Monday, 24 November 2014

Inaugural Lecture 2014 and the launch of Trowel XV: what a wonderful evening!

Photographs by Sean Kinsella

On Thursday 20th November 2014, the Archaeological Society held its inaugural lecture. This year, we were delighted to welcome Prof. Chris Scarre from the University of Durham. Following a welcome speech from the society auditor, Micheal Butler, and a brief introduction from our Head of School, Prof. Gabriel Cooney, Prof. Scarre delivered an enlightening lecture on the topic of "Missing persons? Formal disposal and funerary practices in Prehistoric Britain". What a thrilling topic! A full report of the seminar will follow, but in a nutshell, Prof. Scarre challenged our assumptions about the archaeological record: we always think that what we dig, what we find, is a fragment of a bigger whole. We obsess over trying to figure out exactly what percentage of the wider picture our evidence represent. But does it really? Or - and especially in the case of the burial record, which was the topic of this lecture - was the reality in the past completely different? What if what we have is in fact the odd, the unusual, the uncommon? His is a very powerful argument which really challenges the way we look at the archaeological record. As I said, full report to follow! 

From left to right: Micheal Butler, Prof. Scarre and Prof. Cooney

This year, the Society decided to change the usual scenery of its inaugural lecture, and booked the FitzGerald debating chamber in the UCD Student centre. The acoustic was so good that the microphone was not needed! 

Following the lecture, the Society, in conjunction with the Trowel editorial team, held a wine and cheese reception. For indeed the evening was also the occasion for the launch of the 15th volume of the journal...
Prof. Muiris O'Sullivan delivering the speech that introduced the latest volume of Trowel
The gathered archaeologists were treated to a wonderful speech by Prof. Muiris O'Sullivan, who reflected on the history of Trowel, and its collaboration with the Society. Even if the two are now separate, Trowel did start off as the Society journal (and the very first issues, available on the Trowel website, bear witness to this). But the partnership between the journal and the Society lives on, and as Prof. O'Sullivan pointed out, the cover of this year's volume was designed by former Society member, Paula Moran, who was an Erasmus student with us last year. Prof'. O'Sullivan went on to praise the wide range of topics covered in the journal, and especially the new "UCDig" section, which features short reports from excavations around Ireland and beyond. It was an immense pleasure to host the inaugural lecture and launch the journal at the same time. 

We would like to thank everyone who came that evening and made it the wonderful event that it was.  All the photographs are available on the Society Flickr gallery. Our renewed thanks to Sean Kinsella for being our official photographer that night!

Yours dearly, 
Alexandra Guglielmi, webmaster
On behalf of the Archaeological Society 2014/2015 Committee

The Committee would like to thank you all for coming to the inaugural lecture 2014!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Seminar series 2014/15: "Forget about 'Heritage': Place, Ethics and the Faro Convention" By Dr. John Schofield

The next Seminar will be

"Forget about 'Heritage': Place, ethics and the Faro Convention"


Dr. John Schofield


The University of York

Thursday the 27th of November Room
at 5:30pm 

Room A109 Newman building


CLICK HERE for all seminar posters and reports. 

Archaeology Christmas party!!!

Source: Archaeosoup
Dear all, 

The term is drawing to a close and I'm sure you are all looking forward to handing in your last assignments- I sure am! So in order to celebrate this (and don't think about exams for a little longer), we have organised a CHRISTMAS PARTY!

We will be gathering next Wednesday 26th November  from 7 pm in the upstairs room of the UCD Clubhouse Bar ! Yes, we have our own party room! The bar has amazing Party packages and there will be lots of free stuff for everyone. Watch this space for confirmation of the details, but a little elf has already told me something about free food and drink deals!

Everyone is welcome, bring your friends from other departments, we archaeologists know how to throw a good party and are friendly people! 

Looking forward to seeing you all there, 
Contact us for any question, 

Yours dearly, 
Alex, webmaster

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Check out the new "EXAMS" section of the website

Dear everyone,

Exams are fast approaching but don't worry, we're here for you. We have created a brand new section on the website packed with advice from revision strategies to the late-night studying areas in UCD.

