Quartz and Lords

Monday, July 30th

Week five surprisingly started with a day on site! With a few newcomers, we finished surveying our rocks. Once that was completed, more rocks from the center of our site were removed, and needless to say, troweling ensued. I troweled the top of the rock stretch and at one point found a little hollow between a few rocks. Rory said that it was interesting because he suspects that underneath that rocky area there is a pit. I suppose something that I haven’t mentioned is that our troweling has produced buckets and buckets of quartz pieces. Finding quartz isn’t too abnormal—there is a quartz quarry near the site, but the quantity has been overwhelming. We have found huge pieces, minuscule pieces and everything in between. Rory has had us save them, as some of them look like blades and flints. I found what we think could be a quartz scraper!

Tuesday, July 31st

Rain gave us a field trip and a lecture today! Rory showed us some of the known megalithic tombs on the island: one portal tomb and one court tomb. A portal tomb, also known as a dolmen, is made up of three large standing stones covered by a fourth stone, the capstone. The court in a court tomb is placed outside the entrance of the burial chamber, allowing rituals to take place outside. After looking at the tombs, we saw one of the first Churches of Ireland on Achill, and visited a national park. Unfortunately, the grounds were too wet to really walk around in. When we returned to the field school, our lecture was on Medieval and Post-Medieval Ireland. During this time, there was an Anglo-Norman invasion. The Anglo-Norman culture influenced the greater part of the country, leaving only a few areas of the true “Irish” way of life. This was an idea echoed by our night lecture, “Elite settlement in Gaelic Ireland During the High Medieval Period,” given by Dr. Kieran O’Conor of NUI Galway. Although the Anglo-Normans left few areas uninfluenced, Gaelic lordship did remain. These Gaelic elites lived in crannogs, moated sites, cashels, and perhaps ringforts. They did not live in castles like there Anglo-Norman counterparts due to the warlike nature of their Gaelic landscape. The Gaelic elites needed to stay fluid, and thus defending a castle would be a waste of time. There was also a lack of primogeniture, which is another reason things like castles were not invested in. Wednesday, August 1st Today Rory announced that we would “cut” a section across the stretch of middle stones on the site. Basically, that meant we would remove all of the little stones from the zero meter mark to the one and a half meter mark, so we can begin to figure out what was going on. As I cleared stones for this and began to trowel away the excess dirt, others were troweling the left side of our site. Their efforts revealed a “feature,” a strip of reddish-orange earth. Although it doesn’t tell us much right now, it does show that the earth has been upheaved in some way.

Thursday, August 2nd and Friday, August 3rd

On Thursday, we made our cut very clean and level for recording purposes. We found some interesting stratigraphic layers and Rory was pleased to find them. To end the week, we troweled to find more of the reddish-orange feature and we began another cut in our center rock pile. The cut has yielded a piece of pottery and several interesting pieces of quartz. I’m hoping that if we take another cut back and trowel a little deeper we’ll find some clue that this really is a tomb!