Friday, 28 March 2014

Walking back to our roots: Trip to the Dublin Mountains !

Social life during wartime for UCD students in the 1940’s was limited. Kevin Nowlan, the Society’s first auditor, and a few select others occupied their free time by exploring Ireland’s prehistoric and medieval past in the Dublin mountains. Their interest in archaeology was grown during these walks and they wanted to bring that interest and passion back to their college life and share it with their fellow students. So it was during these long hikes through history high up in the Dublin Mountains that the society was founded. To mark the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the UCD Archaeological Society we want to take our members back to where it all began.
Our tour will take in the Kilmashogue and Tibradden Mountains. Among a multitude of other things we will see, the tour will include a portal tomb, wedge tomb and two summit cairns, (an excavated Bronze Age cairn and an unexcavated possible passage tomb). For our non-prehistorians, the tour will also visit the remains of an 18th/ 19th Century estate, with stone masons marks, an ice house and we will get to see the impact of antiquarians on archaeological remains. If that's not enough there will be spectacular views of the city, coast and Dublin Mountains (provided we get the weather).
The tour will be professionally guided and the route is all on established trails.
As this will be our final tour of the year and marks a very special occasion in the history of the Society it will be free, however due to the nature of the hike you will need to be reasonably fit and wear appropriate clothing. So bare that in mind.

Tour takes place on Saturday the 12th of April 2014 from 10am and should take about 3 hours.

If you have any further questions, please contact our Trips and Tours officer, Emmet at or

Cian Corrigan, Auditor 

Charity meets SHIELDS ! Calling all warriors out there !

Dear everyone,

Relay for Life is taking place in less than 2 weeks and we are quite excited to announce that we are going to organise a SHIELD PARADE ! 

We are calling everyone who's done Combat Archaeology to join us on Wednesday 9th April afternoon (between 2:30pm and 6pm more likely but we will arrange the time with the participants). 
Fancy dress is also highly encouraged and even if you don't have a shield, you can join the parade !

The plan is as follows:
The Relay organisers will announce us and we are going to march around the Relay track for one lap to the sound of something ridiculously epic like 300 or Gladiator (we still haven't decided) and we're going to show off our beautiful shields. Last year, we had ONE shield and ONE Viking (and one Robin Hood too) and our stall got so much attention ! So imagine if it is 5, 10, 15....20 (!) of us parading on the pitch with shields. Just imagine how many people would come down to our stall and ask us about them...and buy baked goodies from our 24-hour bake sale and help us fundraise for the Irish Cancer Society !

So people, students, archaeologists (SPARTAAAAAANS !!! ), give me your best warring shout and email me at to join the parade and help give the Society and the School the attention they deserve, and help us raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Seminar: "Itineraries of Neolithic jet and amber beads: a microscopic view"

This week, we will welcome Prof. Annelou van Gijn from the University of Leiden, Netherlands, who is going to give a talk entitled
 "Itineraries of Neolithic jet and amber beads: a microscopic view".

Wednesday 26th March
RoomK012, School of Archaeology, Newman Building

Nota: This seminar will take place on Wednesday and not the usual Thursday, at 5:30pm , in Room K012 and not the usual A109. All welcome !

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Seminar report: "The Cathedral Close of St Canice's, Kilkenny"

Going into this lecture I had little Idea of what would actually be covered, not knowing what a cathedral close actually was. However instead of a presentation on the merits of a single cathedral as I had expected, what followed was an interesting array and impressive display of information about the medieval town of Kilkenny. With special focus on St. Canice, this lecture took us through an interesting time period in Kilkenny towns history in relation to its religious centre and the urban landscape that surrounded it.
Cóilín O’Drisceoil first took us through some of the known history of Kilkenny and the close. Kilkenny town, he explained, is considered to be a medieval capital of Ireland and is Ireland's only surviving medieval city in any meaningful sense of layout and standing medieval structures, with displays of well-preserved and highly visible medieval structures dotted in and around the town today. St Canice's close consists quite literally of associative structures within a closed area around the Cathedral. Before the construction of the cathedral and its close between 1210 and 1280 within a 2-mile circuit wall, the area played host to a number of abbeys and religious structures as is still evidenced by the round tower standing beside the cathedral today. The strong survival of medieval structures means that most precious investigations of the close have focused on its architecture. However the work being done by Cóilín O’Drisceoil has involved 22 excavations of the close itself in an attempt to learn more about the structures that both survive and others that are no longer visible. He believes that the survival of such quantities of medieval material may shed light on the life of the close itself and the everyday life of its occupants. The results are to be published next year in a book on St. Canice.  

