The first episode of Secrets of the Stones: Decoding Ireland's Lost Past was broadcast on Easter Monday and seems to be another in a line of very welcome heritage/archaeological oriented mini-series being produced by RTE (another recent one being Blood of the Irish).
The programme was impressively produced with none of the usual celtic mysticism, new-age spiritualism or shoddy camerawork associated with archaeology-related programmes on RTE. The graphics, camerawork and general quality of the show's production was on a par with what you might expect from a BBC show and probably better than most Discovery Channel/History Channel fare.
In terms of the archaeological quality of the content it was patchy to say the least. An uninformed viewer might easily believe that Ireland's first inhabitants built passage tombs and went to parish church every Sunday and the lack of a Mesolithic reminds us of an archaeological perspective that should have dissappeared in the seventies. The rolling out of Mike Baillies comet hypothesis is understandable in the light of its obvious entertainment value but perhaps a little more of a balanced view could have been given.
There are plenty of other quibbles any archaeologist could have with the programmes content but I for one salute it as a key element in getting archaeology to the public. Despite its flaws it was interesting enough to keep a number of non-archaeological friends of mine watching for longer than five minutes and anything that gets the general public interested is, in my view, a very very good thing.
Episode 2 of Secrets of the Stones, which will look at the arrival of Christianity, will air on Monday 4th May at 6.30pm on RTE One. Click here to download a pdf leaflet about the programme.