Teagan (on right) in sondage.
Teagan (right) along Cuilcagh Legnabrocky trail.
I was fortunate enough to travel to Ireland and participate in the field school during July 2018. I’d been wanting to visit Ireland for many years, and the opportunity to travel there – combined with a month of field experience on an archaeological dig – seemed too good to be true! I packed my bags and left Sydney International Airport in the freezing cold of south eastern Australia in mid-winter, to be greeted by cloudless blue skies and warm, sunny weather that challenged even the most beautiful Aussie summer days. This turned out to be the forecast for the month ahead – something which contrasted greatly with my rainy-day expectations (from memory it only rained twice!) and the clothing I’d packed. It was the perfect taster for what was to come.
The following month was filled with some of my all-time favourite memories – and I say that without being hyperbolic. Our first week at the field school involved lectures on Irish history, educational tours of ancient monasteries and other architectural remains, and a trip to the edge of the island to visit Hook Lighthouse, one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the world. These field trips provided historical context for the site of Ferrycarrig and allowed students to gain a proper appreciation for what we were excavating. By the end of the first week we were clearing away vegetation from the site and developing plans for the following 3 weeks of excavations.
Weeks 2-4 involved lots of soil, sunburn and sore hands! We completed the majority of our work during this time, continuing work undertaken by previous groups in Cuttings 1-3 and beginning work in Cutting 4. I worked primarily in Cutting 3, beginning with evening the west-facing wall (during which time I found two pieces of medieval green-glazed pottery!) and joining the team working in the sondage. We dug, sieved, photographed, sketched and recorded measurements of our cuttings to ensure the most accurate records of all aspects of the excavation process were maintained. We undertook post-excavation analyses of artefacts and objects found, including cleaning of animal bones, metal (dry-brushing) and pottery, floating of soil for charcoal deposits and labelling of all finds.
We learned something new every day, developed critical skills for both invasive and non-invasive excavation work and post-excavation analyses, and gained unique insights into archaeological field work. We worked hard during the weeks and often celebrated at the end with a trip to Maggie May’s bar. Our weekends were spent relaxing, exploring Wexford town or travelling around the country. My housemate Maddy and I travelled up to Enniskillen to climb the Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail – Ireland’s very own stairway to heaven, and swam in the freezing cold waters at Curracloe Beach. Other students adventured across the country to Galway, and spent time exploring the town there.
Looking back, it is hard to imagine a more perfect introduction to Ireland and the world of archaeology than through the Irish Archaeology Field School. I learned so much and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work at Ferrycarrig. While the field school will be run a little differently this year, I encourage every person reading this to take advantage of the opportunity to be involved in the Virtual Field School and absorb as much information and advice that you can. The knowledge you will gain and experiences you will have will not only provide you with transferrable skills, but will also fuel your passion for archaeology and provide you with unique insights into life as an archaeologist!