Week 2 – 7th January 2018
Week 2 began on Sunday the 7th when Denis, Maddy and I went on a reconnaissance trip to Ferns, Co. Wexford. We travelled to Ferns with the aim of designing the next day’s activities for the students; we left with far more than that. In the typical Irish manner we happened upon the caretaker of Ferns Castle, who kindly provided us with the years of research he had collected about Ferns, in particular Ferns Castle.
We returned to the Heritage Park to welcome the students who had travelled from across the world to be here. After a word of welcome and a poem the students were collected by their local host families with whom they will be staying for the duration of their time in Wexford.
On Monday morning Denis Shine gave the students a brief site orientation and an indepth lecture on medieval Ireland. 1169 CE (the year the Anglo-Normans came to Ireland) was mentioned many times. We then returned to Ferns with the students for their first field trip. The significance of Ferns Castle lies not only in the history of who built and controlled it but also in the fact that it too was a ringwork castle like Carrick.
The weather on Tuesday came down with an intention to weed out the weak from the strong, or to be more accurate those who brought wet weather gear from those who didn’t. Steve Mandal took us around to the passage tomb at Knockroe and St Mullen’s. Even the Irish weather couldn’t dampen the mood as we explored the site of St. Mullen’s and the collection of church remains it encompassed.
On Wednesday thankfully for us the weather cleared up beautifully for the field trip to Hook Lighthouse and Tintern Abbey. Hook Lighthouse is the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world, built in 1172 by William Marshall and operational today. The views from the top of the lighthouse were extraordinary and the educational tour provided by the Hook Lighthouse tour guide was very enjoyable. Our time at Tintern Abbey was the first organised opportunity to plan a structure for the students.
On Thursday we all went on a tour of the Irish National Heritage Park, with our wonderful tour guide, Alan. The park boasts 9,000 years of human history replica settlements, including a crannog, a monastery, a passage tomb, a ring fort and a Viking long house, all within the scenic landscape of the park.
Most excitingly on Thursday we began digging on the site. The site area had been cleared back by park workers, but there was much twig and leaf matter to be removed so that the archaeological record could be accessed.
Friday marked the first full day of digging on site. Sieving was begun on the soil removed from a possible disposal area within cutting 1, and both cutting 1 and 2 were taken down to the plastic that the previous dig in 1986 had left to preserve the archaeology underneath. The site began to look like an archaeological dig on Friday and finds began to be unearthed almost immediately.