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UCD School of Archaeology

Scoil na Seandálaíochta UCD

Professor R.A.S. Macalister (1870-1950) Professor of Celtic Archaeology (1909-1943)

Robert Armstrong Stewart Macalister was born into a Scottish family in Dublin and studied in Cambridge where his father was Professor of Anatomy from 1883. He was Professor of Celtic Archaeology at University College Dublin from 1909 until 1943. Previously he had been Director of the Palestine Exploration Fund (1900-1909), his major project being the excavation of Tell el-Jazari, the biblical city of Gezer. In Ireland he conducted several excavations and field surveys, and published widely on archaeological and other scholarly matters.

During his time at UCD the Irish Free State was born. As President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1924-28) and then President of the Royal Irish Academy (1926-31), Macalister campaigned strongly for legislation to protect archaeological features. Many of the ideas canvassed by him found their way into the ensuing National Monuments Act (1930). He was appointed first Chairman of the National Monuments Advisory Council, established under the provisions of the Act, and he also served on the equivalent committee in Northern Ireland.

Macalister was an indefatigable writer and he was also a polymath. Apart from hundreds of scholarly papers and several books on Irish, European and Near Eastern Archaeology, he also wrote extensively on Irish Epigraphy and the history and languages of the Near East. He was additionally an accomplished musician.

He retired in 1943 and went to live with his sister in Cambridge where he died in 1950.