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UCD School of Archaeology

Scoil na Seandálaíochta UCD

Professor Rúaidhrí de Valera (1916-1978) Professor of Celtic Archaeology (1957-1978)

In 1957, after Seán P. Ó Ríordáin's untimely death, Rúaidhrí de Valera was chosen to succeed him in the Chair of Celtic Archaeology at UCD.

De Valera was born in 1916. He studied at UCD and in 1939 graduated with a B.A. in Celtic Studies. He then served in the Irish army and in 1942-43 taught Old Irish and Welsh at Maynooth. In 1945 he received an M.A. degree for a thesis on the megalithic tombs of north-east Clare. In the following year he became Placenames Officer in the Ordnance Survey. In 1947, he also became Archaeology Officer and in 1949 he initiated the Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. In the following years he wrote important papers on megalithic tombs and studied for his doctorate which was awarded in 1954.

After succeeding Ó Ríordáin in UCD de Valera wrote further influential papers on Irish megalithic tombs and, challenging the orthodoxies of the times, proposed that the earliest Court Tombs were those in the west of Ireland. He was also co-author of the first four volumes of the Megalithic Survey and wrote a revised edition of Ó Ríordáin's Antiquities of the Irish Countryside. During the summer of 1959 he completed the excavations begun by Ó Ríordáin at the Mound of the Hostages, Tara. In his time as Professor in UCD he built up Archaeology, both in staff and student numbers. Ruaidhrí de Valera died suddenly in October 1978 while attending an archaeological event at the Fermanagh County Museum.