Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 6

This week our intern Erin tells us about her tour of Wexford as temperatures soared in Ireland…

Week 6 – 2nd July 2018

This week marks the halfway point of my internship, and it was orientation week for the new group of IFR students. We reached record-breaking temperatures this week. I am glad for the beautiful weather but I only wish I had more water to drink!

On Tuesday, we listened to a lecture and took a historical tour of Wexford town, both led by Emmett Stafford, a local archaeologist. The tour of the town was beautiful, and we were able to see what remained of the original wall of medieval Wexford. He also took us to St. Patrick’s Church, Selskar Abbey, and St. John’s Graveyard. In the graveyard, he asked us to locate the remains of a medieval church, and we found a coffin, which was standing upright. It was made of stone and had three holes in the bottom,  which according to Emmett, were used as a drainage system for after the bodies decayed and returned to the earth. After the tour of Wexford town, we went to Rathmacknee Castle for a tour.

Emmett also taught us about the process of repairing medieval walls. One must wait until winter to scan the wall to see it clearly without all the vines and shrubbery. The next step is to remove the plants without damaging the wall. This must be done carefully because if the mortar loosens, the wall becomes weakened.


The next day as the students headed off to Hook Lighthouse with intern Aisling, the rest of the interns and staff stayed on site and began weeding the ferns that were growing back within the cuttings. We also did our best to weed around the tree stumps, as we cannot remove them, at risk of damaging the walls and structures within the cuttings and removing any potential evidence.

For the remainder of the week, I assisted Ryan, who continued his LiDAR scanning, both on site and across the road, in the hopes of scanning the “Lost Town of Carrick”.  I sketched an image of the site from across the bridge, as well as an image of what we believe the town looked like.

Next week I will be digitizing the plans of Cuttings 1 and 2 – I can’t wait to get started!

Erin Kislan

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Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 5

‘Time flies when you’re having fun’ according to intern Aisling – to find out more read below…

Week 5 – 25th June 2018

The weeks seem to be going by even more quickly. It is week three of my internship and I cannot believe it, but I guess they do say ‘time flies when you’re having fun’.

Last week, we began a two-week excavation program with Maynooth University. The students have been here for one week, and have completed a heap of work and took a field trip to Ferns. This week they continued their hard work and took a field trip to Hook Lighthouse.


On Monday, the students got a lesson on how to take levels and we continued removing topsoil from the newly re-opened Cutting 3 at the excavation site. It ended up getting so hot during the day that Clara, one of the students, hopped into the large freezer to cool herself off! On Tuesday, we continued to remove the topsoil from Cutting 3, in order to begin our plans of the cutting. By the end of the day, the majority of Cutting 3 was cleaned back and we could now see the masonry from the curtain wall and the smaller structure.

On Wednesday, Gaile and I spent part of the day cleaning up the wall in Cutting 3, while the other students and interns spent the day planning Cutting 3. Today was the first day that Ryan began his LiDAR survey of the site. Ryan hopes to create a digital scan of the fort and surroundings of the excavation site.

During the next day, Gaile and I began to try to reach the natural subsoil in the bank of Cutting 1. In the afternoon, Denis sent me to the library to search the microfilm for any references to the landing of the Normans in Ireland. After I left, Orla helped Gaile reach the subsoil within Cutting 1, while the other students continued to excavate Cutting 3.

Friday was the last day of the program for this group of students. We met at the park for the final time and received a lecture on site photography. Then, the students and interns left for Hook lighthouse, while Denis, Richard, Ryan and I stayed back at the park. I transcribed the newspaper articles that I found on the Norman landings in Ireland at the library the day before.

This past week was extremely rewarding for the students, staff and interns. We all accomplished an incredible amount of work and discovered some amazing finds, such as an 18th century coin! The week has made me even more excited for the weeks to come.


Aisling Lacey

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Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 4

IAFS internships are extremely varied so there is never a dull moment.  Read below where intern Gaile recounts the start of the first excavation this summer…

Week 4 – 18th June 2018

This week, new students arrived for a two-week excavation course with IAFS and thus this season’s excavation began. Our week started with a lecture of the history of Ferrycarrig and the town of Wexford. To make a long story short… Diarmait Mac Murchada, the king of Leinster in the mid twelfth-century, sought aid from King Henry II to regain control of this land. An ambitious knight, Robert Fitzstephen and the Earl of Pembroke, Strongbow took to helping Mac Murchada for the prospect of gaining land and prestige. Carrig was the area chosen by Fitzstephen to build a ringwork castle to establish his power. Even though Fitzstephen quickly lost power, his legacy lived on and so did the castle he built, until around 1324 CE when it was said to be in ruins.

