Confirmed Posters

Simon O’Dwyer, Ancient Music Ireland

The Function of Iron Age Buildings in the West of Ireland

The Middle Iron Age circular stone structures which occur along the Western extremities of Ireland are usually referred to as forts.  Yet their construction, size and location may suggest that they were used as performance and gathering places where an audience of as many as a thousand people at any one sitting were entertained, participated in ritual ceremony or witnessed a royal occasion.  Such massive terraced structures of a particular size and design were built at huge expense and endeavour at locations from Donegal to Cork.   The possibility exists that the unusually incomplete remains that we see today were in their time magnificent halls, roofed in thatch, serving as centres of power and display to the surrounding communities and specifically designed to allow for visual and audio performance to be presented to a large sitting or standing gathering of people. 

Ancient Music Ireland reproduces and musically explores Irish instruments from Prehistoric, Celtic and Early Medieval times.  These musical instruments range from Late Bronze Age horns to the great Celtic trumpets of the Middle Iron Age and wood wind instruments of the Early Christian period.  Their research indicates strong possibilities as to the reasons why horns and trumpets were designed and how they may have been played.   It is interesting to note that musical instruments, which have their origins in prehistory, can evoke such live excitement today.  See for recordings and on-going research and also find us on Facebook at

John G. Sabol, C.A.S.P.E.R. Research Center, Bedford, Pennsylvania (USA)

The Acoustemology of Presence and the Memory Community

Interactions of site, sight, and sound provide a form of time-telling that once produced a particular social and mental state by which people gathered. The gathering laid a foundation around which memory became embedded in a particular time and space. A ritualized acoustemology, as a particular way of being in the world, bound people together into webs of relationships, connected to specific situations which recurred over and over again, and extended beyond the life span of any individual participant. These gatherings coalesced around social and mental fields of memory that might be thought of as “memory communities”.Today, instead of perceiving a place of the dead (absent and silent), a site can become a space of re-occupation, linking a particular past to a contemporary “excavation”. Remembrance and recognition are processes of becoming that form a memory of identity between present and past. , and are embedded in social practices that involve sonic components extending across space and through time. Several examples of this acoustemological resonance between present performance practices and past social and mental fields of a memory community will be given.

John Sabol is an archaeologist, and cultural anthropologist. As an archaeologist, he has documented and recorded the manifestations of past soundscapes at various ruins in England, Mexico, and the U.S.  He has written 16 books on his fieldwork and methodology. He is the director of several documentaries that are accounts of immersions into past ethnographic soundscapes. He has developed numerous scripts and storyboards for these documentaries, as a series of mediated venues that include acoustical archaeologies and ethnographic immersions. He has presented these documentaries at various scientific conferences and popular culture expositions in Europe, Canada, and the USA.

Thor McVeigh, PhD Candidate, NUI Galway

Considering the social importance of gatherings over the longue durée during Irish prehistory

This paper will discuss the important social role that periodic gatherings would have played during the Irish Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. It will be advanced that within dispersed settlement systems, such as those in existence during the Neolithic and Bronze Age communal gatherings and their associated activities, such as feasting, would have performed a vital role in both creating and maintaining social cohesion and facilitating communication and exchange among and between groups who need not necessarily have been in regular contact. It will be argued that monuments and burials were proactive media and were forces linking communities and dispersed groups together, rather than signifiers of disunity and partition. Communal participation in significant events and bearing mutual witness to impressive or spectacular phenomena can contribute to the magnification of group cohesiveness. Thus, it will be contended that the alignment of monuments upon important solar and/or lunar dates indicates that periodic communal gatherings which continually maintained and reinforced social cohesion are likely to have occurred on such calidrical junctures. Evidence for potential feasting activities and communal gatherings at Newgrange in Co. Meath and the Grange circle at Lough Gur in Lough in Co. Limerick will be discussed from these perspectives.

Thor did his Arts BA in Archaeology and English at NUI Galway and his MA in North-West European Prehistory at Universitat Leiden in the Netherlands. He developed his interest in the development of social structures over the longue durée during his time at Leiden.  He has subsequently returned to NUI Galway and is currently working on his PhD entitled A Polythetic Characterisation of the Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age Societies within the “Irish Sea Province”. The aim of the study is to investigate social organisation, mobility and interaction.