Essay writing seminar

On the 22nd of October 2014, during our weekly coffee morning session, PhD student Alexandra Guglielmi gave a short seminar on essay writing, with particular focus on how to structure an essay, how to research it properly and finally, how to make sure it stands out.  Here is a summary of what she said.

A good essay revolves around 3 things, which will be discussed in turn
  1. structure
  2. content 
  3. style. 
You need the first two to get a good essay; enhance it with a great style and you'll have an excellent essay. But before you get to the essay writing part, there is one crucial thing: understanding the essay question.

The Question

Pay attention to the key words. Every word is there for a reason. Examine the question word with care as it will tell you a lot about the way you are meant to answer the question.

Examples of question words:
(From last year’s “Teachers’ advice” handout, fulltext available here )  
  • "outline" : Sketch the principle points on a topic. A discussion of these points is also presumed but the importance is on sketching: you must be able to present a general picture in a short time and word count.
  • "compare and contrast": Make an evaluation after weighing what the two things have in common and what is different.
  • "review": Present what you know and then compare and contrast, critically evaluate.
  •  discuss”: Write about this topic in detail, especially considering the different views and opinions known on this specific topic.
  • (critically) assess”: to judge or decide the amount, value, quality or importance of something
  • debate”: A serious discussion of a subject in which there are many sides to this subject
  • critique”: A report of something such as social situation or system, or a person’s work or ideas, which examines it and provides an often negative judgement
  • argue”: Serious discussion, indicating a strong stance on the subject matter
  • examine”: To look at or consider the subject matter carefully and in detail in order to discover something about it
  •  summarise”: To express the most important fact or ideas about something or someone in a short and clear form.

Some questions don’t have an explicit “question word”, but it is there somewhere, implicitly.

For instance (fake questions):
-       “Can radiocarbon dates replace typologies for the dating of sites from period X ?”
o    This would be like a “discuss”: you need to weigh the “yes” and “no” to answer it and think beyond this yes/no answer. You do not need to come up with a definite answer, but present arguments for both sides of the debate.
-       “How do human remains inform us about the diet of ancient people in country Y?”
o    This would be more of an “outline” or “review”: tell what you know about the topic, but be a bit critical, think about the limitations for instance.

Don’t jump on a question because you know the general theme it deals with. Avoid “word spotting” at all cost, especially in exams when you have extra time pressure.

In an exam, don’t start writing immediately! If you have 1h for 1 question, spend the first 5minutes reading all the questions and choosing one. Then spend another 10minutes analyzing the question and working on your plan (see below). 15 minutes may seem a lot, but you still have 40 minutes to write (5min to re-read at the end) and those initial 15minutes can make the difference between a good and a bad essay.

The Structure

An essay is like a journey, it needs to go somewhere: it starts from a point and it takes the reader to a different point, it moves. It needs to have an internal progression, you need to build up your argumentation in a logical way in order to produce something new.
Your lecturer does not want you to regurgitate what you’ve read in books, they want you to show some independent thinking on a specific topic and come up with an answer, and possibly an opinion (depending on the type of question).

Examples of progression:
  •  From general to specific or to specific to general, from concrete to abstract or vice versa
o    e.g. geographical scales, historical scales, material culture
  • Debate/ discussion structure: “yes”, “no”, “but”
o    “yes” and “no” review the current state of the debate; “but” introduces your own ideas (based on your reading). It goes beyond the yes/no opposition by trying to find a solution or by presenting an alternative way to think about the question.
  • Chronological progression:
o    Tricky: use it only if you are being critical in each of your chronological section, it must not be a simple description of events.
o    Unless you are asked to describe! It would be suitable for a history or archaeology question such as (fake question) “Outline the evolution of Roman foreign policy in the Late Empire”, because in that case, you are being asked to present a chronological overview.
  • Thematic organisation – specific to topic:
o    Not every essay needs to have an internal argumentation like described above. You may be asked to do a field report, or a work placement journal which you would organize around specific tasks or themes. Just remember to structure them.
o    You can also have essay like (fake question) “Explain how you would design a museum exhibit to host the collection from site X”. Consider all the things you would put in the exhibit and group them in logical categories. For instance: 1. The surrounding landscape, 2. The settlement and buildings, 3. The finds

