Early Start in Irish Archaeology: RECAP

The Early Start Program at University College Cork is a three week program where incoming international students can choose one of six courses to learn about Ireland through unique perspectives and have a chance to become familiar with UCC campus and the city of Cork before other students arrive for the semester.

Never have I ever studied archaeology… before three weeks ago. The obvious Early Start choice for me would have been the music program, but I was feeling adventurous. I’d love to learn about the history and evolution of traditional Irish music but I figured I could explore the subject in other ways during my semester in Cork. Archaeology, however, was something different and if you’re going to jump into a program abroad, why not explore something new? (It also helped that the archaeology program was the only one with a ton of information and awesome testimonials. Time for the other programs to follow suit!)

The 47 of us had class every day from 9:30am until about 12:30pm including a ten minute break and a later coffee break (because coffee is necessary; also, this class is reason #1 I have started drinking coffee). Through the instruction of Dr. Tomás Ó Carragáin, we covered Irish history and prehistory from the early Mesolithic times (8000 BC) up to the Early Modern Period (ending around 1700 AD). It was super neat to learn about the changing times and the adaptations people had to make to their environment as well as differences in economic, social, and religious practices. The even cooler part about this class was seeing some of the sites we talked about in class IN PERSON. In the three weeks, we took four field trips; two day trips and two overnight trips. For day trips we met up outside of Castlewhite Apartments and headed out around 9:30am and did the same for overnight trips but leaving earlier around 8am. We took our first overnight trip to Dublin and Co. Meath after only two days in class. The second week we took our two day trips to North Cork/The Rock of Cashel and West Cork. Finally, our class ended with an overnight trip to the Burren, Galway, and the Aran Islands.

Of course, it’s not really school if you don’t have assessments, right? We took an exam at the end of the second week of class followed by two 1500 word essays (one due at the end of the course and the other due two weeks later). It’s been crazy to explain to non-Early Start international students how I’ve already had to turn in an essay and still have to start my second one. But no worries because the experience and knowledge I gained from this class makes any amount of assessment worth it!

I can’t end this without some snapshots of what our field trips were like, especially since I’ve already taken upwards of 450 photos in the last 3-4 weeks. So, here’s a preview of what YOU could be doing if you chose to join the Early Start Irish Archaeology Program at UCC!

DUBLIN & CO. MEATH (20 Thurs. & 21 Fri. August, 2015)

The National Museum of Ireland, Dublin


Viking Dublin and Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin


Monasterboice – High Crosses, Co. Louth


Slane Farm Hostel, Slane, Co. Meath


Newgrange Passage Tomb, Bend of the Boyne, Co. Meath



Trim Castle, Trim, Co. Meath



NORTH CORK/ROCK OF CASHEL (25 Tues. August, 2015)

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb, Co. Cork


Mitchelstown Caves, Co. Cork



The Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary



WEST CORK (29 Sat. August, 2015)

Ballinacarriga Tower House, Co. Cork


Coppinger’s Court (semi-fortified house), Co. Cork


Drombeg: Stone Circle and Fulachta Fiadh, Co. Cork




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THE BURREN, GALWAY CITY, & THE ARAN ISLANDS (2 Wed. & 3 Thurs. September, 2015)

Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare



Poulnabrone Portal Tomb, the Burren


Corcomroe Cistercian Abbey, the Burren



Kinlay Hostel, Eyre Square, Galway City, Co. Galway


Ferry to Inishmore – largest of the Aran Islands – and bus tour


Dún Aonghasa, Inishmore, Aran Islands

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If you’re wanting to truly learn about and hands-on explore Ireland, strongly consider studying at University College Cork and choosing the Early Start Irish Archaeology + Autumn Semester Program! I guarantee great friends, stunning views, and awesome memories!

*All photographs are property of Alyssa N. Henderson*


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