This listing expired on November 6, 2015. Please contact for any updated information.
Achill Archaeological Field School

Location: Achill Island, Mayo, Ireland

May 18, 2015 to August 28, 2015

Session dates: 
May 18 - 22 May 25 - July 3 July 6 - August 14 August 17 - 28

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Friday, June 26, 2015
Friday, August 7, 2015

Deadline Type: 

Discount for AIA members: 
Complimentary 1-Day Guided Tour of sites in the Clew Bay area around Westport

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



National University of Ireland Galway

Project Director:

Stuart Rathbone, BSc., MA.

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 18th 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 2015, Achill Archaeological Field School will continue the investigation of a multi-phase project,  at one of the most intriguing sites on the island, known as 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 two years Achill Archaeological Field School will continue to investigate this site with the aim of finally resolving this enduring mystery. Soil samples from our 2014 excavations have been submitted for radio carbon dating and these will be available in December 2014 or early January 2015.  Please see our Interactive 'Dig' on this website for details of the 2014 excavations.   The excavation at the Cromlech Tumlech will commence on May 25 and continue for 6 weeks.   The second part of the season commencing in early July will investigate a Late Medieval house at Keem, one of the most scenic areas on Achill Island. 

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, aged 17 years and over, looking for a unforgetable summer!

More details about the site are available here;




Period(s) of Occupation: Neolithic and Bronze Age; Late Medieval

Concealed beneath the bog, there is a very intriguing archaeological site, and one that has been the subject of considerable controversy and confusion for over one hundred years. The Late Medieval house is located within a deserted village that originally comprised 41 houses and associated field systems. Nearby is a Penal Altar and Ogham stones were found on the banks of the Bunowna River which runs west of the site.

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 1 Week

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. Free WiFi available at the Archaeology Centre and in the adjoining accommodation block

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 Dr. Patricia Murietta-Flores, ArcGIS Specialist Dr. Theresa McDonald, Senior Archaeologist Nick Brannon, Archaeologist and Ceramics expert


Contact Information
Dr. 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.