Dr Brendan O'Neill

Dr Brendan O’Neill is an Assistant Professor in the School of Archaeology, University College Dublin. He was appointed to this role in 2018 to develop and enhance teaching and research in experimental archaeology and material culture. Since 2013 he is also the Deputy Director for the Centre of Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture, a world leading facility dedicated to better understanding archaeology through the analysis and reproduction of artefacts, structures and processes. Over the course of the last 10 years, Brendan has been dedicated to learning a range of ancient technologies and using this skillset to communicate and interpret archaeology in a number of different countries. This approach has allowed him to develop a broad range of skills in multiple materials and technologies, including stone, clay, bronze (and other non-ferrous metals), iron, organics (wood, leather, antler, bone, etc.).

Brendan’s PhD, entitled ‘Forged in Fire: Craft, Industry and Society in Early Medieval Ireland, AD 400-1100, was a focused investigation of so-called ‘hot technologies’. These are crafts that use the sophisticated manipulation of heat to alter minerals and create new materials and objects, including iron making and working, non-ferrous metalworking, ceramic production and cooking. This Irish Research Council Funded project used archaeology, experimental archaeology, ethnography, material science and history to decode how people in early historic Ireland were doing these crafts as well as the archaeological remains that they left behind. More broadly, he is involved in a number of projects, both in Ireland and in locations around the world. These currently include house construction projects (Ireland, Kenya), examining Bronze Age ceramic figurines (Crete, Cyprus), Non-ferrous metalworking (Ireland), Iron smelting (Ireland) Neolithic stone axe quarrying (Shetland, Ireland).

Brendan’s teaching approach is heavily influenced by Active/Experiential Learning techniques, providing students with well rooted, deep learning on a range of topics; ‘By doing, you learn’. This is an immersive approach that engrains knowledge into people’s mind through their participation in task, allowing them to access different layers of information. It is practical, problem based and team oriented, designed to examine material culture in detail and provide a way of interpreting the past record of human actions. He is also very much focused on providing different and dynamic learning environments, providing a wide range of access points to education for students.

Brendan is an instructor on the Irish Archaeology Field School program – Experimental Archaeology and Materiality of the Medieval Period in Ireland.