Achill Archaeological Field School Video
Academic Director: Mr Conor Newman
Field Director: TBA
Course Overview

Established in 1991, the Achill Archaeological Field School has over 25 years of experience in training archaeology and anthropology students. Located on Achill Island on Ireland’s stunning Wild Atlantic Way, the field school combines top quality education with unforgettable experiences.

The Field School offers six, four, and two-week accredited courses that come with up to 9 semester credits/18 ECTS. The courses cover a full range of excavation, site recording techniques, and lab work. In 2022, the primary focus of work will be the excavation of two drystone houses at Tawnaghmore (translates as great meadow), a small enigmatic settlement, which probably dates to the late/post medieval period (AD1380-1900). Tawnaghmore is a nucleated settlement of 16 unplanned houses running in a linear fashion over 170m of ground at an elevation of 97m asl. The site is located on ground sloping gently south-eastwards, along the left and right banks of the Abhainabhaile (Townland River), which flows in a south easterly direction and enters the sea at Dooagh village. Access to Tawnaghmore from Dooagh is along the banks of this river, following a bog road, a narrow grass-covered track and a glacial ridge to reach the site. There is no visible road/track into the settlement. To the north east is a grass and bog covered linear settlement with an unknown number of houses called Caislean (small stone fort) which may suggest the presence of a Cathair (stone fort) in this area sometime in the remote past. A pollen core taken in 2005 indicated the presence of a deciduous forest in this area during the mid to late Neolithic (Caseldine, C. 2005, 169-178). The settlement appears on maps dated to 1809 and 1838 but little is known about its period of occupation or abandonment. The houses are relatively large, have some unusual features and are sub-rectangular in shape. We look forward to an exciting project in 2022.

The key to our training is small group sizes, combined with instruction that is delivered directly by highly experienced archaeologists. In this way we ensure that each lesson is delivered in great detail, and that each student fully understands the different procedures and the rationales behind them.

Course Modules

SS106: Introduction to Archaeology of Ireland (3 Semester Credits/6 ECTS Credits)

On site work during the first element of the course introduces the student to the basic techniques of archaeological excavation, including laying out trenches, removing overburden, and excavating archaeological deposits with a variety of hand tools. Lectures introduce the Chronology of Irish Archaeology whilst a series of workshops develop the students understanding of the principals of excavation.

SS107: Archaeological Field Studies (3 Semester Credits/6 ECTS Credits)

On site work during the second element introduces the student to the methods of onsite recording of archaeological features and deposits, including section drawing, elevation drawing, horizontal planning, working within a site grid, surveying, using an auto level and the EDM, and taking site photography. Lectures complete the Chronology of Irish Archaeology whilst workshops focus on post excavation skills such as managing site archives, writing stratigraphic reports and preparing AutoCad drawings.

SS108: Data Analysis (3 Semester Credits/6 ECTS Credits)

Field work during the final element sees the completion of the excavation and its post excavation restoration and then introduces the student to a broad range of subjects involving archaeological sites and their setting in the landscape, such as upland surveys, identifying new sites, recording standing monuments and analysing inter-site relationships and morphological settings. Lectures review the development of the discipline of Archaeology in Ireland and the ethical challenges facing the archaeological profession in the early 3rd Millennium whilst workshops focus on preparing the work so far undertaken for final publication.

SS1109: Dig, Draw, Digitise (3 Semester Credits/6 ECTS Credits)

This module is focused upon students who wish to undertake their own research projects and present primary research rather than working only from secondary sources. Each week will focus on a particular aspect of archaeological fieldwork.  Students will excavate a small trench which will demonstrate all common aspects of archaeological excavation. This is excavation in microcosm and will involve very intensive instruction to give the students a full understanding of the process of excavation. Students will undertake a wide variety of different types of field survey. Each day the students will visit an archaeological site on Achill and undertake different types of field survey. The course will include detailed instruction on surveying sites with different techniques to produce written accounts, plans, sections and elevations. Working with the results of the previous two weeks field projects the students will learn how to enter data into the computer and use different software to illustrate the results. Students will gain a practical working knowledge of such programs as Inkscape and QGIS and by the end of the week will have all the skills needed to produce professional looking illustrations to accompany their field studies.

SS1110: Ceramics in Archaeology (3 Semester Credits/6 ECTS Credits)

This module is focused upon the identification, recording and conservation of ceramics from archaeological sites AD1650-1900. The combination of lectures and practical assignments will illustrate the differences between various types of ceramics, practice drawing ceramics for publication and evaluate how interpretation of a ceramic assemblage is influenced by the depositional processes that led to their inclusion in the archaeological record. The first part of the course will see students receiving instruction on the correct handling, cleaning, conservation and identification of a variety of ceramics/sherds. Through a combination of lectures, excavations and workshops, the students will gain knowledge of the differences between various types of ceramics, learn how to draw and illustrate ceramics for publication and evaluate how interpretation of a ceramic assemblage is influenced by the depositional processes that led to its inclusion in the archaeological record. The second part of the course will see students receiving instruction on photographing ceramics, highlighting the problems of taking close-up views of small objects and a variety of solutions that permit good artefact photography using a range of equipment.


SS106 Introduction to Irish Archaeology
SS107 Archaeological Field Studies
SS108 Data Analysis
SS1109 Dig, Draw, Digitise
SS1110 Ceramics in Archaeology

Please refer to the website for further information on courses, dates, costs and credits


We accept students of 17 years of age and upwards who must be physically fit, as fieldwork is quite strenuous. 

Application Deadline: 30 July 2022


Further Information

Achill Archaeological Field School,
Archaeology Centre,
Dooagh, Achill Island, Co. Mayo, Ireland
Tel: + 353 98 43564
Fax: + 353 98 43595


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