US students return for archaelogical study

Sixty American students have returned to Ballintubber, near Castlerea, to continue a field-school project, called the Big Dig, at Ballintubber Castle.

  The castle, which is owned by Pyers O’Conor Nash, has been studied by archaeologists in recent years. It was built at the very start of the 14th century as a de Burgo castle, but it became a stronghold of the O’Conors until the 17th century and was the scene of many military engagements.

  In 2014, Castle Studies Trust, a UK-based charity, sponsored a survey of the remains. The report author, Professor Niall Brady, is well-known for the work that he did from 2002 to 2010 at Tulsk, on behalf of the Discovery Programme.

  Then he joined forces with colleagues in the US to take the study of the county further and together they run ‘Castles in Communities, Medieval Ireland Past and Present’.

  Last year the project at Ballintubber began, with students from Foothill College, California, and Columbia University, New York, joining Professor Brady to present a new field-school project to introduce students from around the world to archaeology and anthropology.

  They have now returned to continue the study, under the tutelage of their tutors – Professors Sam Connell, from Foothill College, and Professor Chad Gifford, from Columbia University.

  About half of the group of 60 are staying in homes in the village, while the remainder are accomodated at Clonalis House, Castlerea.

  The launch of the second phase of their project was held at the castle last Sunday, and it was very well attended. A barbecue was hosted afterwards in Garvey’s pub, Ballintubber, which was very entertaining.

  Eileen Kenny, the chairperson of Ballintubber Tidy Towns and Heritage Association, said that the US the group were a pleasure to accommodate.

  “They are so pleased so far with their findings. They are a pleasure to have in the village. They are all so friendly and nice,” Ms. Kenny, the owner of Kenny’s Lounge at Ballintubber, said.