Achill Archaeological Field School 2013

This listing expired on October 31, 2013. Please contact for any updated information.

Kildavnet Castle, where we hope to excavate in 2013!
Students on a field trip to Dun Kilmore fort on Achill Beg Island during Summer 2012One of the recently discovered small hut foundation
Spectacular views of Keem bay at the western end of Achill IslandThe foundations of Charles Boycott's first house on Achill as discovered by excavation in 2012

Location: Dooagh, Achill Island, Mayo, Ireland

Season Dates: April 15, 2013 - August 30, 2013
Session Dates: April 15 – May 3; May 13 – Jun 21; July 1 – August 9; August 12 – August 30
Application Deadline: May 3, 2013



Discount for AIA members: Free 1-day Guided Tour

Program Type
Field school

Affiliation: National University Ireland Galway

Project Director: Theresa McDonald MA MIAI and Dr Rory Sherlock MIAI

Project Description


The Achill Archaeological Field School was established in 1991 with the specific aim to provide training for students of archaeology and anthropology and, after 21 years, this remains at the centre of everything we do. Located at the western end of Ireland’s largest offshore island, we are surrounded by mountains, bogs, cliffs and stunning seascapes and this amazing natural landscape forms the backdrop for our on-going research into the archaeology of an island community on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

The key to our training is a small group size, combined with instruction that is delivered directly by highly experienced archaeologists. In this way we ensure that each lesson is delivered in great detail and we keep working with a student until we are sure everything has been understood correctly. Students are involved in all aspects of site work, beginning with taking off the topsoil, moving through the different phases of excavation and recording and finally backfilling the area and reinstating the ground at the end of the excavation. We teach excavation techniques, recording processes, artefact care and site photography and we also take the time to discuss the excavation strategy with the students so that they understand the choices that have been made.  At the end of the course our students have a thorough understanding of excavation methodology that we feel will form a very sound foundation for a career in archaeology and associated fieldwork. The on-site work is complemented by a day-long field trip every week to explore the fascinating archaeological landscape of Achill. Through these field trips we introduce the process of landscape analysis that archaeologists undertake, and teach our students to open their eyes and read the history of the landscapes around them.

Having studied the deserted village at Slievemore over many years, we have recently broadened our horizons to excavate two of the best preserved prehistoric buildings ever found in Ireland, as well as a series of smaller but equally well preserved early medieval structures nearby. In 2013, we shall be returning to the deserted village at Slievemore (our true spiritual home!) where we hope to excavate an abandoned house of early modern date and a number of adjacent features, some of which may be prehistoric in date. We also hope to begin an excavation at Kildavnet Castle at the southern end of Achill Island – this late medieval tower house is the only castle on Achill and should provide us with a fascinating insight into life in the region in the late medieval period.

We offer a wide variety of courses which vary in length from 1 to 6 weeks, and offer internationally recognized accreditation via the National University of Ireland Galway. To learn more about what we do please visit to our website or contact us at

Period(s) of Occupation: Bronze Age / late medieval / early modern

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 1 week

Minimum Age: 17

Experience Required: None

Room and Board Arrangements

Self-catered accommodation is provided in the village of Dooagh where the Field School owns an accommodation building beside the Field School offices. This consists of male and female dormitories (2 to 4 per room in bunk beds), most with en-suite facilities, a separate bathroom and shower, a common room with peat-fired stove, and a large, fully equipped kitchen. Wi-Fi internet access is provided free of charge and there is a small but well-stocked library in the Archaeology Centre. There is a grocery store a 2-minute walk from the accommodation block which provides basic supplies and regular trips to a larger supermarket are also arranged. There are several pubs and restaurants within walking distance of the Centre.

Cost: approximately €750 per week

Academic Credit
Name of institution offering credit: National University of Ireland Galway
Number of credits offered: 3, 6 and 9 semester hours
Tuition: Introduction to Irish Archaeology

Contact Information
Dolores Kilbane
Achill Field School
Dooagh, Mayo 000
Phone: +353 (0)9843564
Fax: +353 (0) 98 43595

Recommended Bibliography

Aalen, F.H.A., Whelan, K. & Stout, M. 1997. Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape.
Barry. T.B. 1988. The Archaeology of Medieval Ireland.
McDonald, T. 2006. Achill Island: Archaeology, History and Folklore.
Waddell, J. 2000. The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland.

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