Volunteers wanted for archaeological dig

By Dan Walsh

This July excavations will be relaunched and the digs are open to volunteers, with all required training and equipment provided on site as Wexford County Council is working alongside the Irish Archaeology Field School on a standout archaeology project in the Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig.

Digging the Lost Town of Carrig is a unique archaeological project based in the Irish National Heritage Park since 2018, a project established as a partnership between Irish Archaeology Field School and the Irish National Heritage Park with support from Wexford County Council, will further investigate this historically significant, medieval site.

Volunteers can also participate in rebuilding lost elements of the town under the tuition of specialists such as experimental archaeologist Dr Brendan O’ Neill and local stonemason Pat Hickey.

The project was interrupted by restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. However, this July the excavations will be relaunched, in the form of a community dig.

Wexford County Council’s Heritage Officer, Catherine McLoughlin, commented: “Wexford County Council is delighted to support this engaging community project. It is a positive opportunity for members of the public to get really involved with our local history and heritage, right at the coalface. We are incredibly lucky to have such a historically significant site at our fingertips in Wexford in the Irish National Heritage Park and the variety of opportunities for engagement over the next few weeks will enable both longstanding enthusiasts and curious newcomers of all ages to get involved.”

Upcoming Community Dig opportunities include: Community Excavation (July 26th– August 13th); Community volunteers will assist in the excavation of the first recorded Anglo-Norman stronghold in Ireland. There are also opportunities to help tell the story of this historically significant site in a tangible and relatable manner through the construction of replica medieval walls and even the building of a medieval smith’s house.

These construction activities will be led by Dr. Brendan O’Neill of University College Dublin and local stonemason Pat Hickey. The excavation is led by Dr Denis Shine and is entirely free to participants (including park entry). The excavation site can also be visited by anyone (subject to paying park entry) from July 22nd to August 13th, if they are curious about the site.

Carrig Open Day (August 6th 12-6pm).; An Open Day focused on medieval life (and fun) for the whole family. The day will feature an archaeological kid’s camp (with Dig it Kids), storytelling, site tours, experimental archaeology workshops, battle re-enactments (with the Horsemen of Eire), ‘medieval’ amusement games (with the Bemusements Games) and more. All events are free – subject to normal park entry fees.

Archaeological masterclasses (weekly throughout the summer); Participants will get to undertake practical workshops with leading archaeological specialists in bioarchaeology, medieval ceramics, geoarchaeology and experimental archaeology. These workshops are held once a week from July 21st to August 10th. Community volunteers on the excavation will be given preferential booking, but additional places may be available. These classes are subject to park entry fees.

The archaeological site, now located within the Irish National Heritage Park, was built in the winter of 1169 by Robert FitzStephen and was the first recorded Anglo-Norman stronghold in the country. A stone castle, medieval borough and deerpark later developed close to (or on) the site of the ringwork in the 13th century. The Carrig project is centred on a major research excavation of the ringwork castle, and later castle settlement. Excavations at the site from 2018 to date have focused on the ringwork, later 13th century castle and 14th century hall and chapel. The aim going forward is to continue this research but also to expand to other areas of Carrig’s settlement, such as the borough and deerpark. The longer term research project is being undertaken by the Irish Archaeology Field School in partnership with the Irish National Heritage Park. 

For further information, please contact Catherine McLoughlin, Heritage Officer, Wexford County Council catherine.mcloughlin@wexfordcoco.ie

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