Ireland: Monastic Midlands Summer

COVID-19 NOTICE: Please be sure to reach out to the project contact to find out the status of their upcoming season. Many projects have altered fieldwork plans and the information below may not reflect that.

Location: Birr, County Offaly, Ireland

Season: July 16, 2023 to August 12, 2023

Session Dates: July 16 – August 12, 2023

Application Deadline: June 5, 2023

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS)

Project Director:
Dr. Denis Shine, Dr. Stephen Mandal, and Dr. Annamaria Diana

Project Description:

This field school takes a truly landscape scale approach to archaeological research, assessing the Monastic Midlands region of Ireland. The program will examine the geological and glacial processes that shaped the landscape in which the early saints founded their monasteries before applying a range of survey techniques to interpret the sites they left behind, recording the structures, architectural fragments and grave slabs that continue to survive at these monasteries. The program will also include significant laboratory elements and comprehensive osteoarcheological training.

The field school is based in the heritage town of Birr, a handsome and charming town but focuses its field research on the monastic site of Seir Kieran. Seir Kieran (Saoighir Kieran or the ‘fountain of Kieran’) is a remarkable site, not only due to its prominence as an Early Christian monastery founded by St. Kieran, but also because of the longevity of activity at the site, possibly starting as early as pre-historic times. Seir Kieran offers a unique opportunity to study in a single location, an early monastic site, a twelfth century monastery, a multi-period burial site, an Anglo-Norman castle and a medieval borough/town. Based on documentary sources, St. Kieran’s monastery was originally founded in the mid fifth century AD/CE, making it one of the earlier monasteries in Ireland. The site was active throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods and remains an active place of worship to this day, which is very much ‘alive’ within the local community.

The Seir Kieran field school offers a holistic approach to investigating the Monastic Midlands of Ireland to provide insight into early medieval life and society. Students will build on research conducted over the last two years and attain a fully-rounded appreciation of the entirety of the archaeological investigative process, before we progress to keyhole excavations in future seasons.

Period(s) of Occupation: Medieval

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Students are expected to stay the full length of the program.

Minimum Age: 18 years or older

Experience Required: None

Room and Board Arrangements:
Students will stay with local families in County Offaly. Home Stay students live with local families, and experience true home life in provincial Ireland. Typically students will either walk to or be brought to John’s Hall daily, before availing of pre-arranged transport to site as appropriate. Students should understand that some host families may be in rural settings, requiring taxis to reach the town of Birr. While staying with homestay families, all students have access to safe, sanitary accommodation as well as laundry, showering facilities, etc. Breakfast and dinner will be provided along with a packed lunch. Our homestay network caters for all main dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc.); they provide a well-balanced diet of Irish cuisine, but students should anticipate trying new cuisine and not having all the items they might expect at home.

Academic Credit:
8 Semester Credit Units (equivalent to 12 Quarter Units)

Contact Information:

Institute for Field Research

1855 Industrial Street, Unit 106

Los Angeles



United States

Phone: 4242091173

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