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Reasearch Projects

UCD School of Archaeology has a vibrant and diverse research culture that contributes extensively to our evolving knowledge of the past. On this page you will get a flavour of that diversity by browsing through some of our current research projects (see below). We particularly value the link between research and teaching with our teaching being constantly informed by the latest research. In addition we formally make the link between teaching and research through our annual fieldschool, which involves staff, post-graduate researchers and undergraduate students in a field project.

The "Passage Tomb People" project led by (opens in a new window)Dr Jessica Smyth is investigating the social drivers of passage tomb construction along the Atlantic Façade, focussing on the archaeology of three key zones – Ireland, North Wales and Orkney. The connectedness of Atlantic passage tombs has long been recognised, but to date there has been no targeted research on the societies that built them. PTP is probing the connections between monument construction and changes in farming practice, diet and environment using large-scale programmes of biomolecular and isotopic analyses tailored to the taphonomic conditions of each region. Find out more ...

In 2009 the UCD School of Archaeology initiated a broad research and teaching project focusing on the Glendalough Valley, Co. Wicklow with a specific initial focus on the landscapes in the Upper Valley (Lugduff townland). Glendalough is an iconic Irish archaeological landscape: a spectacular monastic complex set in a stunning mountain landscape. The monastery was founded by St Kevin, and became one of the major religious houses of early Ireland. It is currently managed by the Office of Public Works and set within the wider context of the Wicklow Mountains National Park The aim of this our project is to integrate teaching and research in furthering our understanding of this landscape, which, despite its iconic status, has seen comparatively little recent archaeological fieldwork. Find out more >>

The Hill of Ward, Co. Meath is (opens in a new window)located 2km to the east of the medieval town of Athboy, and comprises a gently rising outcrop of ‘Calp’ limestone and shale with a maximum OD of c. 140m. The hill is topped by a 150m quadrivallate earthen enclosure known by the Irish name of Tlachtga (occasionally Tlachta or Tlachtgha), usually translated as ‘earth spear’.  In the ancient kingdom of Mide, Tlachtga was considered an important assembly place alongside Tara (Temhair/Temair), Teiltun and Uisneach. These four ‘corners’ are recorded as having been the location of fortresses constructed by high king Tuathal Techmar (who is described in Fragmentary Annals 116 as ‘Tuathal of Tlachtga’) at the foundation of Mide in the early decades of the first millennium AD.

The ‘Three Finds of Emain’, Bres, Nár and Lothár, sons of High King Eochaid Feidlech and triplet brothers of Queen Medb of Connacht are said to have dwelt at Tlachtga in the first century AD. Somewhat later, Geoffrey Keating in his ‘History of Ireland’ records Tlachtga as the centre of Irish Samhain traditions (equivalent to the modern festival of Halloween), noting that on the hill ‘the priests, augurs and druids of Ireland [would] assemble upon the eve of All Saints, in order to consume the sacrifices that were offered to their pagan gods’ (Keating 1809). This has led to Tlachtga being labelled as ‘the birthplace of Halloween’.  Find out more >>

The overarching aim is to explore the early prehistory, especially the Mesolithic, of the Mar Lodge estate, a huge area of uplands in the heart of the Cairngorm mountains, Scotland. Little is known of early prehistory in this area – indeed, little is known of Mesolithic settlement in uplands/mountainous environments in Scotland (for discussion, see SCARF – the (opens in a new window)Scottish Archaeological Research Framework). Three flint scatters were identified on footpaths in the estate and these have been the focus for the initial phase of the project in 2013. This has provided geomorphic maps of the main river valleys associated with the finds and preliminary archaeological fieldwork to assess the scatters. The project is providing key information about early prehistoric use of the uplands and contributing to the management of these sites on the Mar Lodge Estate.

Further information >>

The Shetland Islands are the most northwesterly area of Europe where early farming groups were established in the fourth millenium BC. Distinctive remains of these people include the stone houses they lived in. the fields they farmed and the distinctive small megalithic tombs they built for the dead. Linking these different strands of early life in the Shetland archipelago are stone axeheads and knives made from a distinctive source; felsite and more particularly riebeckite felsite, which occurs in the northern part of Mainland Shetland. Here the felsite occurs as distinctive dykes in granite. Following up on earlier reconnaissance a research team, using a multi-scale study linked by GIS is undertaking a first season of fieldwork to understand the scale of working of this source, the extraction and production of axes and knives and the geochemistry and petrology of the rock with the intention of testing whether particular artifacts can be linked back to specifc areas in the complex. Exciting discoveries have been the identification of quarry pits where the stone was extracted and a hoard of axe and knive roughouts.

The PIPRP was established to investigate the archaeology of prehistoric landscapes in various parts of Palawan Island, SW Philippines, location of Tabon Cave, site of some of the earliest human remains in the region. The project currently involves excavations at an important cemetery and early occupation site, Ille Cave, landscape survey for environmental archaeology, and new investigations at caves on the island of Imorige. Fieldwork takes place from late March-mid June; post-excavation studies take place year-round in Manila, Dublin, Paris and Singapore. The project also offers opportunities to access the collections of the National Museum of the Philippines and the resources of the University of the Philippines. Find out more >>

Frongoch near Bala on the edge of Snowdonia in North Wales is a location of particular significance in recent Irish history. During the second half of 1916, some 1700 Irishmen were interned there for their part in the Easter Rising. In the lead-up to the Rising, the different groups involved in the nationalist cause were highly disparate both in their social make-up and political perspectives. A joint project, led by Prof. Joanna Brück (UCD) and Dr Gary Robinson (Bangor University) has been carrying out archaeological survey and excavation at the site since 2015 to investigate the use of space within the camp; the way in which material culture was employed to negotiate social and political identities; and relations between the Irish internees, their guards, and members of the local Welsh community. Find out more >>

Contact UCD School of Archaeology

Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8312 | E: archaeology@ucd.ie