Hi there! My name is Zoë Rierson. I’m originally from southern Colorado but have just graduated with an undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Achill Field School really caught my eye because I spent most of my degree studying the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and this field school was an opportunity to look at something different, particularly, in this case, the chance to excavate something potentially much older. What also attracted me to the field school was the fact that it contrasted (both in terms of digging conditions and age of the site) with the first field school I had attended a few years ago near my home town, giving me a more diverse experience in the field. Finally, I had read and heard so many great things about the field school and I’m glad to say it hasn’t disappointed!
This past week, week two, was one that I really enjoyed and it’s also one that highlights some of the aspects that, I feel, makes Achill Field School such a unique and fun experience. As well as teaching the important procedures and techniques utilized in the physical excavation of a site, the field school works hard to incorporate lessons and lectures, not just on current research, but also on the wide range of tools and different approaches taken to archaeology to capture the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. This is one of the aspects of the school I really appreciate and look forward to every week, as each week we usually have a guest evening lecture. Week 2 was special in that, not only did we have two evening lectures, but we also had a guest lecturer, Dr. Patricia Murrieta-Flores, who ran a two day practical course in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The field school has a great computer lab which allowed us to do the course and practice our cartography and other GIS skills. I really enjoyed the practical as well as Dr. Murrieta-Flores’ lecture on landscape archaeology and the application of GIS in archaeological settings. What was so fun was that this was an area of archaeological research I had always heard about and seen, but until now, I hadn’t had the chance to try it myself. GIS has really peaked my interest and I have the field school to thank for that, because, without them, I may never have had the chance to give it a go!
The last bit of the week we left the lab and began work again at the site. I was working in quadrant 2 and it was nice to see something that resembled a trench after working so hard the previous week at removing the peat and heather. There were four of us working in this section, cleaning and getting down to some of the more natural layers under the mound soil. There were little to no finds, rather disappointingly, other than a small piece of flint and another piece of intriguing rock. However, I feel it was made up for because the two upright stones at the top of the trench really started to stand out, and with the new third horizontal stone running between them, it looks even more convincing as an entranceway. All the while adding to the mystery of what this site actually is.
So far Achill Field School has been an amazing learning experience for me. It’s been great meeting all the wonderful people and seeing the setting that really make this school what it is. I can’t say thanks enough. I’m so grateful I was able to take part in such an awesome experience and can’t wait to recommend it to others.