Ritual Pilgrim Landscape of Disert, Ireland – Institute for Field Research

This listing expired on November 1, 2020. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: , IE

Season: June 28, 2020 to July 25, 2020

Application Deadline: April 3, 2020

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Institute for Technology, Siglo, California State University, Los Angeles, Connecticut College, Institute for Field Research

Project Director:
Dr Fiona Beglane, and Dr René Vellanoweth

Project Description:

Disert is a ritual pilgrim landscape in Co. Donegal that includes a series of early ecclesiastical enclosures, penitential cairns, a holy well dedicated to St Colmcille (also known as St Columba), a post-medieval altar and a cillín (children’s graveyard). Exciting evidence from last year’s excavation shows that there was prehistoric activity thousands of years before the reputed founding of the site by St Colmcille in the sixth century AD. Disert is still important today for religious devotion and for pilgrims seeking miraculous cures for medical conditions.

This spectacular area lies at the foothills of the Bluestack Mountains, some 10km from Donegal Town and the Wild Atlantic Way. Rural sites such as this are poorly understood and the excavation will offer the opportunity to examine the role of Disert in both early and more recent Irish Christianity. 2019 was the first year of excavation and yielded considerable evidence for nineteenth and early twentieth century lazy-bed agriculture and dairying in and around this formerly sacred land. This shed light on population growth and the need for land at this time, which led to the expansion of settlement into marginal areas. Intriguingly, the excavation also yielded prehistoric stone tools, providing the first evidence for pre-Christian activity at Disert.

In 2020 the aim of the excavation will be to delve deeper into the ground to gain an insight into the early medieval origin of the site and to further investigate the nature of the prehistoric activity. We anticipate that this work will include the excavation of the holy well and cairns that form part of the pilgrimage ritual. Students will contribute to this overall aim through their input to the survey, excavation and recording work. The site is regularly visited by tourists and students will also have the opportunity to develop skills in explaining heritage to members of the public.

Period(s) of Occupation: Early Medieval Period

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Participants must stay entire duration of the field school.

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: No prior experienced required.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Students will be housed in purpose-built holiday homes in a mixture of single and twin-bedded rooms, which will be allocated using a random draw at the welcome meeting. Those sharing rooms will do so with others of the same gender. Fresh bed linen and regular cleaning of communal areas will be provided. Students should provide their own towels. There is a washing machine in each house. The accommodation has a tennis court for the use of guests, there is a rocky shore approximately 10 minutes walk from the accommodation and a sandy beach 20 minutes walk away. Three meals per day (breakfast/lunch/dinner) are included from Monday to Friday plus the welcome meal on the first Sunday evening. Tea, coffee, water and biscuits (cookies) will also be provided on site during the excavation. Students will need to prepare and bring their own packed lunch daily from groceries supplied by the project. A large tent will be provided on-site to store bags and for shelter at mealtimes if necessary. Evening meals will be prepared by a professional chef and will always include at least one option that contains meat, fish or poultry plus at least one vegetarian option. Students will be required to assist with washing up after meals. If you have any particular dietary needs or allergies then contact us in advance.

Academic Credit:
8 Semester Credits credits offered by Connecticut College. Tuition is $4,445.

Contact Information:

Institute for Field Research

2999 Overland Ave. Suite 103

Los Angeles



United States

Phone: 4242091173

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