Forget Me Not: Charles Orser’s Unearthing of Hidden Ireland

Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) Conference 2019
Katherine L. Hull

In 1994, Charles Orser began a multi-year excavation program in County Roscommon, Ireland, that would help to legitimize the nascent field of post-medieval (modern-world) archaeology in the country. In a place rich with passage tombs and golden hordes, a focus on post-1700 deposits was unusual enough, but to have an archaeologist interested in the poorest people during one of the most horrendous periods in modern Irish history—the Great Irish Famine—was unique and perplexing. After 15 years of excavation and survey, the fruits of Orser’s dedication to the study of the poor in 18th and 19th century Ireland include a greater understanding of the material and socioeconomic world of the middling and lower Irish classes (the intersection of his Four Haunts), the illumination of largely-forgotten local pottery production, and the continued legitimization of the study of “those of little note” outside of North America.