Before any excavations could commence, there was still a lot of clearing of shrubbery that needed to be done. Clara, Maddy, Erin and I continued to clear various plants and soil from the bottom of Cutting 3 in order to expose the plastic left from Claire Cotter’s excavations in 1986-1987 before the establishment of the Irish National Heritage Park.


Actual excavations began on Thursday 21st June after removing several trees and bushes that had grown in the cutting. According to Claire Cotter’s drawings, she had found a curtain wall in Cutting 3, so we were interested to find it.

This week, we also continued research at the library. Our research focuses on the attitude of the Irish towards the English in 1969, on the 800th anniversary of the landing of the Anglo-Normans. I finished reading through Free Press from that year without much luck and started skimming through the Enniscorthy Echo from the same year with little results. However, our research continues and hopefully there will be more information as I read on!

Gaile Juknevicius

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Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 3

Through our internship programs students gain unique, hands-on experience in various aspects of archaeology.  Read below about former IAFS student Aisling Lacey and how excited she is to be rejoining us this summer as an intern …

Week 3 – 11th June 2018

I began my internship with the IAFS on the 11th of June, right as a new group of students arrived for the forensic anthropology program. That Sunday, all the new students arrived at the Irish National Heritage Park to meet their host families, the staff and the other students. Unlike most of the other students, I actually arrived in Ireland on June 1st to visit my family in Wexford. It was great to see all of my family, but I was even more excited to be at the excavation site again with all of the lovely people I had met previously during the field school in January.

After spending two weeks with the IAFS in January, I knew I needed to come back. Luckily enough, I was welcomed back for an internship during the summer and I could not be happier. To be a part of uncovering and understanding such an important part of Irish history is incredibly rewarding.

On Monday morning, even though I was dead tired, I woke up excited and ready to see both the new faces and all of the faces that I already knew. When I got to the park, Denis Shine, director of the IAFS, gave me the opportunity to either take part in the forensic anthropology program that was about to begin or to go up to the excavation site and help the other interns that were already there. I had never taken a forensic anthropology course before, so I decided to take the course.

After everybody arrived, Denis and Dara Fleming-Farrell, the instructor, gave the students and myself an introduction into forensic anthropology. After our orientation, we jumped onto a bus and headed down to Hook Lighthouse. We went at the perfect time because it was sunny and calm. Before the tour began, we took the opportunity to walk along the rocks on the shore and relax. After the tour ended we jumped back onto the bus and headed into Wexford town to shop and go to the pub. Afterwards, our host families picked us up and brought us home.

On Tuesday we all were brought to the Crannog, where we would spend the rest of our week. The other interns went up to the top of the hill, where they would stay for the rest of the week, preparing the excavation site for the upcoming field schools. Once we arrived in the Crannog, Dara gave us a run-down on how to identify and excavate a grave. Then we were all split into four teams, made plans, took levels and excavated a replica grave. The next day, we went back into our teams and continued excavating and planning our replica graves.

On Thursday, Dara and Richard taught us how to photograph and remove skeletal remains. Later that day, we went inside the Crannog and received a lecture from Dara on bone analysis and how to identify a skeleton. For the rest of the day and we had the opportunity to hold real human remains and identified the sex, age and stature of the individual. On the last day of the program, Dara gave a fantastic lecture on palaeopathology and trauma. We spent the rest of the day in our groups, identifying human remains. After the day ended, we all said our goodbyes to one another.

Aisling Lacey

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Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 2

The excitement of an IAFS internship is seeing the whole experience as a learning opportunity.  Below intern Erin Kislan who worked alongside us this summer tells her story…

Week 2 – 4th June 2018

My arrival in Ireland did not go as planned as my flight was delayed.  However, I managed to figure out the bus route to Connolly train station in Dublin and caught the train to Wexford. The train ride down was beautiful, with a lovely view of the sea side. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Denis Shine, the IAFS director. I was then able to visit the Irish National Heritage Park, while meeting my house mate Gaile, who was preparing packets and notebooks for the arriving students. My host mother is named Suzanne and she is wonderful. I was confused when I first arrived because the drivers and cars are on the opposite sides than they are at home! Eventually, I got used to this, as well as the Irish accents.

