Monuments Service has mapped the locations of recorded monuments nationwide in the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP). The RMP is an inventory of sites and areas of archaeological significance which are numbered and mapped. A Zone of Archaeological Notification (formerly known as Zone of Archaeological Potential) is shown around each monument.

The Zone of Archaeological Notification (CO074-034--001) for the city centre includes the medieval historic core. There are 54 RMP sites located within this Zone and these include the site of the original monastery of Saint Finbarre and the medieval walled defences. In the medieval historic core archaeological remains lie within a metre of the modern surface, particularly in the North and South Main Street area and these strata can be present to a depth of 3 to 4m in places. The city wall also survives beneath the modern street surface and in some places is present less than 0.3m below the present ground surface to a depth of 2.5m. Outside the historic core, the Zone of Archaeological Notification covers the un-walled medieval suburbs, known sites of medieval religious houses (Red Abbey), and parts of the city which were developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when marshes were reclaimed and new streets laid out.

In addition, there are 59 RMP sites located outside the Zone of Archaeological Notification for the city.

Industrial Archaeology

Cork’s development as a significant industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries has created an important record of historic archaeological remains still surviving in the contemporary city. Today many of the buildings that housed the industries and the associated warehouses, grain-stores, malt-houses, etc. still survive. Associated features, such as millraces, are particularly vulnerable as they may extend for considerable distances from the core building. Intact machinery and fittings rarely survive but structural elements designed to accommodate machinery can be extremely informative.

Burial Grounds

Outside of the medieval city, numerous sites, especially church sites and burial grounds, are of important archaeological significance. In particular many old burial grounds covered areas greater than their contemporary enclosures, consequently human burials occur beneath some of the streets and houses of the city. In these areas, new buildings may not be appropriate, or may require extensive archaeological excavations in order to obtain maximum archaeological information from the site.

Archaeology and Planning

Cork City Council appointed an archaeologist in 1991 and since then the city has benefited from strong archaeological policies and objectives. Cork City Council recognises the archaeological assets of the city and the protection of this heritage is facilitated in the current City Development Plan 2015-2021.

A variety of different types of development may affect archaeological remains – these include new buildings, modifications and extensions to existing buildings, the construction of carparks, road surfaces and the installation of services. In the interests of sustainability all avoidable impacts on the buried archaeological environment is encouraged in accordance with national policy.

Developers are encouraged to contact the City Archaeologist to find out if there may be any archaeological implications/requirements within their proposed development site. This is especially necessary in sites which are located within the medieval city.

See below for more information.

Developers are encouraged to supply an archaeological assessment and method statement outlining construction procedures. An archaeological assessment should be carried out by a suitably qualified archaeologist. The cost of all archaeological work (including post-excavation analysis) necessitated by a proposed development are to be met by the developer. It is therefore in the developer’s best interest to assess and quantify the archaeological implications of a proposed development at the earliest stages in the planning process.

Preservation in situ and preservation by record are the two approaches applied in the protection of the archaeological heritage.

Preservation in-situ refers to the actual physical preservation of archaeological sites and monuments (which include archaeological deposits, features and structures). Developments that do not compromise the in-situ record of the past are encouraged.

Where archaeological sites are to be removed due to development then preservation by record(archaeological excavation) is essential. In the absence of standing buildings from the earlier periods of Cork’s existence our buried archaeological remains take on increased significance. Most of these remains are fragile and vulnerable in the face of current construction methods. All appropriate archaeological excavation should be undertaken to the highest possible standard and where possible the information should be made publicly available.