An Intern’s Experience/My First Excavation

Its the third season for the field school and community archaeology project at Blackfriary, Trim, Co. Meath.  Blackfriary is a 13th century friary, the buildings were sold off for stone the 18th however sub-surface foundations and other features still survive and archaeological excavation is ongoing to discover extent of these.


Photo  1   Exposed masonry on site

Today, the 29th of June, ends the fifth week of season three at Blackfriary. The season has been flying in and we have already seen a number of students come and go. We are nearly half way through the season with only six weeks left on site for 2012.

The excavation at Blackfriary is also part of a community archaeology project; the field school works alongside the local council and community groups to provide a programme of events to engage the local community with the project, from understanding the archaeology of the site to integrating the Blackfriary as part of the Trim townscape.

As an intern with the IAFS the first thing I have learned is that no day on site is ever the same! This is due to the coming together of different groups of people from schools groups to students, and from local visitors to tourists (as well as the unpredictable Irish summer weather).

On a daily basis the field school teaches students the skills and techniques for excavating features along with skills such as planning and drawing that help to record finds and features and assisting in the archiving of the site. Another key learning outcome for non-Irish students is how to make the perfect pot of tea!

Photo 2  Students practicing excavation and recording skills

The second thing I have learned as an intern at the Blackfriary is to be prepared for a lot of bones (and it’s a good thing that I’m not squeamish)!

On site, to date, there have been nine burials found, and countless amounts of disarticulated human bone. We had a resident bio-archaeologist on site for the month of June, Professor Rachel Scott of Arizona State University.


Photo 3 Contemplating an infant  burial

She gave a module on  bio-archaeology and osteoarchaeology, teaching students the techniques to excavate, record and process human remains. Following this module, one of our students, Anna from Macalester College, was able to give a presentation to a groups of forty plus high school students visiting from the USA, presenting and explaining the bones found on site.


Photo 4  Excavation in progress – Rachel and the infant burial


Photo  5   A presentation on bones to students

The site is located in the centre of a housing estate which many people walk past or use to walk their dogs on a daily basis. This means there is a lot of interaction with residents of the local community and a common part of a days dig can be showing locals around the site and explaining to them both what is being excavated and being found.


Photo  6   Giving visiting high school a tour of the site

A further mix of interactions is with tourists who visit the site through Cultural Tourism Ireland. Through CTI members of the public with an interest in heritage and archaeology come on site and experience the process of excavation for themselves.

Throughout the dig the coming together of this large and diverse group of international budding archaeologists, Irish students, local community members, site visits from school children and those with a keen and common interest in the heritage of Ireland adds to (and in my opinion enriches) the experience of being on site.


Photo  7   Blackfriary crew in action

Caroline Henry, Heritage Intern with the Irish Archaeology Field School: reporting for Day of Archaeology 2012