Rathnadrinna Research Excavation, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland

This year marks the first season of excavation on Rathnadrinna Fort, funded by the Royal Irish Academy of Ireland. Rathnadrinna Fort is a trivallate, circular hilltop enclosure situated in Lalor’s-Lot townland, 3.33km south-southeast of the Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.  The hilltop affords the fort extensive views across the adjacent low lying land and is inter-visible with a number of high-status forts surrounding the Rock of Cashel, to the north. Rathnadrinna Fort is the largest and best preserved of Cashel’s forts, and research here presents an ideal opportunity to learn more about the evolution and function of such sites in a royal landscape.

After three weeks digging we have uncovered a stone-lined corn-drying kiln outside the fort, the excavation of the fort ditches is underway and these are proving to be substantial in nature. We have revealed the old ground surface beneath portions of the fort banks and the excavation of the fort interior is revealing many interesting features. Finds to date include worked flints, an unidentified ferrous object from the fill of the kiln, and an interesting assemblage of late post medieval finds from a dumping episode outside the fort bank.

Our international team of volunteers includes diggers from Brazil, USA, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Austria, England and Ireland. We have facilitated local primary school visits where the children were able be archaeologists for a day, meet the diggers and see our discoveries. For the Day of Archaeology Rowan Lacey gave a display of flint knapping, James Bonsall did a Magnetometer Survey over our kiln, Liudas Juodzbalys showed us a DVD of his experimental iron working, we had a game of hurling, the site director bought everyone a bag of the finest Morelli’s chips and Mickaela from San Paulo made a cheese fondue! Follow us on

Archaeometallurgy in the university – a PhD student’s day


My name is Ruth Fillery-Travis, and I am an archaeometallurgist. That is, I use scientific analytical techniques to examine metal objects and the evidence of their production. I’m in a sub-discipline of a sub-discipline, as archaeometallurgy is a part of archaeometry/archaeological science, which is often considered a sub-discipline of archaeology. Luckily enough all the sub-sub-sub stops there, because I’m in the UK – if I were in the US archaeology itself might be considered a sub discipline of anthropology!

It might seem strange to be in such a niche subject area, but it fits my interests perfectly – I wanted to be a physicist right until I started studying it at university! After that I switched to Classical Archaeology, which had zero science and a lot of critical analysis of art, architecture and archaeological objects. Archaeometallurgy allows me to combine those two areas – I get to look at sometimes quite stunningly beautiful classical objects and not just analyse their physical appearance but use scientific techniques to analyse what they were made of and how they were made – like the snake ring adjacent.

Snake head of gold Roman finger ring

I’m currently reading for a PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. I started in 2009 – before that I worked in local council archaeology as a records assistant on the ‘Sites and Monuments’ or (in more modern terms) ‘Heritage Environment Records’ of Norfolk and then Greater London. Nothing to do with archaeometallurgy – but then that’s a common problem with studying archaeology. If you can get a job in the discipline at all – which is tough – then it often isn’t in the area you originally trained in. But the advantage of that is that you can gain some fantastic experience – certainly my time working on the Greater London records was fascinating.

Between those jobs (more…)