The CHERISH Project is delighted to announce that The CHERISH Project: Climate Change and Coastal Heritage exhibition will be on display in Waterford Central Library and Europe Direct Information Centre from 14 -31 March. Dr Edward Pollard will present an online lunchtime lecture on Tuesday 22nd March.

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CHERISH is a team of archaeologists, geologists and geographers studying the effects of climate change on coastal and maritime heritage in Ireland and Wales.

From the skies, at the coast edge, and beneath the waves we are using the latest technologies including planes, drones and sonar to carry out research. We are monitoring recent and long-term change to reveal the past and present impacts of weather and climate on our rich cultural heritage. Our work involves investigating archaeological sites and environments around our coasts including shipwrecks, promontory forts, wetlands and sand dunes.

The twenty-nine promontory forts on Waterford’s Copper Coast have been a focus of CHERISH Project research. Since 2017, this has included aerial survey, geophysics, and drone mapping. These sites are under threat of coastal erosion, with archaeological deposits and structures visibly deteriorating along the edge of the headlands. The remains are difficult to access as they are located on the edge of cliffs. In June 2021 a team of CHERISH Archaeologists carried out archaeological survey and excavation-recording at Ballynarrid near Bunmahon and Woodstown near Annestown Promontory Forts. The excavation team used specialist rope access techniques to access the archaeological features in the eroding cliff face.

They followed this with coring of the banks and ditches in September to find samples for dating. Artefacts, which will help to date human activity at these promontory forts were uncovered during this work, including a possible sling shot. Similar objects have been found during excavations at promontory forts in Wales, emphasising the benefits of this projects which brings together expertise from the two jurisdictions.

Project archaeologist Dr Edward Pollard said: “These are sites that are being lost. They aren’t being buried or hidden from view, they are being eroded away and destroyed. Through the CHERISH project we are gathering as much information about the sites now so that we can understand who built them, when and how they used them.” This information is key to understanding the relationship of these sites to the wider historic and modern landscape of the Copper Coast, and to understand how they are impacted by climate change.
In light of the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, outlining the irrefutable evidence that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying, this is a timely exhibition. It aims to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on the rich cultural heritage of Ireland’s coasts and seas. These impacts include erosion and loss of coastal sites due to wave actions during storms and the acceleration of structural damage to built heritage such as churches and castles through extreme weather events. Hotter, drier summers can produce cropmarks that allow the discovery of new archaeological sites. However, hotter conditions can also lead to the drying out of cliff faces increasing the risk of destabilisation and collapse affecting coastal heritage sites.