Sligo Heritage Field School

Category: Holiday Activities, Adult Holiday Courses, Heritage
Duration: 4 days (Friday - Monday)

The aim of the field school is to immerse the visitor in prehistoric Ireland by a combination of classroom education, site visits to the remarkable archaeological sites like Rathcroghan and the passage tombs of Carrowkeel and by hands on experience of everyday life in the Bronze Age. Participants will learn how to make and use stone tools, they will practice pottery using the same materials and techniques as those practiced 3,500 years ago, they will experience life as a hunter-gatherer with foraging trips and try cooking using historical techniques, they will even get the chance to brew Bronze Age beer and hear prehistoric music. The Prehistoric Ireland Experience is a unique and life-changing week, and will leave participants with a greater knowledge and appreciation for those who lived and died thousands of years ago.

Classroom Based Learning – A series of short lectures that introduce the main themes of Prehistoric Ireland, discussing the key phases and site types that gives a solid foundation of knowledge.

Experiential and Experimental Archaeology – The participants will get hands on experience with some of the every-day challenges that people in the Neolithic and Bronze Age would have encountered. Ranging from foraging and cooking, to pottery making, stone tool production, archery and building. This practical work is at the cutting edge of experimental archaeology.

Site Visits – The North-West of Ireland has a wealth of wonderful prehistoric sites that help the visitor to come face to face with the past. Visits to places like Carrowkeel will give a breathtaking view of the death rituals in the Neolithic Ages, and Rathcroghan will help them to understand the ceremonial royal sites of the Iron Age.

Become a Prehistoric Potter!

Pottery is one of the most vital artefacts that archaeologists rely upon to understand past societies, diets, settlement and even art. You will not only be instructed about the relevance of pottery and why it is so important to archaeologists, but you will also get to have hands on experience in making Bronze Age pottery. The pottery will be made to authentic Bronze Age design from examples discovered during excavations in Ireland. They will be made in exactly the same way that people constructed pots over 3,500 years ago and you can keep your pots as a souvenir, to remind you of your experience.

Become a Hunter-Gatherer!

The participants will enjoy walks in some of the lovely forests and alongside rivers with an experienced forager who will instruct them on the wealth of edible plants available.

In the later afternoon the participants will get the chance to cook some of these ingredients using authentic historical recipes and techniques to send their taste buds back thousands of years!

Flint tool making and archery

Stones like flint and chert were some of the main resources for people in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, an expert will instruct on the techniques of producing the beautifully intricate but functional polished stone axeheads, flint arrowheads and blades. Participants will get the opportunity to get hands on with producing their own tools and they will try out stone axes, scrapers and blades to see how effective they were.

Later in the afternoon they will get to put their skills to the test with an archery competition.

Rathcroghan, where archaeology and legend merge

Rathcroghan is one of the five ancient Royal Sites of Prehistoric Ireland. It is indelibly entwined with mythology as it features in the famous Irish saga of the Táin Bó Cúailnge.

It was at Rathcroghan that Queen Medb and her consort Ailill squabbled about who had the greatest fortune. When Ailill played his trump card of his magnificent white bull, Medb determined to steal its only equal, the Brown Bull of Cooley and so came into conflict with the great hero Cú Chulainn.

Rathcroghan is part of an incredibly complex landscape of archaeological monuments around Tulsk in Co. Roscommon and has a superb visitor centre where the participants can understand more about the mythology and legends and the archaeological techniques that help us to discover what life was like in Iron Age Ireland.

Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery

One of the true ‘hidden treasures’ of Ireland, Carrowkeel deserves to be as well visited as Newgrange as it is one of the most evocative archaeological landscapes in Europe.

These tombs are perched high in the Brickleive Mountains in County Sligo, the route to them takes in some of the most breathtaking views available in Ireland.

Visitors will be brought to Carrowkeel by Neil Jackman who will lead them to the site, explain the history and significance of the tombs and about the mysterious death rituals of the Neolithic in general.

Vistors cannot help but to be inspired by the beautiful setting and great antiquity of this site, it is always a wonderfully rewarding experience.

What time does the course start and finish?

The course starts each day at 10am and finishes at 4pm.

Is there a bus service from Sligo town to the college?

There is a FREE daily bus each day from Sligo town.

How can I book a place?

Please print and complete the application form and follow the payment option below.  Alternatively, you can send a cheque or postal order made payable to St. Angela’s College. 

Tutor Profiles

  1. Neil Jackman, Lecturer, The Archaeology of the North-West
    After achieving a Honours Degree in Archaeology at the University of Wales, Lampeter, Neil moved to Ireland in 1999 and has worked on archaeological sites across Ireland, ranging from early prehistoric Mesolithic sites to nineteenth century estate buildings. View full profile here...

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