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New £1.61m project will explore ‘earliest connections’ between Wales and Ireland

22 Feb 2022 4 minute read
David Hawgood / Hunter gatherer’s camp at Irish National Heritage Park / CC BY-SA 2.0

A new cross-border £1.61m project will explore the earliest pre-historical connections between Wales and Ireland.

The project named Portalis will map the story of the first human journey between Ireland and Wales dating back to the Mesolithic period.

This will be achieved by consolidating existing evidence with new data to develop a new cross-border narrative, told through a new visitor experience at Ceredigion Museum, Wales and Waterford Museum of Treasures, Ireland.

The Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, TD, said: “There are special and interlinked historic, cultural, academic and economic bonds linking communities in Ireland and Wales across the Irish Sea. This Sea is not a barrier but rather a shared space and a link between peoples.

“In developing this project to create a new narrative, I wish the Portalis Project every success and congratulate the partners on accessing funding from the 2014-2020 Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme.

“The approach of utilising traditional archaeological techniques in combination with digital technologies while closely involving local communities to highlight our shared natural and cultural heritage is to be commended and is well worthy of support.

“Like all other projects funded under this EU Programme it acts as a visible symbol of the ongoing close cooperation between Wales and the South East of Ireland.”

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Welsh Government, Dawn Bowden, said: “We welcome the development of projects that will strengthen our relationships with our closest European neighbour, and this project will provide a fascinating insight into exploring the earliest connections between Ireland and Wales.”


Supported by €1.5m from the European Regional Development Fund, through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme, the project will be led by Waterford Institute of Technology, supported by UWTSD, Ceredigion County Council, and Waterford Chamber of Commerce.

The Ireland Wales 2014-2020 European Territorial Co-operation (ETC) programme is a maritime programme connecting businesses and communities on the West coast of Wales with the South-East coast of Ireland.

The programme focuses on seeking solutions to shared challenges including adaption of the Irish Sea and coastal communities to climate change, and cultural and natural resources and heritage.

The 20-month pilot project commencing in February features a range of different techniques including drilled core sampling, excavation, lab analysis, citizen archaeology, visitor experience design with film and virtual reality, a new app with a 3D online exhibition.

Dr Jeremy Smith, Assistant Dean of the Institute of Education and Humanities at UWTSD said: “We are thrilled to be partners on Portalis. Our Archaeology department, based in Lampeter, conducts world-leading research and Portalis presents a valued opportunity to further strengthen this work as we collaborate with project partners to explore the earliest connections between Welsh and Irish coastal civilisations”.

Professor Martin Bates, Lead Academic on the project at UWTD said: “This is a wonderful opportunity, leading teams on both sides of the Irish Sea, to really get to grips with some of the landscapes of our early ancestors who came back to Wales at the end of the last Ice Age.

“At UWTSD we have been working on these stories for a number of years and the funding will allow us to get this story across to locals and visitors alike.”

They said that both Irish and Welsh communities are invited to join the Portalis team in discovering and protecting shared cultural and natural heritage, contribute to new research exploring the challenges of coastal climate change through Public Archaeology and Citizen Scientist Programmes.

In doing so they could help trace the footsteps of potentially the first journey and cultural connection between Wales and Ireland, they said.

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Iain Graham
Iain Graham
2 years ago

Great Cymru/ Wales should explore its shared history with all Celtic neighbors .

A new understanding of the past may help shape a new understanding of the future!

Spoken by An Aussie who is learning Welsh. Our Indigenous communities Down-Under are doing this. Self determination it is called ! Why accept The Victorian version of history.

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