Archaeology and Cultural Heritage of
Great Blasket Island, Ireland


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Tradition and Modernity on Great Blasket Island

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  • Overview -- This proposed field school in archaeology, history, heritage, and landscape studies will examine the lifeways of residents of Great Blasket Island (Blascaod Mór) off the southwest coast of the Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne) of the Republic of Ireland. Great Blasket and its surrounding islands have been traversed by cultures leaving traces from fort sites thousands of years in age, to monastic dwellings and Viking incursions in the medieval period one thousand years ago, and a settled village from at least the 17th century onward. The lifeways of the residents on Great Blasket were the focus of nationalist pride by proponents of the new Republic of Ireland in the early 1900s. Those lifeways, supported by maritime, pastoral, and agrarian subsistence, were hailed by nationalist advocates as representing an authentic Irish cultural identity uncorrupted by the impacts of British colonialism, racism, modernity, or new consumer markets. Great Blasket's population decreased as emigration to America or to the mainland towns of the Republic drew families away in the 1900s. This field school will contribute to research examining the cultural landscapes across time and the archaeological record of resident lifeways.

    We hope to obtain all of the needed permissions and permits to launch this program in the future.

  • Approximate field school costs -- The rate for tuition in summer sessions will be your applicable rate for six credits, which can run up to approximately $3,000 total for some students. You will also have round-trip airfare, other related travel expenses within Ireland, and lodging and food expenses for the time of the field school, which would all likely range around $2,500 to $3,000. You will make all the travel arrangements yourself. I will work to arrange a group discount for the lodging in Dúnquin, at the western tip of the Dingle Peninsula, either in modern B&B facilities or rented vacation houses, during the time of the field school. The estimate of $2,500 to $3,000 in travel, lodging, and food expenses includes those weeks of lodging and meals in Dúnquin as well as average travel expenditures.

    Great Blasket view
    Dun Chaoin harbor view
    Sleah Head view

  • Enrollment -- There are no prerequisites and the field school will be open for applications by individuals from all undergraduate and graduate levels. Students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) can enroll through registration for course numbers Anth 454-CF and Anth 455-CF (two courses of three credits each, totalling six credits) for Summer Session I. Students from other universities and colleges can enroll through UIUC's Continuing Education program, which provides transferable credits. No prerequisite courses are required.

  • Travel documents -- The Republic of Ireland requires a current passport. They do not require visas for such a relatively short visit by United States citizens and citizens of most other countries.

    view of Great Blasket Island from Dunquin

  • Our research questions include the following themes:
    • Evidence of daily lifeways and cultural landscapes across time on the Blaskets;
    • Trans-Atlantic, comparative historical archaeology;
    • Medieval and post-medieval archaeology;
    • Social identity and perspectives of authentic histories, traditions, and modernity;
      • Cultural heritage and nostalgia claims today;
      • Authenticity claims and perspectives on medieval and earlier landscapes;
    • Impacts of racial and nationalist ideologies;
    • Commodity chains, contours of capitalism, and strategic conduct in "peripheries" in the Atlantic basin;
    • Consumption theories and spatial extent of industrial impacts.

  • About the instructors: Chris Fennell is an anthropologist and lawyer (MA, U. Pennsylvania; JD, Georgetown U. 1989; Ph.D., U. Virginia 2003), specializing in historical archaeology as an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has nineteen years of experience conducting archaeological field schools. Chris also teaches courses as a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. His empirical research addresses the dynamics of social group affiliations among Europeans, Africans, and various social groups in trans-Atlantic contexts in recent centuries. Preliminary work on this project focused on the Blaskets has been supported by both the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago.

    This field school program idea was developed in collaboration with Mícheál De Mórdha, former director of the Great Blasket Center in Dúnquin, and Frank Coyne, co-director and principal archaeologist of Aegis Archaeology, Limerick. Mícheál served as director of the Center from 1993 to 2015 and before that was a producer and presenter with RTE Raidió na Gaeltachta and a journalist with the newspaper Inniu, both committed to advancing Irish language and culture. He is co-author, with Dáithí De Mórdha, of An Blascaod Mór: A Photographic Portrait and author of Scéal agus Dán Oileáin and An Island Community, providing detailed social histories of Great Blasket. Frank has over twenty years of experience in conducting archaeological investigations on prehistoric, medieval, and post-medieval sites throughout Ireland.

  • Internet resources --

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Last updated March 22, 2017

Maintained by

Christopher Fennell