Archaeological investigations have taken place on the grounds of the cathedral with extensive geophysical coverage being used to identify graves and tombs. The excavations have revealed much, such as the history of the round tower which has been constructed upon an earlier monastic cemetery shortly after AD 1111. The foundations sitting only a foot and a half deep are directly atop a number of burials consisting together of two adults but also of two children in the surviving remains of a wooden coffin which has given rise to questions such as whether the tower had even been deliberately placed upon these burials. The recount of the archaeological investigations continues to cover a large range of materials and interesting features of the close. These include the use and filling of a surrounding ditch of the cathedral and the questions this can raise about this occurrence, whether it was a deliberate fill to expand the area for construction or a deliberate slighting of monastic sites such as at Clonmacnoise.

Overall, this lecture covered a wide range of material on Medieval life for the residents of the close and their residences. The continuing work and publication will shed light on their day to day life and associations with the surrounding areas and their associations through trade. He goes on to point out the need for further excavation in this area to help expand our knowledge of Irish Medieval life.

By Liam Wilson

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Small Societies Masquerade Ball 2014

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Small Societies Masquerade Ball 2014, a set on Flickr.

    On Thursday 6th March 2014, the Archaeology Society, along with the Association of Small Societies , organised a Masquerade Ball. The event took place in the beautiful Arlington Hotel, near O'Connel bridge on Bachelor's Quay and started at 7pm.
    We were welcomed by a wine reception which took place in one of the reception areas of the hotel. A choice of red or white wine was available, and we could also order other drinks from the bar. After about one hour, we were invited to move to the underground banqueting room where a stage had been set up for the live acts of the evening, and rows of beautifully-decorated tables were waiting for us.
    The menu that night catered for everyone's needs and wishes, with a meat, fish and vegetarian main dish to choose from, and a dessert plate with a selection of different mini cakes. Throughout the dinner, we were entertained by the performance of a wonderful singer and her guitarist. They then left the stage at about 10pm and were succeeded by a pop-rock band which featured our very own Thiana Rachel (Secretary of the Society) as the female singer. They were in turn followed by a punk-rock band featuring Emmet Burke (one of the organisers of the Masquerade Ball) as the lead guitarist. As the clock neared midnight, the stage was cleared and the DJ started his set.
     The evening went on with everyone dancing until their feet could not follow any more. It was a beautiful night and we would like to thank the organising committees, which includes members from all the Small Societies at UCD, for bringing together this fantastic event.

You can find all the photographs from the evening on our Flickr Gallery.

Alexandra Guglielmi

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

UCD Archaeology Society wristbands!

Hello everyone,

Thanks to the efforts of Emily Geoghegan and Katherine McCormack, the Society is proud to present its line of fashionable wristbands. Available in four colours - black, brown, pink and blue -, they read "Archaeology Society - Can you dig it?". We will be selling them for 2€ at our coffee mornings. If you can't make it to coffee mornings and would like to buy a wristband, just email us at

Monday, 3 March 2014

Society trip to Trim and Loughcrew: the story and the photographs!

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On Saturday 1st March, the Society organised a day trip to Trim castle and Loughcrew megalithic complex. Here are the words from our Senior Treasurer, Dr. Steve Davis. Photographs courtesy of ACM Katherine Mc Cormack.