Peter Horvath Institute of Archaeology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Nitra

Komjatice "Kňazova jama": Preliminary report

Komjatice is a small village located on western Slovakia between Nitra and Nove Zamky, on right riverside of Nitra River. During the years 1977 – 1979 there were a series of rescue archeological excavation, which have been taken by the lead of Anton Točík from Archeological Institute in Nitra. He also excavated site „ Kňazova jama", what mean "Priests hole" at eastern part of the village. The excavation confirmed a long term settlement from the Stone Age up to early medieval age. The greatest concentration of settlement finds comes mainly from eneolithic period, as well as from latène period, Roman and from medieval time. From latène period there has been uncovered and documented six settlements grounded structures (huts):  VI, XI, 60, 87, 116 and 173. Within the frame of my PhD work is also included the complete processing and evaluation of all archaeological finds from these settlement. Materials consist mainly of pottery shards and other not so numerous artifacts, like spindles, clay weights, bone tools, grindstones, and small iron or glass goods and artifacts. All must be finished until November an published as an catalogue. At these time I completely finished two settlement structures - hut VI and XI. 

Peter Horvath is from Slovakia, from Kezmarok. He finished his archaeology Masters degree studies at Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra. Currently he is working on his PhD studies in Nitra at Institute of Archaeology. It is his first year. He likes archaeology from excavation to processing, he likes drawing, computer graphics and 3D modelling.


Jane Whitaker MA MIAI, Archaeological Development Services Ltd (ADS)

‘The Old Bog Road’ – Mobilisation and Access. Excavations and Surveys in Bord na Móna Peatlands 

Bord na Móna is legally required by the National Monuments Division (DAHG) to carry out archaeological excavations, the aim of which is to protect the archaeological heritage under the National Monuments Act 1930-2004. The work is carried out under a Code of Practice and overseen by a Project Archaeologist appointed by BnM. 

Over three hundred excavations have been carried out by Archaeological Development Services in BnM industrial peatlands since 1998 The excavations have revealed a variety of site types from trackways, platforms and deposits of worked wood to the recovery of artefacts and an extensive habitiation site. These sites provide a unique insight into collective community efforts to facilitate passage across and access into the raised bogs of the Irish midlands while the exceptional preservation of the waterlogged wood also demonstrates the variety of wood working and management skills present within earlier communities.

An integrated post excavation approach has been undertaken which includes the analysis of nearby dryland sites recorded by the Archaeological Survey of Ireland, stray finds records of the National Museum of Ireland, available historical records and palaeoenvironmental work putting the major emphasis of the investigations on the human interaction with the landscape as a whole.

Jane Whitaker is a graduate of University College Dublin. She has over 20 years experience working in Bord na Móna peatlands. After graduating from UCD with a Master Degree she spent several years with the Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit (IAWU) carrying out fieldwalking surveys in BnM peatlands. Working as Peatlands Project Manager with Archaeological Development Services (ADS), who are archaeological consultants for BnM since 1998, she currently oversees and directs excavations and field walking surveys across BnM’s 80,000 hectares of industrial peatlands.

Merryn Dineley and Graham Dineley, EXARC Organisation for Archaeological OpenAir Museums, Experimental Archaeology, Ancient Technology and Interpretation

Where were the Viking Brew Houses?

The Vikings are renowned for their feasts, gatherings and celebrations, most notably at midwinter. The Yule malt and ale was made during the dark days of December.. Although mead was a special, rare and occasional alcoholic beverage in Norse times, it seems that ale made from malted barley and wheat was the main drink at their feasts. Thus far, the brew houses have not been identified. Making ale from malt involves ancient and traditional techniques. Fire is needed to heat the mash tun, or to heat the rocks that are used to heat the mash in wooden tubs. Large amounts of hot water is needed. Drains are also necessary, since brewing is a messy business and all equipment must be washed.

Ale is consumed and, therefore, all that is left are the brewing equipment and installations. Beside the remains of the feasting halls at the Brough of Birsay and Cubbie Roo's Castle, Orkney and at Jarlshof, Shetland, there are buildings that are equipped with hearths, ovens and drains, all suitable facilities for the brewing of ale. Previously interpreted as bath house or saunas, it is more likely that these were the brew houses.

Merryn Dineley completed her postgraduate research at Manchester University in 1999. The resulting M.Phil, "Barley, Malt & Ale in the Neolithic", was published as BAR S1213 in 2004. Since then, she has continued investigating the archaeological evidence for malting and brewing in history and prehistory as an Independent Researcher, recently joining EXARC. Having spent over a decade in the prehistoric era, Merryn decided several years ago to look into the early medieval age and the potential archaeological evidence for malt and ale. She is married to a craft brewer and they are currently making authentic, ancient and traditional gruit ales.