The approach you take will depend on the question word so pay attention to it (see above). 
Whatever you do, remember, your essay needs to be dynamic (to “go somewhere”) and your points need to be linked. 
For this you will need to design a plan.  

A plan is here to help you lay down your ideas, organize them and see exactly where you are going. Do not start writing anything until you know exactly where you are going, from A to Z.

Remember the words of 17th century French scholar Nicolas Boileau:
Before you write, learn how to think:
Depending on whether your thinking is more or less obscure,
The expression will follow it, more or less clear, more or less pure.
What you can think well, you can state clearly,
And the words to say it will come easily
L’Art Poétique (1674)

(Original French: Avant donc que d'écrire, apprenez à penser./ Selon que notre idée est plus ou moins obscure, / L'expression la suit, ou moins nette, ou plus pure. / Ce que l'on conçoit bien s'énonce clairement,/ Et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément.)

Spend time working on your plan: the more detailed it is, the clearer your idea of what you are going to write about will be.
There is no “right or wrong” answer as long as it is structured and backed up by arguments. You can disagree completely with something, as long as you do it well and using valid arguments.

There is no standard “length” for a plan: It can be half a page, a page, 2 pages... You may need only the main bullet points to have your ideas clear, or you may need detailed description of each argument with the list of case studies for instance.

Your Plan:

1.     Introduction
a.    Introduces the topic/theme (general introduction)
b.    Points out what the question is asking
c.    Presents the plan – very important part!

2.     Main body
(as many part as you want as long as logical and making sense, but ideally 3-4)
a.    Part 1
                                          i.    Argument 1 + examples/case studies
                                         ii.    Argument 2 + examples/case studies
b.    Part 2
                                          i.    Argument 1 + examples /case studies
c.    Part 3
                                          i.    Argument 1 + examples/case studies
a.    Summarises your arguments
b.    Answers the question – the most important part!
c.    “Opens up” to further questions

Bear in mind the importance of:

-       Introduction: You need to catch the reader’s attention, remember your lecturer/the examiner will have dozens and dozens of copies to mark. You need to show them that this is going to be an interesting piece of work.
-       Conclusion: This is the last thing your lecturer/the examiner is going to read. It is your chance to make a final impact. End with a bit of a “TADAAAM!” effect, give them that final conviction that you deserve a good mark.
-       Transitions: Your essay needs to flow. Your ideas need to be linked in a logical way. Use transition sentences to conclude on one argument and introduce the next one: “All this I have just explained shows this particular point. Which brings us to our next point…"

The Content

A good essay is a well-researched essay.

  1.  Start with the module handbook reading list’s “essential reading”
  2. Add to this with some of the “additional reading”
  3. Add your own sources
    • Use the bibliographies of essential readings: quite often, they reference very good papers which you will be able to access.
    • Use journals and online journals (JSTOR, Library catalogue…)


  • Don’t use Wikipedia – lecturers have a special gift to smell this!
  • Don’t use non-reliable websites: use only official websites (National Museum of Ireland, National Monument Service, Heritage Board, British Museum, etc.), or official research project websites (EMAP, Mapping Death, etc.)

Use the appropriate referencing style. For archaeology, Harvard referencing, for Classics, foot notes.
A complete handbook of Harvard referencing style is available from the library:

Use Word Referencing tool for an easy way to have a flawless bibliography and keep a record of your references for a future essay.

The Style

Remember you are one in maybe dozens of copies! Not only do you need to have a catchy introduction that will hook the reader, but you need to stand out all throughout your essay.

