Castles in Communities: Irish Archaeology at Ballintober Castle

Location: Ballintober, RC, IE

Season: June 29, 2023 to July 27, 2023

Session Dates: June 29 - July 27 (4 weeks)

Application Deadline: June 20, 2023

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School, Volunteer, Staff Position

RPA Certified:

Project Director:
Niall Brady (ADCO), Andrew Bair (Harvard University), and Rachel Brody (Boston College)

Project Description:

Castles in Communities, is an intensive, 4 week non-credit combined archaeological/anthropological field school and cultural immersion experience in the “hidden heartland” of Ireland. The program weaves together, on a day-to-day basis, lectures, discussions, readings, fieldwork activities, excursions and hands-on practice & service learning in the fields of archaeology, cultural anthropology and applied anthropology. The program also integrates opportunities for immersion into the communities and natural surroundings.The program also integrates opportunities for immersion into the communities and natural surroundings. Preliminary application found here. A more complete website found here and there.

  • Join us in medieval Ireland and the kingdom of Connacht where the last high kings defended their country against invading English nobles.
  • Experience an amazing archaeology and cultural program with anthropological field work, course work, group trips, service learning projects, and a living history experience.
  • Discover with us the beauty of Ireland as we begin an investigation of the landscapes surrounding the medieval castle of Ballintober in County Roscommon.
  • Live with us and other project members in both the manorial estate and the adjoining villages.
  • Work on all aspects of the research project, including archaeological survey and excavation and community development activities.

Welcome to the seventh season of our Castles in Communities project! Ireland is an amazing place and Ballintober could not be a more quintessential archaeological experience.  Imagine a small village with a big beautiful castle that everyone wants to learn more about.  The project consists anyone who wants to come study a castle and then eat and enjoy music in the pubs, followed by a walk home and a warm fire.  We have published a great article in the magazine Archaeology Ireland – check it out!

Our project is an examination of castles in communities from past to present that is focusing our 2023 research on Ballintober Castle in County Roscommon, Ireland. The archaeological and anthropological field school project this year is a student focused investigation of the ancient and modern medieval Irish landscape.  Researchers are interested in colonial encounters between the Anglo-Norman occupiers and the indigenous Gaelic-Irish settlers.

The archaeology in 2023 will continue large cuttings within the castle to expose early construction phases. Exciting new work will look at the recently discovered deserted village adjacent to the castle. Survey will continue ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry inside the castle and in the nearby townlands. Proposed test pitting of medieval features to include house plots, agricultural features and a possible crannog.  Further systematic foot survey and mapping of surrounding landscape features such as ring forts will continue.

The cultural anthropology and folklore component will continue to trace a community’s relationship with a castle through time.  Examples of this research will be the gathering of folklore via interviews with townspeople.

To download an application and find out more information go to the Department of Anthropology website at Foothill College.

The County of Roscommon in Ireland put this excellent video together….A Castle in Our Community


For a quick presentation about the project and your experience see this Youtube video

For more detailed archaeological information about the castle: See this brochure put out by the Roscommon CountyCouncil

Also Niall Brady’s Castle Studies Trust publication

Our Facebook page is very informative with many more photos as well

Period(s) of Occupation: Early and Late Medieval Ireland

Experience includes Irish prehistory; archaeology via careful excavations in the castle; ethnographic techniques to gather data on community life past and present; survey methods via ground penetrating radar and using GIS to find the associated village; and laboratory analysis. Lodge in village community and meals provided by local pubs. Field program includes guided group trips. All experience levels welcome, including undergrads, grad students, and people who simply want to do archaeology in Ireland. Ballintober is a wonderful place in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands!

Project Size: 25-49 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 4.0 weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: Volunteer staff inquiries will need to submit a CV and a reference. Volunteers may have to enroll in a short course.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Program students will be residing in several locations for the month. Most of the students will want to stay in the village in rented homes which was a very special experience last year.  In addition, we are renting the carriage homes in the manorial estate of Clonalis which is still owned by the O'Conor family (see for a valuable historical perspective and the  Clonalis is located just next to the large town of Castlerea, in which we will also have an active presence throughout our stay however it is 10 minutes away from the castle.  As indicated, we will be renting homes next the castle and being directly engaged with the community of Ballintober where the castle is located.  Ballintober is a small village located a few miles away in the countryside.  Students will be living and working with the people of Ballintober.  Food is a mix of local Irish cooks and group meals prepared by students and staff. Vegetarians are welcome! The area of study is located in the County of Roscommon which is centrally located in the west of Ireland near to Sligo and Galway.  Castlerea is on train lines and bus lines which can be used on free days to explore.   As you will discover, Castlerea and Ballintober are wonderful places to spend a month -- small, open and enjoyable. Cost: $4200 program fees not including plane fares.

Academic Credit:
No credit courses will be offered for students. If you do not need credits but want the experience then this program is for you. Each participant will receive a certificate upon completion of the program. Many universities allow you to exchange field school experience for credits, please check with your departmental undergrad advisor or academic dean. Courses will mirror standard offerings but not be or credit These are traditionally what we have offered in the past: ANTH 12 Applied Anthropology (4 units) ANTH 52 Archaeological Field Methods (4 units) ANTH 67C Cultures of the World: British Isles (4 units) ANTH 51: Archaeological Survey (2 units) ANTH 17L: Archaeology Laboratory (2 units) credits offered by Foothill College.

Contact Information:

Andrew Bair and Rachel Brody

11 Divinity Ave, Cambridge MA 02138



United States or

Phone: 215-317-9321

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