Topic ID #37726 - posted 12/1/2016 4:11 PM

Ireland: Spike Island Field School 2017 - Academic Credit through UCLA


Project Overview

This field school is part of an ongoing research project that examines the archaeology of the 19th century prison on Spike Island, Ireland’s Alcatraz. During this period dealing with criminals by means of long-term incarceration was new frontier. In Ireland and Britain, long-term confinement only became the dominant means of punishment and social control in the mid-19th century. The architecture of many of the purpose-built prisons from this period reflect their new ideas about the redemptive nature of isolation, discipline and work. The physical isolation of prisoners was not possible on Spike Island because it was originally an early 19th century fortress which was only converted to a prison in 1847, at the height of the Great Famine. The prison was tied into the global reach of the British imperial system of power as in the early years of its operation, it was one of the main holding centers for Irish convicts transported to Australia and to Bermuda. In the 2017 season, we will focus on establishing the location of the burial ground used in the prison’s first decade.

Program Director: Dr. Barra O'Donnabhain   
Course Dates: June 11-July 15, 2017
Application Deadline: June 9, 2017
Tuition: $4,300
Credit: 12 UCLA credit units 

Accommodations:Field School accommodation will be in the fort on Spike Island. Spike is a small, uninhabited island in Cork Harbour. While there is no resident population on the island, it is not an isolated place: it is only 500m from land in one direction and 1500m across the harbour from the town of Cobh. Archaeology indicates human activity in the harbour back into early prehistory while Spike is recorded as the location of a monastic site in the early medieval period (AD 500-1,000). Due to its strategic location facing the entrance to the harbour, the island was transformed during the Napoleonic Wars when, in response to fears of a French invasion, a gun battery and later a star-shaped fort were built. The latter and its ramparts occupy about 70% of the island’s surface.   The island remained as a naval and military installation for 200 years, from 1804 to 2004. When most of Ireland became independent in 1922, Britain retained Spike and the neighbouring island of Haulbowline until 1938 when they were ceded to Ireland. While both the British and later the Irish army and navy had small military prisons at Spike, the fort has been used as a civilian prison twice in its history. The first of these (1847-1883) is the focus of our research while the 20th century prison provides us with our accommodation! From 1985 to 2004, Spike Island housed a modern prison and we will be housed in the administration block of this jail (do a Google maps search for Spike Island, Cork, satellite view: our accommodation is on the upper floor of two of the rectangular blocks in the right corner of the fort). The island does not have a resident population so we will be the only people there at night. Tourists visit the site during the day.
Living Arrangements
The accommodation on the island consists of bedrooms, a common room and kitchen. The rooms will be shared. There will be separate rooms for male and females students. There are separate male and female toilets on the corridor while hot showers are in an adjacent building. There will be a bed for each team member and you will need to bring your own sleeping bag and towels (see What to Pack for a checklist of items you need to bring). All meals are provided from Monday to Friday (students look after their own meals at weekends).

For further information visit Program Page:


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