Topic ID #39034 - posted 12/13/2017 8:43 AM

Ireland- Spike Island Archaeology Field School 2018


This field school is part of a larger research project that examines the development of modern prison systems through the study of the archaeology of the 19th century prison on Spike Island, Ireland’s Alcatraz.  Strategically located at the mouth of Cork Harbour, the island was a military and naval base for over 200 years and is the site of the largest fortress in Ireland.  For 36 years from 1847, the fort was used as a convict prison, initially as a crisis response to Ireland’s Great Famine (1845-1852).  Dealing with criminals by means of long-term incarceration is a relatively recent development.  In Ireland and Britain, long-term confinement only became the dominant means of punishment and social control in the mid-19th century.  Globally, that century was a critical period for the development of the modern prison with considerable innovation and experimentation in punishment regimes.  At the first International Penitentiary Congresses in the 1870s, the ‘Irish System’, was seen as a role model for other world areas and Spike Island had played a critical role in the development of this approach.  The island was also a major point of embarkation transportation to Australia where convicts became part of an extraordinarily effect project in social engineering, providing the labour and population of new colonies.

This will be the sixth season of excavations of the Spike Island Archaeological Project.  The island is uninhabited but is visited by hundreds of tourists daily during the summer with hourly boats making the 1km journey to the nearby town of Cobh.  The staff and students of the project live on the island in youth hostel-style accommodation in a modern and comfortable building.

The 2018 field school will investigate deposits in the Victorian prison buildings while also exploring the convict cemetery.  It provides students with the opportunity to spend 5 weeks in a unique location and to gain practical experience in excavation, bioarchaeology and historical archaeology at a site of global significance.

·         Course Dates: June 17-July 21, 2018

·         Enrollment Status: OPEN

·         Total Cost: $4,175

·         Course Type: Field Archaeology, Bioarchaeology

·         Instructors: Dr. Barra O’Donnabhain


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. 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! (You may read about the longer history of the Island in the syllabus)

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.

All meals are provided from Monday to Friday (students look after their own meals at weekends).


ACADEMIC CREDIT UNITS & TRANSCRIPTS Credit Units: Attending students will be awarded 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter credit units) through our academic partner, Connecticut College. Connecticut College is a private, highly ranked liberal arts institution with a deep commitment to undergraduate education. Students will receive a letter grade for attending this field school (see grading assessment and matrix). This field school provides a minimum of 160 direct instructional hours. Students are encouraged to discuss the transferability of credit units with faculty and registrars at their home institutions prior to attending this field school.


For Further information visit program page:


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