Weeks 13 and 14 of Field School 2018

For weeks of November 12 and 19

In next week’s post, I’ll wrap up our thoughts on what we accomplished at Fort Tombecbe this season. However, this week’s final blog posts from the students for 2018 are about their trip to Ireland. Sarah, Michael, Daniel, and Sparky were part of a group of 25 UWA students who participated in the UWA in Ireland course “Culture, Nation, and the State in Ireland,” co-taught by Dr. Lesa Shaul (English), Dr. Rob Riser (History), and me. We were there for ten days over the Thanksgiving Holiday and visited many historical and archaeological sites. We hope you enjoy their posts about some of their favorite places.

Neolithic Passage Tombs

By Michael Hornsby


Hello again everyone!!

As a few of you know, the 2018 Field School has decided to take one heck of a break. All of us, and I do mean all of us, will be leaving the country and coming back in a little over a week. We will be going to Ireland and looking at various archaeological sites to get a better understanding of a different culture. In addition to this instead of just hearing from me, you will also get an article on a different subject from every other student who has been posting articles over the past semester. Don’t worry though, mine will still be here if you get sick of reading the others. On that note, I think it is time to get going so I will finish this on the return trip.

Alright guys, we are officially, and sadly, back in the States. I will be covering a little bit about the history and structure of passage tombs and a few that we saw while there. So, for anyone who doesn’t know what a passage tomb is, here is a random definition you can find online:

passage grave or passage tomb consists of a narrow passage made of large stones and one or multiple burial chambers covered in earth or stone. The building of passage tombs was normally carried out with megaliths and smaller stones; they usually date from the Neolithic Age.

Now that that boring definition is out of the way, imagine a hallway with one or two doors branching off and then put that inside a circle. You now have at the simplest level the base plan of a passage tomb. Image result for drawing of a passage tomb                  Image result for passage tomb aerial view                                                   

One of the coolest things about a passage tomb is the precision of them to this day. I know some of you must be thinking what is precise about a big pile of rocks. Well, the passages are usually lined up with a solstice or equinox that will only occur one day out of a year. Now think of when these were built 5,000 years ago, they didn’t have electronics or fancy equipment. These were hand built and the rocks used were brought in sometimes from far away. These tombs took years to build and still to this day line up with the sun or sunset one day out of the year. The people who were buried in them were usually a chieftain and other members of his extended family. The big tombs helped mark their territory to farming land in a particular region. We visited the Loughcrew Passage Tomb (image 1) and the Creevykeel tomb (images 2 and 3), both dating to the Neolithic about 3500 BC, or more than 5000 years ago.

Cavan Burren

By Daniel Rhodes


Sadly, this will be my final blog entry for the semester. I have really learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. So, we as a class decided to do something a little different for our final entries, as some of you may know the four of us Michael, Sarah, Connor and myself recently went on a school trip to Ireland and we each decided to write about something we liked or something we learned on the trip. I chose to write about Cavan Burren. Cavan Burren is a massive Archaeological and Geological marvel. It’s full of wide-open spaces, beautiful forests and so much more. Our guide Seamus (He has a last name, but I won’t even attempt to try and spell it.) took us through the sprawling landscapes and told us the history of the park, like the Glacier erratics, which are large stones that had been transported by a glacier and left behind after it melted), and early stone works that if you look really close you could see the tool marks, even though they were thousands of years old. He also shared a little folklore about the fairies that lived in the forest. Cavan Burren has passage tombs (see image below) and many large circles made of stones, which were probably Neolithic houses or enclosures for houses. It is no surprise that the Celtic people who showed up thousands of years later made up stories about giants and fairies to explain these abandoned stone structures. All in all, it was awesome and that was just small part of a truly amazing trip. 

Bog Bodies

By Sarah Coffey

The last couple days of our trip to Ireland were spent in Dublin. On Saturday, we spent the morning at the National Museum of Natural History and Archaeology. Among the exhibits were some of the world-famous bog bodies. True to their name, the bodies are recovered from peat bogs around Europe. Due to the cool, waterlogged environment, the peat turns acidic with low levels of oxygen that almost perfectly preserve any organic material. Four bog bodies found in Irish peat bogs were on display with information on their discovery. All of the bodies on display were dated to the Early Iron Age between 400 BC and 400 AD. The oldest, Gallagh Man, is a nearly complete set of remains. The skin was paper-thin, covering bone. After reading the plaque discussing his discovery in the early 19th century, I learned that Gallagh Man is slowly disintegrating. Upon first being discovered, he had some hair and parts of a beard left, but over the years, they have disappeared, leaving bare skin that barely covers his skull. Probably the most fascinating were Oldcroghan Man and Clonycavan Man. Although the only pieces recovered was the torso and arms and the head (in the case of Clonycavan Man), they are probably the most well preserved of the bog bodies on display.The skin of both bodies has turned brown and slightly dry from the tanic acid in the peat bog, but they are the most human-like. Oldcroghan still had very noticeable fingernails on his hands and Clonycavan still had hair on his crushed-head.Overall, being able to see this exhibit gave more insight on how different environments can preserve human remains and other archaeological artifacts in different ways.


Donegal Castle

By Connor Sparks


On our trip to Ireland, we had the opportunity to visit Donegal Town in the County of Donegal. There we were able to go to a castle that was owned by the O’Donnell clan, one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to 16th centuries. The castle is beautiful; it sits on a small water way, and the keep has three stories of wonderful architecture and held so much history in its walls. During 1607, the leaders of the O’Donnell clan fled Ireland after a failed revolt from the English and the lands were given to an English Captain by the name of Basil Brooke. Once given the castle, he made many additions to the castle, windows, a gable and a manor house wing to the side of the keep. With the additions to the castle, the Brookes family renovated the 2nd and 3rd floor of the keep. They wanted a homier feeling than that of the Gaelic style. The bottom floor stayed the same because they had no use or need to go there because it was for the servants and help. When we walked through the castle and walking on the same floor that people that long ago walked on was amazing. If you ever find yourself in Ireland, do yourself the favor and travel to Ulster, County Donegal and then to Donegal Town to visit this magnificent piece of architecture and history.