Enda O Flaherty, National University of Ireland, Galway

Archaeological Watermarks: Turlough floodplains as communal spaces and places of assembly

This work examines the past association of some turlough floodplains with the seasonal assembly of communities and population groups through time. The nature of seasonal flooding and an understanding of the archaeological, historical, toponymic and folklore evidence for its management, manipulation and cognitive significance are central issues of this paper. Using this evidence, it is shown here, that seasonal flood-lands , specifically turlough floodplains, frequently served as venues for communal assembly in the past, and were remembered and used as such through time. These venues reflect an encultured leitmotif associated with the gathering of communities on the suitable and symbolic expanse of a dry floodplain.

Enda O Flaherty is a full-time archaeologist with Rubicon Heritage Services in Cork, and a PhD candidate at NUIG. His archaeological experience includes 8 years as a field and research archaeologist, both in Ireland and abroad where he has worked on exciting and diverse projects examining the dynamic nature of human settlement and the significance of landscape to communities in the past. His research has taken him from the Karst landscape of the Burren where his doctoral research examined human settlement and its interaction with seasonal flooding, to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica where he has compiled reports on the nature and significance of settlements established there by Irish emigrants in the 17th,18th and 19th centuries. He has developed a multidisciplinary approach to landscape studies involving archaeology, physiographical studies, toponymy and documentary sources, which draws out the significance of physical environments for settlement in the past, and helps to understand their role in the cognitive landscape. 

Stephen Davis, School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Lizzie Richley, University of Southampton and Chris Carey, University of Brighton

Many Meetings: A multi-period assembly site at the Hill of Ward, Athboy, Co. Meath

The Hill of Ward, near Athboy, Co. Meath is home to the site of Tlachtga, a quadrivallate earthwork measuring c. 150m in diameter, recorded by Keating as the centre of Samhain traditions in Ireland. It is one of the four sites supposedly built by Tuathal Techmar as the four founding ‘corners’ of the kingdom of Mide, along with Tara, Teltown and Uisneach. Tlachtga represents an important place of assembly from at least the late Iron Age, through to 1168, when Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, the last High King of Ireland presided over a national synod of kings and prelates at the site. Analysis of Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS or lidar) and multi-method geophysical survey has revealed that Tlachtga is part of a multi-phased complex of monuments, with local elements ranging from a late Neolithic henge monument through to at least two later medieval deserted settlements. ‘Modern’ Tlachtga is constructed overlying a larger, completely razed trivallate enclosure, and apparently respects a smaller enclosure to the south, of probable prehistoric date. The presence of two phases of large enclosure with closely-spaced multivallation suggests a possible earlier date for the development of such enclosures in Ireland than previously supposed. The presence of henge extends the known period of human activity at the site considerably, and given the recent revival of Samhain fire festivals at the site, establishes the Hill of Ward as a place of gatherings for at least 4,500 years.

Steve Davis is an environmental archaeologist and remote sensing specialist, with a particular interest in working with Airborne Laser Scanner (ALS or lidar) data. Over the last five years or so he has worked in the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site, leading the 2010 phase of the INSTAR-funded Boyne Valley Landscapes Project, and undertaking extensive geophysical surveys within the Dowth estate (in press). He has also worked at both the Hill of Ward and the Hill of Lloyd, Co. Meath, and has presented remote-sensing themed papers on diverse subjects from Neolithic henges to the Anglo-Norman settlement of Tipperary.

Colleen O'Hara, MLitt NUIG Graduate
Poster Title: The Cultural Contexts of Ulster Coarse Wares.
Ulster coarse pottery is a pottery type, comprising cooking pots, storage jars and tableware made and used during the long period from c.1200 to c.1650.
UCP was not favoured exclusively by any one ethnic group over all others in Ulster but there is a strong correlation between the Gaelic occupants of native enclosed settlements and UCP. It has generally been seen as predominantly a cooking pot, though some UCP vessels may have been manufactured as containers of food items that were the principal focus of trade. UCP was a highly egalitarian pottery and the goods it contained may be a much more important point of discussion than the pottery itself. As a utilitarian household item it does not appear to have played a role in the display of ethnicity in many of the sites discussed although in terms of Gaelic feasting it may have been important in asserting cultural affinity.

