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In The Field

Ireland Program

About the Program

DATES: July 1- August 2, 2018

LOCATION:  Country Roscommon, Ireland

PROJECT WEBSITE:  Castles in Communities

PROJECT VIDEO:  A Castle in our Community

Join us in medieval Ireland and the kingdom of Connacht where the last high kings defended their country against invading English nobles.

Experience an amazing archaeology and cultural program with anthropological field work, course work, group trips, service learning projects, and a living history experience.

Discover with us the beauty of Ireland as we begin an investigation of the landscapes surrounding the medieval castle of Ballintober in County Roscommon.

Live with us and other project members in both the manorial estate and the adjoining villages.

Work on all aspects of the research project, including archaeological survey and excavation and community development activities.

Project Directors & Professors

Dr. Niall Brady (Archaeological Diving Co. Ltd.)
Danial Cearley, MA (Foothill College, Las Positas College)
Dr. Kathryn Maurer (Foothill College)
Dr. Chad Gifford (Columbia University)
Dr. Samuel V. Connell (Foothill College)
Ana Lucia Gonzalez, MA (Foothill College)

What will you be doing in Ireland?

  • You will be living in northwest Ireland
  • You will be excavating and surveying incredible archaeological sites
  • You will learn about a country by immersing yourself in the culture of a people
  • You will visit places you won't believe exist
  • You will be happy you came

Descriptions of Your Field Experience

An examination of castles in communities from the past to the present. Our initial approach to Ballintober Castle will be combining an international multidisciplinary approach to castles in communities. Castles are enduring monuments in the countryside that have complex relationships with people continuing to the present.

The archaeological and anthropological project this year is a student focused investigation of the ancient and modern medieval Irish landscape. The archaeology will consist of test excavations within the castle coupled with systematic foot survey and geophysical techniques such as ground-penetrating radar. The anthropology will trace a community's relationship with castles through time. Further time will be spent participating in experimental archaeological research and learning medieval life-ways from experts at living history museums.

Course Descriptions

All participants must commit to active and positive engagement in all program components. Students will earn a total of 12 units from Foothill College for successful completion of the program. The program consists of registration in a combination of the following Foothill classes for Summer 2018 that total to 8 units:

The field program is broken down into different parts. The field and lab training portions of the program involve all the aspects of archaeology, preparing the student to operate in a field archaeology environment anywhere in the world. Benefiting from the over 100 years combined staff experience in teaching archaeology, each student is instructed in methods of site reconnaissance, surveying, excavation techniques, data recording, photography, and drawing. In the laboratory, students are guided through different aspects of artifact analysis, such as ceramic typology and stone tool production experiments.

 A field journal will be covering every day in the field will be handed in by the student to the professors. The journal will cover the research being conducted and critically analyze the experience as it is ongoing. We find it is important for our students to reflect upon the daily rhythm of their lives. We will also require one or two blog posts during the trip.

 This year students carry out Student Independent Pilot Projects (SIPPS). These projects are developed by the students during the field program and the investigation and analysis takes place in the field under careful supervision. A short final paper (5 pages) is due at the end of the summer quarter. Students are asked to consider a topic for research in the field and then will be asked to formulate a research plan during the 2nd and 3rd weeks which can be carried out on one day during the last week in the field. The data needs to be presented in report form and will serve as a jumping off point for future research in their lives. We have found that this has the highest impact on student learning by providing a truly academic experience.

 Service learning projects will be designed by the students as a way to apply your new found anthropology background to discover real-life solutions to practical community problems. These will be conducted in a dynamic format with students conducting field research to determine a course of action.

 We are living in the communities of Ballintober and Castlerea, and two hours by train from Galway or Dublin on the weekends. Also, the world famous beaches of Sligo are less than an hour to the north, along with incredible lakes in the region. For the adventurous, England and the rest of Europe are not far away. Ireland is a truly remarkable place, and we are excited to share its wonders with you, and meanwhile to do some really interesting archaeology!

 The 2018 program will emphasize the links between archaeology and cultural anthropology within an ongoing archaeological research project. You will be learning archaeology field methods and working on ancient archaeological sites, but also be involved in community development work. Throughout your experience we will weave learning opportunities about the community context and how the application of applied anthropology pertains to the modern world.

Program Syllabus: PDF | MS Word

Description of the Archaeology

The Foothill College's Summer Program focuses on Castles in Communities. The research explores the complex role that castles play in communities past and present. The 2018 investigation continues the early stages of the scientific project at Ballintober Castle. From the historical records the castle is referenced in the early 1300s and was used by the invading Anglo-Norman (English) forces and then re-occupied by the O'Conor family, who were last High Kings of Ireland defending the homeland against the English lords invading from the east.

 As anthropologists we are interested in the nature of colonization and resistance across all cultures, and so this long-term back and forth resistance noted in the historical records is an ideal research location. Now the question that remains is whether we can see this in the material record of the past. If you have seen HBO's program 'Game of Thrones' or read books about the Middle Ages, think to yourself what features on the landscape would actually still be visible from the various locations where people are living and working.

