Mr Noel Treacy TD, Minister for Science, Technology and Commerce officially opened the Belderrig Research and Study Centre, on Friday 21st July, 2000. Click here for details of Mr Treacy's speech on the occasion.
The environmental Research and Study Centre in Belderrig was established to provide a base for new research programmes and particularly for the already established programmes into the early farming remains which lie preserved under the boglands of North Mayo.
Since 1970 Archaeology students, mainly from University College Dublin, under the direction of Professor Seamus Caulfield, and Science students from NUI Maynooth, under the direction of Professor Martin Downes, have been based in Belderrig during the summer months and have been involved in identifying and surveying the early farms sealed beneath the bog.
The main result of this Belderrig based research has been the identification and survey of Ceide Fields, the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world and the most ancient field system known in Europe. The fields which extend to over five square miles and date to before 3000BC provide clear evidence of a highly organised settled rural society based on cattle farming.
A feature of the Belderrig-based research over the years has been the collaboration between archaeologists studying the human past which lies preserved under the bog and scientists studying the natural sciences of why and when the same bog should have started to grow.
The Belderrig Research Centre is therefore a facility which inherited a thirty-year tradition of collaborative research on the day it opened. Long before the formal research began in 1970, it was in Belderrig that the pre-bog walls of North Mayo were first brought to the attention of archaeologists by the local schoolteacher, the late Patrick Caulfield.
The Research and Study Centre allows for research into a wide range of science subjects relevant to the human past. Boglands, both ancient and modern, changes in vegetation preserved in the pollen record in the bog, major climatic changes as seen in the periods when new forests began to grow on the surface of the bog and after a few centuries failed, volcanic dust from the volcanoes of Iceland are all relevant to the study of the human past over the last six thousand years.
While it has been known for many years that the North Mayo boglands are in effect an open-air laboratory with a unique natural and human history archive preserved within them, the facility to study this material in a dedicated Centre was a phenomenal achievement in a rural area like Belderrig.
The Belderrig Centre is not just about research into the past. Study of the record of climate change over the last fifty centuries is very relevant to studies of current changes in today's climate and to forecasts of major changes in climate for the next fifty years.
In addition to the opportunities for research the Belderrig facility is also a base for study courses in science, arts and culture particularly within the broad scope of people, landscape and environment.
The Centre caters for undergraduate, extra-mural and students from abroad and provides large, fully equipped archaeological laboratories. There is space for equipment to be stored, as well as catering and other facilities to assist in the many aspects of running a field project.