Overall this research proposes that the use of UCP at the various find sites discussed provides a picture of the way in which several ethnic groups interacted and influenced each other through the use of a shared material culture.

Colleen’s interest in archaeological ceramics began in a slightly left of field manner with an undergraduate degree in Ceramics Production from the Limerick School of Art and Design. Spurred by an interest in history she undertook a HDip in Archaeology at NUI Galway and from there went on to complete her MLitt on the Cultural Contexts of Ulster Coarse Pottery in 2010. Since graduating Colleen has gained freelance work as a ceramics analyst as well as work in commercial sector.

Lisa Moloney, BSc(Hons) Institute of Technology, Sligo.
Amber – the ‘unstrung’ hero of Irish later prehistory 
The majority of later prehistoric amber beads in Ireland have been recovered from bogs either as an element of mixed hoards, associated with gold and metal work, or as solely amber hoards. These assemblages range from a few to hundreds of beads and undoubtedly constituted striking items of adornment and symbolic significance. One of the most intriguing aspects regarding these finds is the absence of any evidence of material suitable for stringing beads together, despite the excellent preservation conditions afforded by boggy environments. A range of organic material could have been used, such as textiles, plant fibres and human or animal hair. However, no remains have yet been recovered associated with amber beads which may have served as an appropriate cord.

To me, this suggests that strings of beads may have been broken at the time of deposition – perhaps constituting part of ceremonial display. A ritual such as this would undoubtedly have been grounds for a gathering. The action of breaking a string of amber beads and watching them scatter onto a boggy surface would have created an impressive spectacle and drawn a significant crowd - ‘An assembly for the disassembly’ as it were…

Having been awarded a BSc in Applied Archaeology from the Institute of Technology Sligo, Lisa Moloney began an MSc by research, using a non-destructive analytical technique (ATR-FTIR) to provenance amber beads from later prehistoric contexts. She has recently transferred to PhD research which will allow scope to incorporate further analysis and investigate the social aspects of amber beads in later Irish prehistory.

Mark Roddy, TSSG @ Waterford IT,
Using Next Generation Technology to create Next Generation Gatherings
The EU funded FP7 SOCIETIES project ( is a pan-European project made up of fifteen partners from academia and industry. The goal of the project is to build beyond existing technologies for the creation of ‘like-minded, purpose-driven communities of interest’ in the real and virtual worlds. To do this the project consortium has designed a platform that creates Community Smart Spaces that links-in and ties together relevant people and things. These so-called Community Smart Spaces can co-exist in the real and virtual world and their creation can have temporal and spatial boundaries. A typical real-world use of our Community Smart Spaces could be exploited at the conference you are at today! There could be someone at the conference today that has relevancy to you and your own research. There could be topics being discussed at parallel sessions that could be of interest to you and your own research. The SOCIETIES platform extracts the ‘relevancy’ glue that binds the creation of these ‘communities of interest’, and helps you to Discover, Connect and Organise with those relevant people around you and those topics of interesting things being discussed beside you.
Mark is a researcher at Waterford IT. In 2012 he was awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Innovation Management from the NUI Galway. Mark began research life in the 90’s while working on digital television related EU funded projects. Since then he has been active on a number of European research projects, in particular the FP6 DAIDALOS project, and the FP7 PERSIST project. Mark joined the TSSG at Waterford IT in January 2012 and leads the User Trial Evaluations in the FP7 SOCIETIES project. He is currently undertaking a Research Masters at Sligo IT, where he is investigating “Harnessing Cognitive Surplus for the creation of novel Social Innovation frameworks”.
Mark Roddy, Independent Scholar
The Coarbs of Fenagh Abbey
The word coarb in the modern Irish means a ‘successor’ or ‘heir’, and is taken from the Old Irish word comarbae. In the context of monastic Celtic Christianity the Coarb was the hereditary title given to the head of the ecclesiastical family of a Celtic Saint and as Seymour (1933) states ‘the coarb occupied a position of considerable importance’.
This poster explores the Coarbship of Fenagh Abbey in County Leitrim. This ecclesiastical site is embedded in a Neolithic landscape, with a heavy concentration of Neolithic structures in the surrounding area. Our ancient manuscripts, including the Leabhar Caillin or The Book of Fenagh, tell us that a Celtic Christian monastery was founded there by St Caillin in the sixth century.
Mark has a keen interest in local archaeology and history and is currently studying for a Diploma in “Folklore and Heritage of the North West” at St Angela’s College, Sligo.