Excerpts from an INTERVIEW WITH GRETTA BYRNE, Archaeologist.
Q: WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS ON FIRST COMING TO CÉIDE FIELDS?
“Many years ago when I was a student, I took the train from Dublin and travelled across to the west of Mayo. I had brought my bicycle on the train and I cycled out from the station at Ballina along the coast road towards Belderrig. After many miles, I came to the area where I expected Céide Fields to be. There was certainly a fabulous view over the Atlantic and a rocky coastline – but there were no fields to be seen. The thought crossed my mind that I could be lost.”
Q: WERE YOU CONCERNED AT THIS POINT?
“There was nobody to ask directions from (and I had seen very few cars during the journey), so I just carried on cycling to the nearest village, Belderrig. I needn’t have worried though because there I met the rest of the team who were to be involved in the excavation at Céide.”
Q: DURING THE INITIAL STAGES OF EXCAVATION, DID YOU FIND ANY ARTIFACTS?
“After two weeks, we discovered flints. This was very exciting – kneeling down and holding an arrowhead or knife. I really felt a connection with that person who had last held it in their hand thousands of years ago! We went on to find a great number of these.”
Q: DID YOU GAIN ANY INSIGHTS INTO WHAT THESE ANCIENT PEOPLE WERE LIKE?
“I remember us finding three stone chambers or rooms and at the end of that day, after everyone had gone, I stayed back to make a drawing of the stone wall construction before I left the site. Then I noticed a little stone in between all the bigger ones that made up the wall. On looking closer, I could see that it was a perfect match for that space. I realised then that someone had gone to the time and trouble to find exactly the right stone to fill that gap – possibly from a pile of stones they were working from nearby. It gave me an insight into how meticulous that person was nearly six thousand years ago.”
Q: WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO BECOME AN ARCHAEOLOGIST?
“My background was initially in history and geography at college. But before this, back at school, I remember our teacher telling us about “dolmens”. I used to think how did my teacher know what a dolmen was – and that an ancient king was buried there? These thoughts spurred me on to be more knowledgeable on the subject myself.”
Q: WHAT’S IT LIKE NOW, WORKING HERE EVERY DAY AT CÉIDE FIELDS?
“Although there is still much work cataloguing and researching artifacts during my daily routine of running of the Visitor Centre, there is also a certain magic here – in addition to the scenic coastline – that you can actually feel! After many years here at Belderrig and Céide Fields, I regularly see skies, cloud formations and colours which defy belief and seem almost unreal at times. This, coupled with the priviledge of working with a great team here, is further enhanced by the great rapport we have always had with the people of Belderrig”
Gretta Byrne (Archaeologist and Manager of the Céide Fields Visitor Centre)