The Tara Research Project was established as a flagship initiative of The Discovery Programme in 1992, and entered its third phase in December 2015. Since its inception, the project has embraced a wide range of disciplines and technologies – from archaeology, history and literature to geophysical prospection, airborne laser survey and photogrammetry – to advance our understanding of the complex, multi-layered landscape of Tara. The current phase of the project has two key strands: to analyse and publish the results of large-scale geophysical and remote sensing surveys conducted at Tara and in its environs over the past 15 years; and to explore developments in the wider Tara landscape through targeted investigations at other prominent sites in the region.
Collaboration and the application of innovative technologies continue to play a central role in advancing the core objectives of the project. Building on The Discovery Programme’s ongoing collaboration with NUI Galway – which provided the foundation for a series of large-scale geophysical surveys at Tara from 2002–2010 – the establishment of a research partnership with the Römisch-Germanische Kommission (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut) has brought a welcome expansion of the project team as well as increased surveying capabilities, using the latest multichannel magnetometer systems. This paved the way for a new campaign of geophysical investigations at Tara in 2014, and at a range of other sites in June 2016, including the nearby Hill of Skreen and Riverstown linear earthwork.
Further geophysical survey and archaeological coring were also undertaken at Faughan Hill (c. 15km northwest of Tara), the legendary burial place of Niall of the Nine Hostages, following the discovery of a major archaeological complex at the site in 2013 as part of investigations initiated by the Late Iron Age and ‘Roman’ Ireland (LIARI) Project. Key features of the complex include two concentric, multi-ditched hilltop enclosures (c. 400m and 270m in diameter), as well as a range of burial sites and smaller enclosures. As a prehistoric centre of potential regional significance, Faughan Hill has emerged as a key research focus within the Tara Project. Test excavations will be undertaken at the site by The Discovery Programme in autumn 2017, with grant support from the Royal Irish Academy and Meath County Council.