Some basics:
  • Absolutely no contractions: “is not” and not “isn’t”; “do not” and not “don’t”, etc.
  •  GRAMMAR!!!
  • Avoid repetitions – don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus (synonym dictionary)!
  • Avoid “simple” words (see examples below) – but do not use jargon either (especially if you don’t know what it means, lecturers just know when you do it!).
  • Be specific in your terminology.
o    Example: “is” = consists of, represent, reflect; “has” = encompasses, includes, entails…; “look at” = “examine, analyse, review,
o    Example sentences:
§  “This site has a lot of wooden finds”
ð   “A large number of wooden finds were recovered from this site”,
ð  “The assemblage from this site includes a considerable number of wooden artefacts”.
§  There is a trackway going across the bog”
ð  “A trackway crossed the bog at this point in the landscape”

-       Avoid too long or too short sentences – read it out loud: if it sounds well, it will read well.
-       Link your ideas with connecting words such as “in addition to this”, “however”, “firstly”, “secondly”, “similarly”, “conversely”, etc. etc.
-       Be consistent! If you use “BC” dates, use them all throughout, don’t switch to “BCE” halfway through. If you write “5th century”, don’t then write “sixth century”.

If you don’ know how you should write, imagine yourself…
…being a professor giving a talk at a conference: you need to sound professional and serious, while at the same time catching the audience’s attention.

This is where the difference can be made between a good and an excellent essay. An essay is after all, a piece of literature, it needs to be nice to read, in addition to being well-researched and well-structured.

Use Word tools:
Finally, your essay is also a piece of printed literature: don’t feel shy about using Word Styles to make it look goodUse titles, headings, sub-headings, use the caption tool for your images so that they are all numbered in the same way.

And if you are doing a portfolio or a report with different sections, why not insert a nice “Table of Contents” and “List of Illustrations” at the beginning, using the Word tools for them?
Make your essay look as nice and professional as possible!

Extra support

  1. Advice from lecturers (from previous study seminars) here
  2. Special advice for students with dyslexia and dyspraxia here
  3. For any question about this handout and the points raised, please feel free to contact Alex at


Exam period: UCD Union is here for you !

Dear everyone,

Exam time is upon us ! But before you drop into the abyss of panic attacks, all-nighters, energy drinks overdoses and general despair, read what follows! :) In addition to the 5-star support you will get from your awesome Society (yes, this is us), the UCD Union is also there to help you if you need. Pssst, this includes free transport to the exams! Read on...

  • Late Night study areas
We all know you love the library - ah come on, don't lie! - but unfortunately, it will close after 11.30pm. So if you are a night-owl like me, fear not, the Astra Hall in the Old Student Centre will stay open for you until 3am so you can indulge in even more revising!

  • Early morning study areas
But the early birds should not feel left out !! The James Joyce library will open early from now until the end of the exam period ! You can check out the opening hours of the various libraries on the library website.

  • FREE exam shuttle
The majority of exams will be taking place in the well-renowned and feared RDS. Now if like me you're not originally from Dublin, these three letters might send you in a bit of a frantic search through the Dublin A-Z or Google maps. And if like me too you do not have a clue about bus routes because you are either living on campus or cycling everywhere, just read on an breathe: there is a free bus shuttle to the RDS. More details here.

And if you would still rather cycle, here is the route from UCD.

View Larger Map

  • General exam advice

Finally, the Student Union has two education officers you can contact if you have queries concerning exams. Their contact details can be found on the UCD Student Union website.

I hope this helps, and again, best of luck to you all !

Alexandra Guglielmi

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Society trip to Samhain Festival of Fire 2015

Samhain Festival of Fire 2014
You can see all the photographs from the event on our Flickr account

This year the Society made its first trip to the Samhain Festival of Fire at the Hill of Ward in Athboy, Co. Meath. The festival is an annual event that takes place every Halloween, and commemorates the tradition of lighting fires on the hill to mark the Celtic new year and the ancient celebration of Samhain.  The trip was significant for us due to our recent excavations conducted on the Hill of Ward, and was a rather nice way of tying our physical studies and archaeological finds with the long held folk traditions and cultural significance associated with the site. Overall it was a very enjoyable evening as well as a really pleasant and novel way to spend Halloween. I would certainly support the society making it an annual trip!