On the first day, I was introduced to the forensic anthropology course, which was taught by Dara Fleming-Farrell. During that week, I learned how to properly trowel soil and take coordinates using grid points. As a group, we learned to sketch replica graves accurately, and how to measure the depth and height of the grave using a dumpy level.  Next, we drew scale drawings of the graves. To make sure the measurements are accurate, one must keep the measuring tape tight and level.

Finally, we looked at real skeletal remains to determine whether or not there was trauma and if so, where it was located. We used the pelvis and skull to determine the sex of the individual, and looked at dentition to learn about their age and diet. Trauma can include things such as fractures and broken bones, embedded projectiles or the method of burial and disposal of the graves. The timing of trauma is classified as either antemortem, perimortem, or post mortem. Antemortem means the trauma occurred before death, perimortem is usually the cause of death or occurred during death and post mortem is after death. We were taught that perimortem trauma has a lack of osteogenic reaction, fresh bone fracture such as smooth fracture, uniform colouration, bevelled edges, plastic deformation and hinging.

During my first week I learned a lot – even more information than I thought I could learn in one week! It was interesting and I hope to learn even more during my time with the IAFS.

Erin Kislan

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Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 1

As the summer season begins at the Ferrycarrig Project, Gaile Juknevicius tells us why she returned to Ireland on an eight week internship program to continue her archaeological studies with IAFS.

Week 1 – 30th May 2018

Last summer I attended a four week student program with the IAFS in Ireland. There I learned the basics of archaeological investigation including excavation, post-excavation, bioarchaeology, and survey methods. That trip proved to me that archaeology is something I am passionate about and would like to further pursue, which is what led me here to Ferrycarrig in Wexford. This eight week internship program I am currently pursuing was offered by Learn International with IAFS and was an amazing opportunity to learn more field skills and experience a field school again from a different position.

As this was not my first time working with this amazing and supportive team, it was no surprise that my first week at the Ferrycarrig Project, in the Irish National Heritage Park with IAFS felt like coming home. I arrived in Wexford on Wednesday 30th May – a few days before the rest of the students and interns, so it was a lot of one-on-one time with Denis Shine, co-director of the Irish Archaeology Field School, and Mairead Stobie, our program administrator. I was able to have a personal orientation of the site and learn a bit about the site’s history prior to the arrival of the rest of the students.

In addition to getting generally acquainted with the site, there was a lot of preparation to be done before everyone else arrived. On Thursday and Sunday, I crafted arrival packs for the students that were coming for the month. There are two one-week forensics courses led by Dara Fleming-Farrell, a forensic anthropologist specializing in trauma, and a two-week course focusing on excavation. Since I was to come in on Sunday I ended up taking Friday off as a study day, during which I read several books about medieval Ireland, focusing on Wexford, in order to strengthen my knowledge of Pre-Norman and Anglo-Norman Leinster.

This first, sort of personalized week, was a wonderful way to inform myself about the importance of the area, and why it is so important to reach out to the community about such a pivotal moment in Irish history.

Gaile Juknevicius

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Internship Blog Series – Spring 2018 – Week 9

The final blog by intern Madeleine Harris.  What an eight weeks!.  We were disappointed to see Maddy leave us, but she has been an absolute pleasure to have around.  Maddy was the first to participate in our dual location internship, staying in both Wexford and Birr.  She was also the first to receive in depth training in off-site archaeological activities, such as field-walking, desktop assessment, finds cataloguing etc – as well as getting to see the off-site workings of the IAFS.  Her last week rounded out activities she has been undertaking in the last couple of months, but unfortunately was interrupted by a freak weather event (3ft of snow in the Midlands!).  However, it was still incredible how much she got to pack in.  See you soon Maddy – you will be missed!

Week 9 – 26th February 2018

This week was bittersweet, as it was my last week in Ireland and working with the Irish Archaeology Field School (for now).  Monday was spent finishing various tasks, such as the impact assessments and discussing how to spend the next few days.

