Ireland, Colonialism, Race, Britain, Bioarchaeology
The colonial experience has been a dominant factor in the production of culture in Ireland, including narratives of the past. In the context of 19th century British imperialism, physical anthropology and archaeology were just two of a number of scientific discourses recruited to rationalise and justify colonialist policies. Legitimation was in part provided by racialized and sectarian conceptualisations of local populations in both past and present. After the partition of the island in the early 20th century, racialized notions of the Irish population were embraced by both nationalist movements (green and orange) on the island. Changes came with the impact of processual archaeology and the appearance of bioarchaeology in the early 1980s, the latter directly influenced by the North American tradition. The last two decades have seen considerable achievements in bioarchaeology in Ireland. The profile of the discipline has been raised and despite the impact of the recent economic downturn, the number of archaeologists gaining the necessary specialist skills has finally reached critical mass. The focus in Irish bioarchaeology is now on synthetic and thematic projects and a number of initiatives are currently underway which will go some way towards furthering understanding of the past populations of Ireland.