Pre-festival drinks in Athboy

Our evening began with a coach ride from UCD to the small town of Athboy in county Meath. We arrived a little early and went to Floods pub on the main street for a little refreshment and festive atmosphere while we waited for the festival to start.  At 7:30pm we wandered down to the fair green where a crowd was assembling. At the centre were speakers, including the founder of the event; Joe Conlon, who gave us an outline of the festival and the evening's events as well a little local history and mythology of the hill and of the druidess Tlachtga. They also thanked the various contributors and supporters that allowed the event to go ahead, as well as UCD archaeology for our excavations. We were also taught a song about Tlachtga and told a little of the ancient religious and cultural significance of the hill and the use of fires on Samhain. During the gathering, flaming torches were handed out to the crowd, and after the speakers had finished we began a torchlit procession to the hill. 

The procession route was along a country road, and the residents had lined it with little fires and braziers outside their homes, where they stood offering us treats and greetings. It was a lovely festive atmosphere, particularly as many of the people in the procession had come out in costume and the only lights to be seen came from the orange glow of torches and fires, with the occasional ray of moonlight. We reached the hill by climbing over a stile and walking along a grassy path lined with torches. The crowd formed a circle around the centre of the formation on the hill, where there was a bonfire and a procession of hooded and cloaked individuals playing drums and carrying banners entered the circle. We were then treated to the tale of Tlachtga, acted out with singing, drums and pageantry which the crowd was invited to join in with.

 As we watched and listened, we were able to avail of hot cider, tea, coffee and buns from a little kiosk erected by the hill. After the story of Tlachtga, the cloaked people in the midst of the crowd offered druidic prayers and chants and spoke of the ancestors and such, after which the crowd were asked to shout out the names of the dead, in a similar manner to prayers, following the belief that the boundaries between the various worlds was thinnest on Samhain. Whether you believe in this or not, it is a beautiful experience, and simply being on the hill with such a crowd, with light from the torches, singing, fires, hot cider and refreshments and the sight of occasional fireworks going off on the horizon all makes for a fantastic Halloween.

After the ceremony we wandered back down the road to the town where we met up once again at Floods pub. At this point it was far more crowded with Halloween revellers, so we gathered in a small side room for a few games of pool and some food from the local takeaway. After we had a chance to unwind and relax after the nights excitement, we returned to the coach for a lift back to UCD to enjoy the rest of our Halloween.

All in all it was a splendid night and a good experience, particularly for the many international members of our group, for whom it must have been a great taste of Irish culture and tradition, and even for the natives such as myself it was a new experience, as a Halloween activity it was a lot of fun and a nice chance. I think it would make a rather good annual society trip, and its certainly worth experiencing! 

Report by Tom Manning

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

UCD Archaeological Society Inaugural lecture & Launch of Trowel XV

The Society is honoured to welcome Prof Chris Scarre for its Inaugural Lecture this year. 

The lecture is entitled: "Missing Persons? formal Disposal and Funerary Practices in Prehistoric Britain"and will start at 6pm on Thursday 20th November in the Fitzgerald Debating Chamber in the UCD Student centre. 

It will be followed by a wine reception during which Trowel XV will be launched.

All welcome!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Trip to Carlow !

Dear everyone,

This Saturday 15th November, the Society will head down to Carlow for a day of archaeology and visits. Here is the programme. The trip will cost 3€ and you can register at this week's coffee morning (Wednesday, 12-3pm in the Blue Room).

Here is the itinerary:

9.00am                                    Depart Dublin

10.30am                                  Arrive at the Browneshill Dolmen Car Park to be met by Dermot Mulligan, Curator of Carlow County Museum and Noel Dunne, Archaeologist with the National Roads Authority.

