Review by Thomas Bowden : Alumni Experience

Review by Thomas Bowden

(IAFS Alumni/Flinders University)


Thomas sifting loose soil from Trench 2 for pottery and bone (2019).

Thomas with Kelly and Naomi planning (2019).

I attended the winter excavation at Ferrycarrig in January 2019 for the four-week excavation course, and during that time managed to make a dozen new friends, complete my very first fieldwork, and tour a considerable swathe of southern Ireland. Many aspects of this course enabled me to have the enjoyable experience I did – the homestay with a local family was relaxing – you didn’t feel like a tourist, as a person staying in a hotel might – you quite literally become ‘part of the family’. I celebrated a birthday, met some of my host’s relatives, and got to know well the people I stayed with, where they worked and how they lived, and especially their adorable pet cat with the most beautiful blue eyes, Mr G.

For someone who had never participated in a ‘real’ archaeology dig before then, it was enormously satisfying to finally undertake fieldwork. Some people might see it as tedious, but honestly, whether its trowelling back the occupation layer of a suspected chapel, taking survey readings with a dumpy level or just drawing in situ wall stones, all aspects of fieldwork were deeply interesting and very enjoyable. It gives one a good sense of literally being part of and within history. It also confirmed for me that archaeology is the career I want to do for the rest of my life.

Another aspect of the course that is always a great treat is the new friends you make – there were few fellow Australians on the dig, so I made friends with a number of Americans and Irish who were part of the crew. We talked about things as we worked, hung out together in town and on tours, and enjoyed our cross-cultural interactions, sharing memes, making jokes, and helping out. I learned a lot from the time I spent in Ireland – especially that I drink as much tea as the Irish do, if not more!

I also greatly enjoyed the tours undertaken both as part of the course, to places like Bannow Bay and Ferns Castle, as well as tours I undertook for personal interest, to Wexford Town, to Cork, the Ring of Kerry and through Dublin. Accompanied by some of my new friends, I went sightseeing around the ‘deer park’ at Killarney, visited Torc Waterfall, a ‘bog village’, ‘The Lady’s View’, and Waterville Town in Kerry. In Dublin, I admired the treasures in the National Archaeology Museum, walked the quadrangle at Trinity College, toured the Hill of Tara and Newgrange megalithic tomb, and became more familiar with Irish culture and history. I loved every part of it – even getting lost in Dublin one evening when looking for ice-cream!

In the future, I’d very much like to return to Ireland. First, perhaps, to do a longer internship through the same group either at Ferrycarrig or the other dig at St Aidan’s Monastery in Ferns, Wexford. Then, maybe, to do some real work in archaeology – I don’t know how yet, but I’m sure there will be a way. For now, I have my Masters to complete, but I hope to return to Ireland very soon…and maybe even see Mr G!