Statement from Retired Professor Seamas Caulfield. 7 February, 2017.
On Saturday 4th February, Dr. Stefan Bergh and I amicably resolved all recent differences between us and I want to record my sincere thanks to him for bringing this about. I look forward to welcoming him and his M.A. students for the annual two day mobile seminar in Belderrig Valley, Céide Fields and Downpatrick Head on 17/18 February.
What is now a totally unrelated issue: Dr. Andrew Whitefield’s claim to have disproven the Neolithic date of Céide Fields and numerous other locations in North Mayo will be dealt with under the title ‘Whitefield’s claim of a Bronze Age construction date for Céide Fields’.
Whitefield’s claim of a Bronze Age construction date for Céide Fields.
Dr. Whitefield’s dating of the construction of Céide Fields to the later Bronze Age and his interpretation of the walls as clearance cairns depends entirely on the analysis of the pollen and the interpretation of the archaeological remains by his palaeobotanist colleagues Dr. Karen Molloy and Professor Emeritus Michael O’Connell. The sole date for the construction of the walls in the later Bronze Age depends on pollen dating. As Molloy and O’Connell rightly point out in today’s Irish Times, pollen analysis is probably the most robust discipline available to provide insights into the changing environment of early farmers and other communities and in many cases can provide direct evidence of actual farming activity. At one time it was thought that the rate of change in pollen rain could be measured in actual time and that pollen analysis could therefore be used as a means of measuring actual time. Since the advent of Radiocarbon dating , pollen analysis has been discredited as a means of dating and certainly not to a ‘century or so’. My facts are absolutely correct on this and it does not include any question of ‘judgement’.
‘The amount of organic matter present in the mineral soil at CFIII was considered to be insufficient to give a reliable date. On the basis of the pollen content, wall construction probably took place not more than a century or so before peat began accumulating locally’(Molloy and O’Connell 1995, 213).
‘Though the pollen in the mineral soil beneath the wall is rather poorly preserved, it does suggest that hazel scrub dominated in the vicinity of the sampling site. The dates from the basal peat in the nearby profile CF Ib suggest that wall construction took place at c. 2900 B.P.,i.e. in the later Bronze Age. This is based on similarity of the pollen spectra from the mineral soils beneath the wall and the peat (p.221).
In view of the significance Dr. Whitefield now erroneously attaches to this one minor location, I am calling on the palaeobotanists to revisit their findings on this one location in Céide Fields.
Dr. Whitefield has made the added assertion that in his doctoral thesis he ‘has shown that no field system in Ireland has been reliably dated to the Neolithic’ but he has insisted on his right to impose an embargo on anyone seeing his thesis for a number of years. I am now calling on him to at least make available the chapter of his thesis (pp 180 to 204) where he makes the further assertion about my research in Belderrig and elsewhere.
If Dr. Whitefield insists on making his uncorroborated assertions while continuing to hide behind the shield of his embargo I am calling on the Library authorities in NUIG not to extend the embargo beyond the normal period.