Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Medieval weir 'will be washed away'

Scientists have warned that the remains of a medieval weir could be washed away

One of the finest examples of a medieval fish trap in Europe is going to be washed away before its secrets can be recorded, scientists have claimed.

A 700-year-old giant wooden weir, once used by monks and to keep local lords in Co Clare trading, cannot be fully preserved because it is exposed to the forces of nature.

And with budget cuts hitting the Heritage Council there is no money to properly analyse and record the huge structure.

The ancient fishing spot - described by experts as a harvesting machine - had been buried for centuries and now sits 1.5km (0.93 miles) from land in the Fergus Estuary on shifting mud banks and water channels.

Dr Aidan O'Sullivan, School of Archaeology at University College Dublin, said he had hoped to work with locals to analyse the site before it is washed away.

"There's nothing like it anywhere. In terms of preservation it's spectacular - it's almost as though a medieval fisherman had walked off a few days beforehand," he said.

"There's nothing you can do to preserve it. The entire complex will be wiped out in five to 10 years' time. It's like a window in time. They are totally exposed to the forces of nature on the mudflats, after being buried for centuries beneath the mud."

Scientists and archaeologists have severely restricted time frames to get out and record the 800m (2,625ft) fish catching structure with traps every 30m (98.4ft). It can only be accessed by boat for a few short weeks in the summer when the tide is extremely low.

The 1.2m (4ft) high fish weir is made from long wooden posts interwoven with wattle to a V-shape fence close to the low water mark.

Along the structure archaeologists have found ropes with knots holding it together and woven baskets which the fish were caught in. The first fences were built in the 13th century.

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