• Name: Paul McLerran
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Solving the Mysteries of Achill

It is a comparatively stark, yet rugged and beautiful landscape, totally surrounded by water. Long a tourist destination off the west coast of Ireland, Achill Island harbors some fascinating archaeological sites. Recent research has focused on ancient and historical remains that characterize the significance of Achill's highest peak, Slievemore Mountain, dominating it's surrounding environs at 2,214 feet. Human occupation is evidenced here going back over 5,000 years, to Ireland's Neolithic period. It's southern and eastern slopes are dotted by a series of megalithic tombs and curvilinear field walls. Toward the western end of the mountain are a series of Bronze Age stone platforms and roundhouses. On a lower slope location lie the remains of a historical settlement known as the Deserted Village of Slievemore, an assortment of rectangular houses of dry stone construction. Like an Irish ghost town, it is thought that these haunting yet fascinating remains testify to a traumatic period in the island's history. Continuing archaeological investigation and documentation will shed further light on this in years ahead.

In the summer of 2010, archaeological research on Achill Island will continue under the auspices of the Achill Archaeological Field School, a well-known and highly regarded field school that has, since 1991, trained thousands of students from all over the world. Investigations will focus on three sites: Round House 2 on Slievemore; a late Medieval house at Keem Bay; and a hut at Annagh Booley Village. Round House 2, a Bronze Age site, consists of a circular platform and a substantial dry stone wall and elaborate orthostatic entrance. Was it used for domestic or ritual purposes? Answering that question is a primary objective of the excavation. Excavations of the house at Keem Bay is expected to reveal more about the age and nature of the structure, and help solve the mystery behind the abandoned village of which it was a part. The village settlement is known to have been occupied as late as the early 19th century.


Are you interested in making a difference in the research and gaining quality, hands-on training in archaeological field work? You can do this by going first to the
Achill Archaeological Field School website to learn more about the work, the opportunity, and how to apply. Students obtain credit for the program through the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the coursework includes practical training in excavation methodology, artifact identification, surveying, measured drawings, sampling and analysis, and recording archaeological and architectural features. The field school experience aside, the natural island beauty and the unique cultural taste of the area alone are well worth the trip!

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