Welcome to our brand new blog series ‘Meet The Contributor’, where we interview editors and contributors of the brilliant publications we host on the Exact Editions platform.
Our very first instalment is with archaeologist Dr Sharon Greene, Editor of Archaeology Ireland. Published every quarter since 1987, the magazine is a key reference guide for students, visitors from abroad, those in the field, and all archaeology fans with an interest in Ireland’s archaeological wonders.
Sharon took up the post of Editor in 2018, succeeding Tom Condit (1998–2017) and Gabriel Cooney (1987–1997). After graduating from University College Dublin (UCD) with a degree in Celtic Studies and a Master’s in Archaeology, she worked on various commercial projects (including Carrickmines Castle) and held a number of research roles in the UCD School of Archaeology, where she also worked on the Françoise Henry Photographic Archive and as a tutor and occasional lecturer.
Since being awarded a Ph.D, Sharon has been based in County Kildare, where her research has included the early medieval ecclesiastical site of Killeen Cormac and the medieval walled town of Castledermot.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Sharon!
1) What inspired you to get into writing as a career?
While I don’t consider myself a writer as such, writing is a big part of the work I do both with Archaeology Ireland and my work in public archaeology and research generally. I’ve been an avid reader all my life and always loved language. Words have always fascinated me — their sounds, meanings and origins.
2) What took you down the path of archaeology in the first place?
I think it was a combination of growing up on a farm in a family that valued its history and being innately curious about things, as in objects. Everything around me had a story attached to it, from the names of the fields and sheds (a tobacco shed in Kildare? Why?) to old equipment and tools and stories of how they were used. That fascination with the connection between objects and the people who made and used them has always been there for me.
I didn’t really learn what archaeology was until I was a teenager and it was suggested by a guidance councillor. I went to a field school in the west of Ireland and after a week of standing on a drizzly, boggy mountainside measuring stone walls, I never looked back. I became a subscriber to Archaeology Ireland around the same time — back then it was almost the only source of information for the general public on Irish archaeology.
3) What do you find to be the most challenging part of editing a magazine issue?
Often, it’s not knowing what we are going to have for the next issue. With a couple of exceptions, the magazine relies almost totally on voluntary submissions. We tend not to commission features and yet they always arrive — from academics, commercial archaeologists, independent researchers, amateur researchers, students, community groups and field schools. They can trust that if an article is accepted it will be well-presented and will reach an equally varied audience. That said, the anxiety is always there that maybe there won’t be enough material for the next one. If I bump into you over coffee at a conference I am very likely to suggest that your presentation would make a nice Archaeology Ireland article (‘Just saying…’)! Thankfully, Archaeology Ireland holds a special place in Irish archaeology and the suggestion is rarely met with negativity.
4) Is there a particular issue you are most proud of?
That’s a difficult questions to answer — like choosing a favourite child! The issues I am most proud of are the ones that cover a broad variety of topics and eras — I aim to have something for everyone and am always conscious of the varied readership we have. I think it is important to be able to make research accessible to the more general audience in particular. I love when we have an article about something that has featured in mainstream media, such as on the news, allowing the public to learn and understand a bit more about what was found. With an eye to those who work in and are students of archaeology, I think it is important that we cover current issues and topics of debate, such as the recent discussions around what ancient DNA can tell us about prehistoric populations, and keep everyone updated on things like legislative changes and other developments. I also enjoy kite-flying. We occasionally get an article trying out a new theory or looking at something from a slightly novel angle.
As far as my contribution goes, I am quite proud of our ‘Museum Piece’ series which I initiated to promote the many Irish museums through showcasing a single item from their collections. But to be honest I’m proud of every issue we get out there.
5) What’s the best part of working at Archaeology Ireland?
The people. First of all, the team at Archaeology Ireland and Wordwell are fantastic. I was lucky enough to join an experienced and passionate team who all value the core goals of the magazine and each of whom brings a particular set of skills and excellence to the process.
Secondly, I cannot overstate how important all our contributors and readers are to the magazine and me personally.
Over the last five years I have got to know and reconnect with so many members of the archaeological community in Ireland and overseas and I am constantly inspired by everyone’s passion, ideas and hard work.
6) Is there anything coming up that Archaeology Ireland readers would like to know about?
Hopefully our readers are always looking forward to the next issue! In particular though, they can look forward to the 100th Archaeology Ireland Heritage Guide in Spring 2023. This series (which goes to subscribers for free!) is now a huge collection of attractive and informative guide to sites all around Ireland.
Before that, of course, is the National Monuments Service’s annual one day conference, organised by Archaeology Ireland. This year’s conference, which takes place both ‘in person’ in Dublin Castle and online on October 2nd is called ‘Boyne & Beyond’ and recognises the many contributions of the late Professor George Eogan to the archaeology of the Boyne Valley and Irish prehistory in general. For more information and booking, click here.
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Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us Sharon! It’s inspiring to know how much hard work goes into each and every issue of Archaeology Ireland.
Digital subscriptions to Archaeology Ireland, which feature unlimited & fully-searchable access to the complete archive dating back to 1987, are available in the Exact Editions individual and institutional shops.