Sunday, 30 August 2015

Introducing the Irish Wood Anatomists Association

Who we are

The Irish Wood Anatomists Association (IWAA) was established in 2007 to exchange information between wood specialists working in the archaeological sector. This group acts as a forum for discussing results and encouraging collaboration. Initially it comprised of individuals who identified and analysed wood through the different anatomical characteristics of each tree species. The IWAA then encouraged other people to join who worked in comparable specialist fields using wood as the main paradigm for woodlands reconstruction, wider environmental impact and woodworking evidence. Consequently the wood group now includes wood anatomists, woodworking specialists, pollen analysts and insect specialists. The group merged with the IADG in 2014 
Left: Oak tree (Quercus sp.); Right: Microstructural characteristics of oak

What we do

Similar to the archaeobotanical group our aims are many and varied. We promote high standards of methodological reporting and cataloguing of wood proxies. As we often work alone, we share problematic identifications, so collaboration and discussions between each other is essential. Commenting on documents, such as the Bord na Móna on-site sampling procedures for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, ensures we have input into the day-to-day methodological approaches on excavations. We have also been in discussion with the National Museum of Ireland on the viability and justification of the long-term storage of wood remains as well as insects from archaeological samples.

Middle and Late Bronze Age toolmarks; note the wider axe in the Middle Bronze Age (right)
The IWAA collaborated with the Discovery Programme in securing funding from the INSTAR scheme for ‘WODAN’ ( WODAN is a centralised database that incorporates wood and charcoal identifications from Ireland (including worked wood) and thus forms a digital archive. This archive can be assessed by researchers, private sector and public sector individuals interested in Ireland’s past woodlands.

The IWAA along with IADG ran two Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses for the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (IAI) Archaeological in 2010 & 2011 on Archaeobotanical samples – how, where, what and when to sample on a range of archaeological sites.

Along with the IADG we continue to improve our professional qualifications and research endeavours by attending and co-organising sessions at many conferences as well as publishing and lecturing on new techniques and research areas. For example, a recent collaboration between members on the interrelationship between woodland history and urban life in Viking Age Ireland will be published in 2015. The group has been active in promoting research on Irish woodlands in various conferences, such as the International Meetings of Charcoal Analysis and the European Association of Archaeologists.

How can you find out more about our work?  

We will be updating this blog regularly, and profiles of most of the group members can be found on

About the authors

This article was written by Dr Ellen OCarroll and Dr Lorna O'Donnell, who are wood specialists and founder members of the IWAA.

1 comment:

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