Blackfriary 2011 – The season begins!

We are back on site, bigger and better than before, and we full of anticipation for what promises to be a hugely exciting season of digging.

Blackfriary Site - Preparations

Although we started on site on Monday, 23rd May, a huge effort has gone in this year to get everything ship-shape and ready for the excavations.

Blackfriary - Cutting 1 awaiting removal of backfill

We have had wonderful support from the Town Council in terms of preparing the ground for our excavations, and have put in place fancy site accommodations including an office, a store, a toilet block and a canteen.

Our new access road

Our first delegation of visitors were welcomed to the site on Friday 20th May.  The ‘Getting to know Meath’ group from Meath Tourism – a group of tourism providers – arrived as we were clearing the cuttings for the season, in time to see the walls in Cuttings 1 and 2 being re-exposed.  Fin and Steve gave them a talk on the archaeology and history of the site, and discussed our vision for the redevelopment of the site as an amenity for the town.  The response was hugely encouraging, and the group all said they would enthusiastically promote our work in the community and to visitors.

Meath Tourism 'Getting to know Meath' Group

Our first students arrived on Monday 23rd – Shannon Brown (East Tennessee State University), Nikki Long (Boston University), Shantel Reynolds (University of Michigan), Meaghan Whalley (Canada Memorial University, Newfoundland) and local Ian Kinch (UCD).

Getting to work in Cutting 1

The week went by in a blitz of introducing the students to the Medieval town of Trim (and its coffee shops), going through all the background information (historical records, previous research etc), theory of excavation and recording methods, introduction to GPS survey.

Survey 101

As it says on the tin (if you read the small print), our ethos at the IAFS is to teach by first principles.  We do have access to fancy hi-tech gadgets, and even let the students look at them (and if they are very good, they get to touch them), but first principles are paramount.  There is no point knowing how to use a GPS if you do not know how to survey with tapes and basic geometry.  So… one of the first tasks set for the students was to mark out the perimeter of the site so that we could erect a fence.  The students set to work plotting out a 30m x 30m square using just tapes, spray paints, marking pegs and intuition.  The results of the survey were subsequently plotted using GPS and can be seen below.

Results of Survey 101 (Yellow 'square')

Ahem….  after some minor adjustments it was decided that physical excerise was the way forward.  So, shovels in hand, the work of digging out the remains of the back fill in Cutting 1 began.

More 'advanced' survey lessons

'Advanced' survey lessons

Digging out Cutting 1

On Thursday everyone got a break from digging to go on a field trip into Dublin where Bairbre accompanied them on a trip to the National Museum of Ireland, the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Christchurch, Temple Bar Square (where they were given a tour of the on-going Viking excavations being undertaken by Alan Hayden), and Trinity College Dublin.  During the day, they were joined by the first of our returning students, Megan Bebee (Pittsburg State University).

On Friday, Megan put the students through their paces with the level and staff (seeing as the tape measure survey went so well!). The meaning of TBM is now branded on their
brains (we hope!).

Cutting 3 - pre-excavation

A review of the stratigraphy of Cutting 1 was started on Friday, and continued on Monday. We had five additions on Monday morning: returning students Emma Lagan (Hofstra, New York) and Laura Corrway (UCD), and three newbie’s, Elizabeth Dunne and Rebecca Martin (both UCD) and Rosemary Paul (Australia).

There was great excitement as the walls and features of Cutting 1 were exposed.  There is a real sense of how the walls would have looked; there is so much in tact architectural remains.  And to prove that there is always something lurking just beyond where you are digging, in cleaning back the north section face of Cutting 1 extension, Ian uncovered three beautiful decorated small stone pillars, probably the decorative supports of a window frame.   Last years students will be green with envy having been a trowel width away from this discovery last season!

Nikki gets to the base of the wall (look behind you, there's the decorated stone!)

Decorated stone in situ

Cleaned and tagged


For more photos, see our gallery…


About Irish Archaeology Field School

The Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) is Ireland’s leading provider of university accredited, site based archaeological research and training. Our archaeological and heritage programs include research projects in a number of locations in Ireland, including in Co. Wexford and Co. Offaly (with satellite schools frequently undertaken elsewhere). We provide credited and uncredited programs (and internships) for novice and experienced students, and also specialise in the preparation of purpose-built faculty led programs incorporating excavation, historical research, remote sensing, non-invasive survey, ground investigation, landscape assessment etc. Whilst our programs are excavation-centered and aimed primarily at students of archaeology, anthropology and history, courses are open to all, and are guaranteed to give you an enriching and thoroughly worthwhile study abroad adventure.
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One Response to Blackfriary 2011 – The season begins!

  1. Jessica says:

    What a great start to the season. It looks like the students will be very busy!

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