Achill Archaeological Field School

Location: Achill Island, Mayo, Ireland

Monday, May 19, 2014 to Friday, August 15, 2014

Session dates: 
May 19 - June 27; July 7 - August 15

Application Deadline: 
Monday, June 30, 2014
Saturday, August 2, 2014

Flyer: aafs_accredited_courses_2014.pdf

Discount for AIA members: 
Complimentary 1-Day Guided Tour of Achill and surrounding area

Program Type

Field school


National University of Ireland Galway

Project Director:

Stuart Rathbone, MA, Dr. Theresa McDonald, MIAI, Nick Brannon, MA,. Gerard Mangan, Dip. Arch. Dolores Kilbane

Project Description

Achill Archaeological Field School is located on Achill Island, County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. Establised in 1991 the Field School provides high quality tuition in excavation and surveying through our investigations of Achill Island's fantastic archaeological heritage. Our projects have so far examined three 19th century houses, a 19th century Manor House, a Late Medieval Tower House Castle, an Early Medieval Kiln complex, two Middle Bronze Age roundhouses and an extensive prehistoric field system. In 2014 Achill Archaeological Field School is begining a multi-phase project to examine one of the most intriguing sites on the island, the 'Cromlech Tumulus' , an unclassifed megalithic tomb in Keel East Townland.

The 'Cromlech Tumulus' consists of a large east - west aligned long mound with a circular building at one end and a rectangular chamber or gallery at the other. A small circular structure is located immediately south of the long mound and further structures appear to be concealed by the deep peat deposits to the north. A large pre-bog field wall is connected to the eastern side of the long mound and runs away to the east for 130 meters before connecting to a well preserved Neolithic Court Tomb. The site has been examined by numerous well known archaeologists since it was first visited by the Antiquarian, W.G. Wood Martin,  in the 1880's and no one has so far been able to ascertain its exact nature. Some researchers have identified the site as a Neolithic Burial monument, whilst others have thought it might be  a series of huts, or a house with ancillary buildings. Over the next three years Achill Archaeological Field School will inestigate this site with the aim of finally resolving this enduring mystery.

Our 2-week, 4-week and 6-week modular courses come with academic credit (3, 6 and 9 Semester hours), issued by the National University of Ireland, Galway. Highly structured tuition is combined with weekly lectures and practical assignments that lead the student through various aspects of survey and excavation methodology. Post-excavation data analysis utilises computer-based methods (including AutoCad 2014, Trimble Workflow and Photoshop CS6) providing students with practical instruction in the preparation, analysis and presentation of digital data generated during the archaeological excavations and surveying exercises. Each week students are taken on a field trip to explore other aspects of the archaeological heritage of Achill Island and an accompanying lecture provides students with a detailed understanding of the chronology of Irish Archaeology, placing the local sites and monuments into the regional and national contexts. 

Achill Archaeological Field School courses are open to all archaeology or anthropology students looking for a unforgetable summer!

More details about the site are available here;




Period(s) of Occupation: Neolithic and Bronze Age

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 2 Weeks

Minimum age: 
17 years

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Superior self-catering (sharing) accommodation in a modern, fully-equipped house with everything supplied except food.
Located in Dooagh Village beside the Archaeology Centre

€1895 for 2 weeks/€3750 for 4 weeks/€4750 for 6 weeks

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
National University of Ireland Galway
Number of credits offered 3/6/9 Semester hours for 2/4/6 week course
Stuart Rathbone, Director of Fieldwork


Contact Information
Theresa McDonald
Archaeology Centre
Achill Island
County Mayo
+353 98 43564
+353 98 43595
Recommended Bibliography: 

Piggott, S & Powell, T.G.E. 1947. Notes on the Megalithic Tombs of Sligo and Achill
De Valera R. & O Nualain,S. 1950. The Megalithic Tombs on the Island of Achill
Waddell, John, The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland, 2000.
Cooney, G. & Grogan, E. Irish Prehistory: A Social Perspective. 
McDonald, Theresa, Achill Island: Archaeology, History and Folklore 2006.