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Spike Island Archaeological Project

Location: Cork, Ireland

June 28, 2014 to August 2, 2014

Session dates: 
Single session

Application Deadline: 
Saturday, June 21, 2014

Deadline Type: 

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



University of Cork (Ireland) and the Institute for Field Research

Project Director:

Dr. Barra O’Donnabhain, University College Cork

Project Description

This field school is part of a research project that examines the archaeology of the 19th century prison on Spike Island, Ireland’s Alcatraz. Dealing with criminals by means of long-term incarceration is a relatively recent development.  In Ireland and Britain, long-term confinement only became the dominant means of punishment and social control in the mid-19th century. The architecture of many of the purpose-built prisons from this period reflects new ideas about the redemptive nature of isolation, discipline and work. The physical isolation of prisoners was not possible on Spike Island which was an early 19th century fortress that was converted to a prison in 1847 at the height of the Great Famine. The prison was tied into the global reach of the British imperial system of power as in the early years of its operation, it was one of the main holding centers for Irish convicts transported to Australia and to Bermuda.  In the 2014 season, our principal focus will be on the convict burial ground and the bioarchaeology of the inmates who died at Spike Island. 

Period(s) of Occupation: Historical archaeology

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: full session

Minimum age: 
18 years old

Experience required: 
No previous experience required

Room and Board Arrangements

The field School accommodation will be in the fort on Spike Island.  Spike is a small, uninhabited island in Cork Harbour.  While there is no resident population on the island, it is not an isolated place: it is only 500m from land in one direction and 1500m across the harbour from the town of Cobh. The accommodation on the island consists of bedrooms, a common room and kitchen.  The rooms are comfortable and spacious and will be shared.  There will be separate rooms for male and females students.  There are separate male and female toilets on the corridor while hot showers are in an adjacent building.  There will be a bed for each team member and you will need to bring your own sleeping bag and towels

All meals are provided from Monday to Friday and hot meals are catered and tarnsported daily from the mainland to the island.  Sstudents look after their own meals at weekends.       

All room and board costs are included in tuition (excluding weekend meals)

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Connecticut College
Number of credits offered 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units)


Contact Information
Institute for Field Research
1855 Industrial St. #106
Los Angeles
424 226-6130
Recommended Bibliography: 

Casella EC. 2005. "Prisoner of His Majesty: postcoloniality and the archaeology of British penal transportation." World Archaeology 37(3):453-467.

Greene K, and Moore T. 2010. Archaeology: an introduction. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.  Chapters 2, 3 and 5.

Maxwell-Stewart H. 2010. "Convict transportation from Britain and Ireland 1615-1870." History Compass 8(11):1221-1242.

Orser CE. 2005. "Symbolic violence, resistance and the vectors of improvement in early nineteenth-century Ireland." World Archaeology 37(3):392-402.

Orser CE. 2010. "Three 19th-century house sites in rural Ireland." Post-Medieval Archaeology 44(1):81-104.

Oxley D. 2004. "Living standards of women in pre-famine Ireland." Social Science History 28(2):271-295.

Rynne C. 2009. "Haulbowline Island, Cork harbour, Ireland, c.1816-1832: a new archaeological perspective on Ireland's 'coloniality'." In: Horning A, and Palmer M, editors. Crossing Paths or Sharing Tracks? Future directions in the archaeological study of post-1550 Britain and Ireland. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. p 167-177.