On Tuesday, we received a visit from Steve and Mairead and had a company meeting that lasted the majority of the day.  It was great to see them and catch up!  During the meeting, I also finished measuring and labeling the pottery and returning the sherds to their respective bags for storage.

Wednesday started out as a productive day, and I began drafting a worksheet listing the various pottery types found on site, how to identify them, examples of where they’ve been found, etc.  Hopefully this will help future students to learn more about the pieces they are finding and will serve as a general guide to identification.  Although it had been snowing all morning, the weather got particularly bad in the afternoon, and Denis and I left the office early.

That night, Storm Emma set in, and we could not work the rest of the week. Instead, my days were spent playing in the snow and staying warm – it was a great way to spend my last few days in Ireland!

Madeleine Harris

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Internship Blog Series – Spring 2018 – Week 8

In this penultimate blog, intern Madeleine Harris visits Birr Library, travels to Cork to meet with a medieval pottery specialist, visits the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and meets with a conservator in University College Dublin.

Week 8 – 19th February 2018

This week was one of the busiest in Birr thus far, as we had meetings across the country and many things to accomplish.  On Monday, I started the day by working with the samples we had sieved during the last day on site.  Now that they were dry, I used tweezers to extract the bits of charcoal from the roots and other organic material and place it in a new bag.  We are sending our charcoal to a lab in New Zealand where it will undergo radiocarbon dating.  In order for us to send these samples out of the country, we had to submit permits to the National Museum of Ireland for export and alteration.

Birr Library

The majority of the Tuesday, I spent doing research and completing impact assessments. The library in Birr has a great local history section, which was of great use to me for my historical summary of the areas in my reports.  At the end of the day, we gathered and prepared all of the items needed for the following day.

We had an early start on Wednesday, as we were meant to be in Bandon, a town just outside of Cork, by 9:30am.  We scheduled a meeting with Clare McCutcheon, a medieval pottery specialist, who agreed to identify our pottery finds from Ferrycarrig; however, she did much more than that.  We spent the whole day with Clare and not only learned which types of pottery we found, but how to identify them, their origin, and much more.  

Our sherds included Leinster Cooking Ware, Ham Green B ware, Wexford-type ware, Wexford-type coarseware, Saintonge green glazed ware, Bristol Redcliffe ware, Mintety-type ware, and even a couple sherds of Saintonge sgraffito.  It was incredible to learn how she identified each sherd and I was grateful for the opportunity to spend the day with her.  I now feel confident about identifying pottery sherds found on site, and am excited to share this knowledge with other students.

After our day with Clare, I spent most of Thursday working with the pottery.  I took the information she shared and updated the museum database with the correct identifications. Once each piece was updated, I began labeling the sherds with their corresponding museum identification number.  This number is a combination of the excavation license number, the feature or context number, and the individual find number (for example, 17E0318: 2001: 1) and is written on the pottery itself.  To do this, I applied a varnish on each piece, let it dry, and then used a permanent pen to mark the number.







Friday was another early start, as we had various appointments in Dublin.  Our first task was to view the topographical files inside the National Museum.  These files contain a record of each artefact found in the country, and I needed the information to complete my impact assessments.  In the afternoon, we went to University College Dublin to meet with Susannah Kelly, a conservator, to inquire about a piece of timber found on site.  After asking a couple of people in the archaeology department about the artefact, we left the piece with her to conserve.  It’s hard to believe I only have one week left in Ireland!

National Museum Dublin

University College Dublin







Madeleine Harris

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Internship Blog Series – Spring 2018 – Week 7

This week intern Madeleine Harris learns about the discipline of oral histories, travels to Maynooth University and re-visits the Irish National Heritage Park to finalise logistics.  The range of activities indicates just how holistic our unique Winter internship is.

Week 7 – 12th February 2018

This was my second week in Birr, but we spent nearly as much time traveling as we did in the office!  On Monday, I went with Denis to a meeting with a historical group in Kilcormac, a nearby town.  They were interested in creating an oral history project involving the community, particularly the people who worked on the bogs.  It was a great learning opportunity for myself, as I knew very little about either aspect.  I loved learning about the process behind the project and the steps required to begin creating an oral history.

