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Achill Archaeological Field School 2016

Location: Dooagh, Achill Island, Mayo, Ireland

May 23, 2016 to August 27, 2016

Session dates: 
Module 1 (6 weeks) 23rd May to 2nd July Module 2 (6 weeks) 4th July to 13th August Module 3 (4 weeks) 6th June to 2nd July Module 4 (4 weeks) 4th July to 30th July Module 5 (2 weeks) 20th June to 2nd July Module 6 (2 weeks) 1st August to 13th August Introduction to Irish Archaeology 1 (1 week) 23rd to 28th May Introduction to Irish Archaeology 2 (1 week) 15th to 20th August Bare Bones (2 weeks) 15th to 27th August

Application Deadline: 
Friday, April 29, 2016
Friday, June 10, 2016

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Discount for AIA members: 
Free 1-day Guided Tour

Program Type

Field school



National University Ireland Galway

Project Director:

Theresa McDonald MA MIAI and Stuart Rathbone

Project Description

In 2016 Achill Archaeological Field School will be celebrating its 25th anniversary! We will be running two excavations over the course of the summer, with two, four and six week accredited courses designed for undergraduate and post graduate students, and one and two week unaccredited courses designed for anyone with an interest in participating in an archaeological excavation.

Between the 16th of May and the 2nd of July we will be undertaking a third season at the Cromlech Tumulus site on Slievemore. The previous two seasons at this important site have shown that the main elements of the site are a large stone-walled Middle Bronze Age building connected to a series of Pre-bog field walls. The Middle Bronze Age building is overlain by a series of Late Medieval huts, a rare and interesting find in their own right, and it is these later structures that gave the site such a curious appearance. At the end of the 2015 season we found a unique carved stone head from the fill of one of the Bronze Age features, and this is one of the earliest examples of representative art known from Ireland! In 2016 we will be working along the eastern half of the site for the first time and there are clearly a number of separate structural elements in this area that we are very keen to examine and, with luck, tie into the overall site chronology.

Between the 4th of July and the 27th August we will be conducting a second season at the 18th and 19th century settlement site at Keem Bay. In 2015 we excavated the largest visible building foundation, located in the heart of the settlement cluster, revealing it to be a well-built rectangular structure with a single entrance and a cross drain. The form of the building clearly matches a type of building known from ethnographic sources in the early 20th century and identified as an archaic house design no longer in use by the second half of the 19th century. A very considerable artefact assemblage came from a rubbish dump immediately behind the building and this confirmed an occupation date in the late 18th or early 19th century. During the 2016 season we will begin work on some of the smaller buildings adjacent to the larger structure excavated in 2015. Judging from the visible surface features these buildings are about half the size and have a much more oval shape than the larger rectangular building and it is hoped that the excavations will inform us about differences in date, function and construction methods, and allow us to present a much more detailed account of the occupation of this curious settlement. 

Since 2014 we have been running an Interactive Dig for the Archaeological Institute of America and that provides an ideal place to explore our working methods and the sites that we are investigating.

All of our courses include detailed instruction on the full range of excavation and recording techniques presented by the Director of Fieldwork and overseen by our team of supervisors. The on-site work is supplemented by a series of guided tours and lectures and with classes in our computer lab which provide practical instruction on a range of modern software suites. Students are accommodated in our well-appointed self-catered residential block and transport to and from site and to and from the nearest main town at the start and end of the course is included. 

Module 1 (6 weeks) 23rd May to 2nd July                                               €4,750

Module 2 (6 weeks) 4th July to 13th August                                            €4,750

Module 3 (4 weeks) 6th June to 3rd July                                                 €3,900

Module 4 (4 weeks) 4th July to 31st July                                                 €3,900

Module 5 (2 weeks) 20th June to 2nd July                                               €1,950

Module 6 (2 weeks) 1st August to 13th August                                         €1,950

Introduction to Irish Archaeology 1 (1 week) 23rd to 27th May                   €695

Introduction to Irish Archaeology 2 (1 week) 15th to 20th August               €695

Bare Bones (2 weeks) 15th to 27th August                                               €975


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

3, 6 and 9 Semester hours of academic credit available for our 2-week, 4-week and 6-week Modules

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 1 week

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

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 throughout the accommodation block and the Archaeology Centre, which also houses a small but well-stocked library in the Archaeology Centre. There is a medium sized grocery store in Keel, which will be a regular stopping point in our routine, and a larger supermarket is located in Achill Sound to which weekly trips will be arranged. There are several pubs and restaurants within walking distance of the accommodation block.

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


Contact Information
Dolores Kilbane
Achill Field School
+353 (0)9843564
+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.