History of UCD School of Archaeology

Recent Changes

UCD School of Archaeology has a long and distinguished history, approaching new challenges and changes along the way. From 2005 exciting new opportunities emerged as the old Department of Archaeology, UCD became UCD School of Archaeology. Most recently, 2015-2016, with the support of the University, the School has both expanded and developed its resources and facilities. The School corridor in the Newman Building was renovated to provide more staff offices. The Ardmore Annexe nearby became the focus for laboratory facilities as well as providing dedicated space for our doctoral students, a seminar/meeting room and offices. The School has also developed an open-air Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Ancient Technologies (CEAAT) on the campus at Roebuck and this quadrupled in size in 2015. In conjunction with this the Roebuck complex will be the location of the collections in the School’s care and also in the focus of materials analysis.  As we look forward to our future future we are conscious of a rich and extensive past of archaeological Scholarship at UCD. 

Origins and developments

After the establishment of the Catholic University in Dublin in 1854 Cardinal Newman set about organising it and making academic appointments. These developments included the establishment of a Department of Archaeology which Newman described as -

"...employing itself on the language, remains, MSS. etc. of ancient Ireland "

UCD School of Archaeology was thus one of the first of its kind to be established, only four years after John Disney endowed the Chair of Archaeology at Cambridge Univeristy. The first appointee, on 29 June 1854, to what was described as the Chair of Archaeology and Irish History, was Eugene O'Curry (1796-1862), a scholar in the native tradition of learning. Early in the following year O'Curry commenced lecturing and part of his course was published in 1861 under the title Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History. Later, and posthumously, in 1873 a further series of lectures, The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, appeared. Together these works constitute the first serious attempt to provide a synthetic account of early Ireland. By his teaching and publications O'Curry laid the foundations for the establishment of archaeology as an academic subject in Ireland. In contrast to other institutions which concentrated on Classical Archaeology, O'Curry was concerned with cultural developments in his native land.

With the establishment of the National University in 1908, and the emergence of a Constituent College in Dublin, archaeology once more came into prominence. Amongst the thirty Chairs created in the new University College, Dublin, Archaeology was one, its first holder being Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister (1870-1950). Already, Macalister was an established and internationally-known scholar whose work as Director of the Palestine Exploration Fund (1900-09) occasioned important advances in the archaeology of the Holy Land. His excavation and magisterial publication of the great Tell of Gezer was a notable achievement. On coming to UCD in 1909 he set about the creation of a Department, organising lecture courses and whole-heartedly threw himself into research in many areas of Irish archaeology. This involved extensive primary research based largely on field remains but he also produced works of synthesis including books such as Ireland in Pre-Celtic Times (1921) and The Archaeology of Ireland (1928). In addition Macalister was training students who were themselves to advance the subject further. Indeed one of his great achievements was his contribution to the emergence of a Professional School of Irish Archaeology. 

Professor's who have held the chair of Archaeology at UCD

  • Eugene O'Curry (1794-1862) - Professor of History and Archaeology (1854-1862)
  • R.A.S. Macalister (1870-1950) - Professor of Celtic Archaeology (1909-1943)
  • Seán P. ÓRíordáin (1903-1957) - Professor of Celtic Archaeology (1943-1957)
  • Rúaidhrí de Valera (1916-1978) - Professor of Celtic Archaeology (1957-1978)
  • George Eogan - Professor of Celtic Archaeology (1979-1995)
  • Barry Raftery - Professor of Celtic Archaeology (1996 - 2007)
  • Gabriel Cooney - Professor of Celtic Archaeology (2008 - Present)