Galway Archaeological Field School

Location: Galway, Ireland

June 1, 2015 to August 21, 2015

Session dates: 
Session 1 (June 1st - 12th) Session 2 (June 15th - July 10th) Session 3 (July 13th - August 7th) Session 4 (August 10th - 21st)

Flyer: 2015_poster_galway_archaeological_field_school.pdf

Program Type

Field school


National University of Ireland, Galway

Project Director:

Dr. Rory Sherlock

Project Description

The Galway Archaeological Field School has been established to provide students with hands-on experience of the archaeology and architecture of medieval Ireland. We specialise in this field and seek to immerse our students in the wealth of medieval castles, churches and monasteries which lie scattered across the Irish landscape. We offer three courses: a two-week non-excavation course focussed on the study of medieval architecture and two four-week excavation courses, one serving as an introduction to archaeological excavation and one offering experienced students further tuition in the various recording techniques used in archaeological excavation. We are primarily an educational institution and so we design our courses and select our survey and excavation sites with one important thing in mind - the provision of first-class training opportunities for our students.

The field school is based in Co Galway and draws on a wealth of archaeological remains which are found across the landscape of this historic region. The two-week architecture course involves regular travel to visit many of the famous castles, churches and monasteries of medieval Ireland, and field trips are also included in the excavation courses in order to broaden the students experience of Irish landscapes and monuments. The ethos of the field school is firmly founded on high quality, small-group tuition and we aim to give every student close attention so that they may fully understand the skills they learn and thereby enjoy their course to the fullest degree possible. Students who wish to extend their stay in Ireland could, for example, combine the two-week architecture course with the four-week excavation course (e.g. Sessions 1 + 2 or Sessions 3 + 4) to create an unforgettable six-week stay which would immerse them fully in Irish culture, history and heritage, while students focussed on excavation could combine Sessions 2 & 3 in order to take both the introductory and advanced excavation courses in one eight-week, intensive stay.

Our 2015 excavation will take place at Isert Kelly Castle (main photo), a superb 15th-century tower house in south Galway. This research project will investigate the bawn or courtyard around the tower house in an effort to reveal evidence of ancillary structures such as a medieval hall, stables, byres, kitchens and storage buildings. Such evidence will shed light on social and economic activity at this important late medieval castle and so will contribute to our understanding of how towers houses functioned as settlement nuclei in the Irish landscape in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Our course fees include tuition, accommodation (on a self-catering basis), access fees to historic sites and local transportation, so that additional expenses for our students are limited to transport to and from Galway and food for the duration of their stay.

Programme Details 2015

Session 1: June 1st - 12th (2 weeks - 3 Semester Credits / 6 ECTS credits)
       Castles, Cloisters and Churches: The Architecture of Medieval Ireland

Session 2: June 15th - July 10th (4 weeks - 6 Semester Credits / 12 ECTS credits)
       Choose either Introduction to Archaeological Excavation or
       Recording Methods in Archaeological Survey and Excavation

Session 3: July 13th - August 7th (4 weeks - 6 Semester Credits / 12 ECTS credits)
       Choose either Introduction to Archaeological Excavation or
       Recording Methods in Archaeological Survey and Excavation

Session 4: August 10th - 21st (2 weeks - 3 Semester Credits / 6 ECTS credits)
       Castles, Cloisters and Churches: The Architecture of Medieval Ireland

Period(s) of Occupation: Medieval

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Two weeks

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Our course fees include tuition, local transportation and self-catering accommodation. Students are accommodated in superb modern, comfortable accommodation with good kitchen facilities, but must purchase and prepare their own food. Students attending Session 2, 3 and 4 will be accommodated in Gort na Coiribe, a high-quality student accommodation complex in Galway City where every student will have their own room and every apartment has free Wifi, TV and a weekly cleaning service!

€735 - €825 per week

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
National University of Ireland, Galway
Number of credits offered Two-week courses come with 3 semester credits; four-week courses come with 6 semester credits; two-week and four-week courses can be combined to create a six-week, 9-credit package
Small-group teaching directed by Dr Rory Sherlock. This includes on-site supervision and instruction, field trips and lectures.


Contact Information
Dr Rory Sherlock
Co Galway
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Recommended Bibliography: 

BARKER, P. 1993. Techniques of Archaeological Excavation. 3rd edition. London, Batsford.

BARRY, T. B. 1987. The archaeology of medieval Ireland, London, Methuen & Co.

EDWARDS, N. 1990. The archaeology of early medieval Ireland, London.

HARBISON, P. 1992. Guide to National and Historic Monuments of Ireland, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan.

LEASK, H. G. 1951. Irish Castles and Castellated Houses, Dundalk, Dundalgan Press.

LEASK, H. G. 1955-60. Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings (3 vols.), Dundalk, Dundalgan Press.

MCNEILL, T. 1997. Castles in Ireland: Feudal Power in a Gaelic World, London & New York, Routledge.

Ó Carragáin, T. 2010. Churches in early medieval Ireland: architecture, ritual and memory. New Haven and London, Yale University Press.

ROSKAMS, S. 2001 Excavation. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

SWEETMAN, D. 1999. Medieval Castles of Ireland, Cork, Collins Press.