The Discovery Programme was set up originally in 1991 on the personal initiative of the then Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Charles J. Haughey, and was funded in its initial phases directly by the government. Now, as an independent body, it is mainly funded by an annual core grant from the Heritage Council (a statutory body that receives it funding directly from the Irish government).

The Discovery Programme is a public institution set up to pursue advanced research in Irish archaeology. The organization has two other associated functions:

1.  to communicate the results of its work to the general public as well as to the academic community

2.  to promote the introduction of new technologies and new techniques into the operation of the wider Irish archaeological community.

The Discovery Programme pursues these goals by identifying ‘gaps’ in our knowledge or areas where intense research is required or would be valuable. A dedicated project team is then employed for a suitable period to pursue the topic in question. It is also required to communicate the results of its projects to the scientific community and to the general public. This task is achieved mainly through the publication of its scientific books and papers but also through a variety of outreach publications and lectures, and also by organising community events.

The Discovery Programme sets up long term investigative research projects designed to answer relevant and changing questions that arise from time to time in Irish archaeology. Those questions are identified and agreed by our governing bodies – the Council and Directorate (Board of Directors). The membership of those bodies is made up of leading Irish archaeologists from the whole of Ireland (north and south). They are from the principal museums, the universities that teach archaeology, the monuments and archaeology sections of government departments, various learned and representative bodies, the private archaeological sector and international experts.

Over the past 20 years the Discovery Programme has developed a wide range of experience and knowledge in the application of new technology in the digital documentation and modelling of archaeological and cultural heritage objects. Techniques employed by the Discovery Programme as part of their integrated research projects includes:

  • Terrestrial Laser Scanning of monuments and archaeological objects
  • Close range scanning and photogrammetry of artefacts, architectural details and prehistoric artwork
  • Photogrammetric recording of monuments and archaeological landscapes
  • Use of very high resolution Airbourne LiDAR in the recording of monuments
  • Modelling of high volume 3d datasets
  • Visualisation of 3d cultural heritage datasets
  • Development of services for the archiving, sharing and reuse of cultural heritage data


Website: Discovery Programme