"On Saturday 1st March UCD Archaeology Society ran its first trip of Semester 2 to Meath, taking in Trim Castle, the Hill of Lloyd and Loughcrew passage tomb cemetery. The trip was organised by our Trip and Tours officer, Emmet O Fionnalaigh and was a sell-out, with over 40 people signed up to attend.
Leaving UCD at 9:30 our first stop was Trim Castle – the largest stone-built Anglo-Norman Castle in Ireland, located on the banks of the Boyne in Trim. The castle was commissioned by Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath at the time of the Anglo-Norman ‘invasion’ of 1172 and took approximately 30 years to complete. It is also perhaps better known internationally as the place where the movie ‘Braveheart’ was filmed. Owing to some crossed lines of communication our time actually spent inside the curtain wall was brief and we didn’t unfortunately get to go into the keep. Instead we were treated to an excellent and informative demonstration and tour of the exterior of the castle by Paddy from Trim Living History Group, and had our photograph taken with Deputy Ray Butler, the Trim TD (watch the Meath Chronicle!). In particular, Paddy had a wealth of entertaining stories about the filming of Braveheart, and his tour was very much enjoyed.
From Trim we headed to the Hill of Lloyd (known in Irish as Mullach Aiti), which lies just west of Kells. Unfortunately our bus driver took rather an innovative approach to directions and headed 30km west before doubling back eastwards to the M3, following a number of tractors along the way. The Hill of Lloyd is a hillfort, probably dating to the Bronze Age, but with some of its fortification enclosures apparently modified to include additional rounds of banks and ditches. This closely-spaced multiple vallation is considered to be an Iron Age phenomenon in Ireland. Not only that, but despite being 40km from the sea it is topped by a lighthouse – the Spire of Lloyd. This was designed by Henry Aaron Baker and built by the 1st Earl of Bective in memory of his father in 1791, serving also to provide employment for local labourers in a time of hardship. The Hill was also used as a burial ground at the time of the famine and local folklore suggests that destitute people used to live on the Hill at this time.
The Spire is opened on occasional weekends by a local heritage group, and we were fortunate that the trip coincided with one of those days. In a flat county, even small elevations provide magnificent views, and from the top of the 30m Spire (up a 165-stair spiral staircase!) these views were breathtaking, with Loughcrew – our next and final stop – being a dominant landscape feature.
Our final stop was at one of the most special and perhaps unspoilt archaeological sites in Ireland – Loughcrew passage tomb cemetery. Loughcrew (Irish name: Sliabh na Callighe – the Mountain of the Witch), like the great Boyne Valley tombs (Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth) dates from somewhere in the mid-Neolithic and represents an outstanding example of a cultural phenomenon which seems to have spanned the Atlantic coast of Europe from Orkney to the south of Portugal.
We were fortunate to have Prof. Muiris O’Sullivan with us for the day who is an internationally recognised expert on passage tombs and in particular the megalithic art for which Loughcrew, like Brú na Bóinne is famed. Following an overlong and unnecessary (but, nevertheless impressive!) reversing manoeuvre we headed off up the hillside towards Cairn T. The series of hills that comprise Loughcrew are littered with tombs; however, only one hilltop is easily accessible (a deposit has to be left to acquire the key for Cairn T, in the order of €50, at the Loughcrew Gardens coffee shop). On the way to the top we passed over the remains of extensive ridge and furrow cultivation, probably famine-era ‘lazy bedding’, and a number of older, possibly prehistoric field boundaries. Loughcrew is an exposed spot – the highest point in Meath, although given that Meath is a pretty flat county that is no great claim to fame – but the views from the summit are again magnificent. On the hilltop we split into small groups who took it in turns to go into the main tomb (Cairn T) with Muiris. Cairn T is particularly noted for the in highly-decorated roofstone and backstone in its end recess (in a cruciform chamber, the one in front of you!) which is illuminated on both the spring and autumn equinoxes. Much fun was had by all (but especially Katherine!) exploring the tombs and looking for decorated stones.
All in all it was, despite a few early hiccups, a fantastically successful trip and one which those who participated in will have lasting memories of. A big thumbs up to all concerned.

A little suggested reading
Cooney, G. 1997. The Passage Tomb Phenomenon in Ireland. Archaeology Ireland 11.3 (Supplement: Brú na Bóinne), 7-8.
Cooney, G. 2000. Sliabh na Callighe through time: Loughcrew, Co. Meath. Archaeology Ireland Heritage Guide, No. 12.
Sheridan, A. 1995. Megaliths and Megalomania: An Account, and Interpretation, of the Development of Passage Tombs in Ireland. Journal of Irish Archaeology 3, 17-30.
Haydn, A. 2011. Excavations at Trim Castle 1995-98. Wordwell, Dublin.
Raftery, B. 1972. Irish Hill-forts. In C. Thomas (ed.) The Iron Age in the Irish Sea Province. Council for British Archaeology Research Report No 9: 37–58.
Shee Twohig, E., Roughley, C., Shell, C., O’Reilly, C., Clarke, P. and Swanton, G. 2010. Open-air rock art at Loughcrew, Co. Meath. Journal of Irish Archaeology 19, 1-28.