11.20am                                  Travel into Carlow town and park at the Bus Park, Barrack Street.

11.40am                                  Tea/coffee break in Nickel Café, Carlow Shopping Centre. The shopping centre was originally the town Gaol during the 19th century.

12.00pm                                  Carlow County Museum with special focus on the Museum’s exhibition ‘Journey’s in Time, The Archaeology of the Carlow By-pass’.
1.30pm – 2.15pm                   Lunch.

2.15pm                                    Walking tour of Carlow town. Including a visit to the ruins of Carlow Castle which was accidentally blow up 200 years ago and was home to the administrative Capital of Ireland beginning 650 years ago.

4.00pm                                    Return to the bus and depart Carlow for Dublin

5.30pm                                    Arrive in Dublin

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Seminar series 2014/2015: "Green treasures from the magic mountains" by Dr. Alison Sheridan

The next seminar will be

"Green treasures from the magic mountains: project JADE"


Dr Alison Sheridan


National Museum of Scotland

Thursday 13th November 2014
5.30 pm

Room A109, Newman Building


CLICK HERE for all seminar posters and reports. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Seminar report: "Insular Monasticism and Royal Patronage in the glen of Aherlow"

This week the society had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Thomas O'Carragain from University College Cork who spoke about his excavations and surveying of the early medieval Christian site of Toureen.

The talk began with Dr. O'Carragain giving a brief explanation of why he chose this site. His main reason was that few midland sites have been explored: due to threats of erosion, sites along the West coast of Ireland gain precedence. Toureen was exciting as it was understudied and a potential example of 7th century monasticism. The Irish Annals mention the site on several occasions; the church was founded by Beccan in the 7th century, was sacked by the Vikings in 833 and declined in importance as a religious site in the 9th century. Toureen was situated within the parish of Killardy controlled by King Ui Maic Laire of Cashel and later an estate of the Arch Bishop’s of Cashel.

The site itself is situated on a slope on waterlogged land with only a small area suitable for habitation. Several trenches were opened on site; inside the Romanesque church and in areas identified as possible features through geophysical survey.

Trench A to the North of the site uncovered an enclosure from the medieval period which was only used for a short period.

Trench B also in the North uncovered a stone platform which is believed to have been put in place to reduce waterlogging.

Trench F was opened within the church ruins which uncovered a number of medieval and post-medieval burials. These burials were very close together, sometimes mere centimetres apart. The most notable was that of a young man from the fifteenth century, his grave was separate from the others and well protected, he had also suffered a sword blow to the head. The excavators had to deal with damage to soil cuts at the East end of the church due to the OPW's activities in the 1940's, However more fragmentary early medieval burials were discovered nearby with part of a name stone found under a skull.

Trench G uncovered the remains of a post medieval house.

A natural stream channel was also uncovered complete with stepping stones and consolidated bank which Dr. O’Carragain described as a fluke find.

The excavators were able to establish three phases of activity;

  • Phase1: Late 7th to early 8th century. These dates were based on radiocarbon dating of post holes found on site.
  • Phase 2: Traces of a large circular building were found measuring 9 meters internally and 13 meters in total and dating between 659-772 AD. It was possibly a defensive structure with possible gate and bridge slots. A second rectangular building was also uncovered nearby measuring 1.5 meters in diameter and 3 meters across.
  • Phase 3: The industrial phase, the 8th to 9th century. There was possible evidence of cereal drying or iron working.

Finds at the site included a large number of name stones, around 70 in total making it one of the largest collections in Ireland, a bead, small hammer and a pin. The base of a stone cross, originally 3 meters in height has geometric capitals inscribed on it which read “Pray for the soul of Beccan by whom it was made” This has led Gifford Charles Edward to believe it is one of, if not the, earliest stone crosses in Britain and Ireland.

The Toureen project was funded by the Royal Irish Academy and volunteers included around 200 University College Cork students as well as professional archaeologists.

By Mollie Christina Dogherty