Afterwards, we walked through Lough Boora, a massive park situated on a reclaimed peat bog, where I was able to learn even more about this unique landscape and the business surrounding it.


Any spare time this week was spent working on my archaeology impact assessments for both Paul’s Lane Loop and the Glinsk Castle Loop.  I paid a visit to the Birr library, where I perused the local history section and researched the two areas.  The assessments need to include a section about the history of the affected area, and the local library is often one of the only places with a collection of such information.  Once the historical summary is finished, the only section left to complete is Appendix 2: Archaeological Finds.  For this, we had to make an appointment at the National Museum of Ireland, and expect to go next Friday.

Wednesday was an early morning, as we took a trip to Wexford and visited the Irish National Heritage Park.  We checked on the site, picked up some forgotten items, and met with Chris Hayes, the outdoor park manager.  We discussed topics such as future infrastructure plans for the site and site-office, marketing tactics and future videos, and preparations for the upcoming programs.  I enjoyed the opportunity to hear about aspects of the company, and the industry in general, that one would never think about when discussing archaeology.  Even though we had only been away for two weeks, it was great to visit the park and see the site again.  I hope to be back again in the future!

After continuing my research in the morning, the majority of Thursday was spent on the road again, as we traveled to Maynooth University.  Denis spoke to students in the anthropology department and presented their upcoming summer programs.  The IAFS is offering both forensic and physical archaeology modules to Maynooth students in June, which would be a terrific opportunity for them to gain hands-on experience.  We also took this opportunity to meet with the Anthropology Department head and faculty, and explored the campus a bit.

After a week of adventures, Friday was spent back in the office.  Denis and I took this day to accomplish a few projects, evaluate our to-do list, and discuss our goals and plans for the following week, which include even more day-trips!

Madeleine Harris


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Internship Blog Series – Spring 2018 – Week 6

This week intern Madeleine Harris travels to Birr for the second half of her internship in the Birr office.  She will be learning archaeological skills not typically taught in a field school, starting with archaeological impact assessment skills.  This is part of our unique internship which teaches a whole range of archaeological techniques.

Week 6 – 5th February 2018

After arriving in Birr on Friday and settling in our new homestay, we were excited to begin work on Monday morning! Grace, Chanel, and Liam were all here with me for the first week in Birr.  We spent most of the day getting organized and familiarized with our new office and took a tour of our new town.  Afterwards, we began sorting and finalizing records from Ferrycarrig.  Grace and I digitized the sample and finds registers, while Liam sorted through the plans to prepare them for digitization.  He had to check that the legends were labeled correctly and included all crucial information, and ensure the plans were correct and would overlap properly.  We also finished registering the finds into the National Museum of Ireland’s database and preparing for our upcoming impact assessment.

On Tuesday, we drove to the nearby village of Cadamstown to begin our assessment.  We walked the pre-existing hiking path, Paul’s Lane Loop, which took us through the Slieve Bloom Mountains.  It was a beautiful and snowy day, and we, as well as the two dogs with us, enjoyed the walk.  Throughout the trail, we stopped to take photos and notes about the various archaeological sites and monuments we encountered.  These included the abandoned village of Bordingstown and several artifacts within Cadamstown.  We used maps from the National Monuments Service to track our walk and made necessary updates along the way.

Once we returned to the office, we spent the remaining hours, as well as the next couple of days, working on our assessments.  The reports are thorough and include the proposed development, a historical summary of the area, and multiple appendices discussing the finds and monuments near the trail.  They end with a description of measures that should be taken in order for the development to occur.

After our reports were drafted, we decided to begin a second assessment on Friday.  This time, we walked along the Glinsk Castle Loop in Kinnitty.  This walk was longer but had fewer points of archaeological significance.  The main monument on the loop was Glinsk Castle.  We stopped and looked for it, but found nothing more than a few stones forming a possible border wall.


After the walk was finished, we stopped for lunch in the Kinnitty Castle Hotel to celebrate Grace, Chanel, and Liam’s last day in Birr.


Instead of returning to the office after lunch, we decided to take a final field trip, and drove to Clonmacnoise, a beautiful monastic site on the River Shannon.  It was the perfect way to spend our last day together!

Madeleine Harris

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