 At Ballintober Castle we believe that there are other construction phases that can be traced through time. Geophysical survey which looks below the ground using ground-penetrating radar and other instruments has already identified buried features under the castle. These are extremely interesting for our research and we will be doing test excavations to find these early features to try to identify how they are connected to the castle we see today. We are also interested in conducting more survey outside of the castle to try to find what is called the 'bawn' or the living areas just outside the castle walls. But this is still not the entire picture, a settlement survey of the surrounding landscape will help to begin constructing a model of the rural activity further afield. This is important because histories usually focus on the castles and not the communities, hence the title of our project - castles in communities.

 We believe that this project can extend for many years in just this one location, because there are so many possible research questions. Yet we are interested in understanding the changing roles of castle in communities across Ireland. For example, today people have diverse relationships with castles in their communities, what role do the unique histories of each castle play in this relationship?

 As part of the archaeology research students are trained in mapping, field excavation, and laboratory analysis. The project also utilizes Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to detect subsurface features and uses a Geographic Information System (GIS) to analyze data.

Community Development, Applied Anthropology, and Folklore Programs

 For too long archaeologists have been involving themselves in research without a coherent plan for using anthropology to work with the local peoples in different capacities. This summer we will be working closely with field anthropologists interested in the region. Field trips for students will be called Faculty Developed Practica (FDP) designed to foster intercultural knowledge. Students will be required to take part in these trips and conduct research with your professor. For example students will travel to other communities, living history museums, market towns, and ancient archaeological sites.

 Service learning projects will be designed by the students as a way to apply your new found anthropology background to discover real-life solutions to practical community problems. These will be conducted in a dynamic format with students conducting field research to determine a course of action.

Ballintober Castle

Food and Lodging

Foothill Program students will be residing for the month in the village of Ballintober and Clonalis throughout our stay. We will be renting homes in the Ballintober village for the program and we will be directly engaged with the community. It is the same village where the castle is located. Students will be living and working with the people of Ballintober, and hopefully participating in home stays with the community families. Alternatively students can stay in the carriage homes in the manorial estate of Clonalis which is still owned by the O'Conor family (see for a valuable historical perspective and pictures of the self-catering cottages).

We will eat prepared meals by cooks in the local pubs dinner and communally-prepared meals at Clonalis. Everyone will be preparing our own breakfast and lunches. We really enjoyed the food and atmosphere last year. The cooks are great at taking care of all dietary needs, vegetarians and vegans are accommodated.

The area of study is located in the County of Roscommon which is centrally located in the west of Ireland near to Sligo and Galway. The bigger nearby towns of Castlerea and Roscommon are on train lines and bus lines which can be used on free days to explore. As you will discover, the area is a wonderful place to spend a month -- small, open and enjoyable.

 All ages are welcome from high school graduates (> 18) to long ago retired. We believe in letting people go at their own pace. If you are concerned about your abilities to keep up with the group, please don't be worried.

Program Fees & Tuition

The program fees and tuition include food, lodging, and travel in country.

Airfare is NOT included in the program cost. You are responsible for arranging and paying for their airfare.

Program fees include basically all project activities between the above dates while in Ireland. Many participants take advantage of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth and spend time adventuring either before or after the field school.

Program Fees: $3,150.00

Tuition (12 units): variable cost

For the latest information about enrollment/tuition fees, please see Student Fees in Admissions & Registration.

Students are accepted in the order that we receive a complete application, including the deposit (although it is not required to submit the application). We evaluate student qualifications on the basis of three criteria: (1) The applicant should demonstrate good academic standing as an undergraduate or post-graduate in an accredited college or university. (2) The applicant has an interest in anthropology or archaeology. (3) The applicant believes that exposure to Irish culture would be valuable for them in terms of their life-long educational process. (4) The applicant will be over 18 years of age upon attending the program.

Program Application: PDF | MS Word

Financial Aid

Financial Aid is available for Enrollment in a Study Abroad Program while attending Foothill College; You would be applying for aid with Unusual Circumstances, please make the aid office aware that you are doing the summer abroad program.

Daily Activities

Days will be spent immersed in the culture of Ireland both past and present. To learn about the past the student will learn the basic field techniques of archaeology, including excavation, survey and laboratory analysis. Classwork will cover some archaeology methods and theory, as well as Irish history, culture, and archaeology.

Field trips for students will be called Faculty Developed Practica (FDP) designed to foster intercultural knowledge. Students will be required to take part in these trips. For example students will travel to indigenous communities, market towns, ancient archaeological sites and museums.

Contact information

Dr. Samuel Connell
(650) 949-7197
Foothill College Anthropology Department
12345 El Monte Rd.
Los Altos Hills, CA 94022



Links and Projects on Medieval Ireland


Q. Who Can Apply?

Anyone with a high school diploma who will be older than 18 on the trip.

Q. Do I need to be an archaeologist?

Certainly not.

Q. Will there be financial aid?

We are working on this through the Foothill Foundation and Financial Aid at Foothill.


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Questions?We're Here to Help!

Anthropology Department


Samuel Connell

Building 3007, Main Campus

Ireland Program 2018

Application: PDFMS Word

2018 Ireland Syllabus: PDF | MS Word

Watch a short presentation on YouTube about the 2016 trip.

Check out our new Castles in Communities webpage!

Check out our Google Slide Show

2016 Student Trip Blog