Monday, June 28, 2010

Back in Colorado

Well, I'm back in sunny Colorado! The flights on Saturday went ok. No glitches really but almost had to switch planes after we boarded in Newark! Luckily we were just delayed about an hour. When I got into Denver I was pleasantly surprised by my husband waiting for me at baggage claim! :) I was so excited to see him that I gave him a long loving kiss without realizing that I was stepping on his toes and he had sandals on! :) Well, we got home and the dog came running out and stopped and barked at me for a second! He had to remember that he knew me! Then he gave me big kisses and wanted me to scratch his butt :)

Yesterday we had a nice lunch with mom and dad. The dogs played (and tired themselves out) and I got to see Sara and Elijah too. Irish souvenirs were distributed and we enjoyed pork chops, salad and potatoes! After lunch, Marc and I went to see The A-Team. I heard it got bad reviews but I just wanted to watch something silly. And it was! It may have been one of those over the top action flicks but the actors in the main character roles were hilarious! :) I truly enjoyed it and recommend it if you like those kinds of movies.

Well, today I'm off of work going to get some grocery shopping done and also clean up my laundry before it's back to the ol' grind tomorrow. But being in Ireland helped me to realize that there can be an adventure in everything. Some people tell you to follow your passion... this is true, but you must also realize that your passion is portable and you can bring your passion with you into everything you do. Your life is what you make it, so make it interesting in every way you can. I will continue to write my blog, although probably not daily, but I'm going to be looking for my next adventures in my daily life!

love to all!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Last Day

Today was the last day of Field School in Ireland. All in all it was a quiet day. We continued to excavate in our cutting and we are trying to get below the level of the mortar and rubble fall. It appears on one side of one of our features that the wall kicks out at an angle which may indicate it was the start of a curve in the wall where there may have been a staircase or something similar. Our main feature may indeed be the inner portion of a staircase. I'll have to post the pictures when I get home and you may be able to see it for yourself. I bought a flag that is for County Meath and I had everyone on site sign it. I'm going to frame it as a memorial to my trip.

Tonight the other girls (and the two guys) are coming over so that we can make scones (I think the guys are just coming to eat the scones)! It will be a good last night.

Well, I'm already packed up and ready for my long day of flying tomorrow. Can't wait to see everyone!

Love you lots!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Neolithic to Medieval

Today was another busy field trip day! We visited 5 sites and I’m happy to say I think I’ve gotten to visit most of the big ones on my list! Still no good shopping for the family (sorry guys, most of the places have the usual tourist stuff and nothing that catches my eye as special for you!). We started the day off at Newgrange. This is I believe, one of the oldest passage tombs at just over 5,000 years old! That’s older than the pyramids! This passage tomb was excavated in the 1960s and 1970s under Professor M.J. O’Kelly. The tomb was reconstructed controversially to M.J. O’Kelly’s interpretation of what the original tomb looked like. Today, the white quartz wall that surrounds the tomb is a stark contrast to the green that surrounds the vistas. This could have been what the ancients were looking for, but could also be totally wrong! J  Either way, it makes for a unique passage tomb. This tomb we are allowed to go into and they have a representation of what happens on the winter solstice when the sun comes in through the roof box perfectly aligned toward the east and level with the tomb. My favorite part is the roof of the tomb that is made up of several large stones that make up a corbelled vault. It just amazes me the feats that the ancients were able to accomplish with such limited technology and to have them endure for five millennia!

After Newgrange, it was off to another passage tomb at Knowth. Knowth has several satellite passage tombs that directly surround it (it kinda reminds me of the smurf village but in large size J). The main passage tomb at Knowth actually has two passages, one facing east and one facing west. They are the longest passage tombs known. You can go inside the mound where there is a lighted poster of the passages but you cannot go down these passages. This site is really interesting (also 5,000 years old) there were several times this site was occupied. After the mound fell into disrepair, other peoples came and lived on top of the mound as it was a great vantage point. They also built sutterain’s (subterranean) tunnels to escape attacks from the Vikings when they inhabited Ireland around the 9th century.  This site also has the most geomorphic designs on the kerb stones surrounding the mound.

Having completed our Neolithic tours for the day it was time to move on to the medieval period. For lunch we headed to the ruins of Slane Abbey. These are the remains of a Franciscan Abbey built in the early 16th century and college. Got some beautiful pictures!

On we went to the remains of another abbey Monasterboice Abbey founded around the 6th century. The remains of the buildings probably date to the 14th century. But the coolest thing at this site are the remains of two Irish High Crosses that date to the 11th century (so they’re 1,000 years old!). These are believed to have been used to tell the stories of the bible as the panels show scenes from Bible stories.

Our last stop for the day was to Mellifont Abbey ruins, a Cistercian Abbey that was founded in 1142. All that remains of this enormous abbey are the lower parts of the walls and the floor grave markers where Bishops and such were buried within the grounds. One building still stands as it was continually used in later centuries and even has some original floor tiles.

All of the sites were so beautiful and tell the story of a long and varied history on this Island. The Boyne Valley is so rich in it’s history with Trim Castle, Newgrange, the many Abbey’s and our site of the Black Friary. It will be exciting when I can bring you all here to see all of these magnificent sites! Well, I have one last day in the field and I am looking forward to it and then I will be on a plane home early Saturday!

I hope everyone has a great Friday! Love you all!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Pub

Well, I had to post about the Pub! We went to the Pub this evening and it was lovely! The traditional Irish music was played in a little nook of the Pub called "The Snug". The gentleman playing were of the older generation but were such nice fellows and the music was just so beautiful. It made me misty eyed listening to the music and realizing that I only have 2 days remaining here in this lovely place. It also made me realize how much I want to come back to Ireland with my family and share the beauty of this wonderful Isle. It was a night I'll forever remember. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so the memories shall live on in my head and in my heart.

G'nite ye lads and lasses.

Plan... Plan... and Plan some more!

Today wasn't as warm as the last few days have been. It started off cool with a cloud cover and continued all day cloudy but with a warm feel to it. Well, I thought I got out of it but I guess I was wrong. Today, our group continued with the planning for our unit. That is the 2 dimensional representation of what is now on the surface. Fin asked that we plan at least 3-4 1 meter x 1 meter areas in our cutting with one of us using the planning grid (a board that has strings making up a grid with each square 20 cm x 20 cm) and the other training our eye to determine sizes of stones and placement within the 1m sq area. So I tried one with the planning grid and one without. I found that without the planning grid I work better. I can see how the planning grid will work when the surface you are mapping might have more artifacts and less stone, but when they are stones, and just mish mashed fallen stones as ours are, it's okay to do it by eye. When we had this completed we were to take levels. Now, from my other field school, this is usually taking elevations and we usually use the line level, a string and a tape measure but over here, we get to use the dumpy (the survey machine). This made elevations/levels so much quicker! The rest of the afternoon was pretty much filled with working on a 1 meter section of the cutting on the south side trying to remove the mortar layer or Feature 4 as it has been designated. Friday, Jean Marco says we will actually be able to move a lot quicker as it appears the stones below are not in situ but are fallen debris.

I am happy to say I think my archaeological skills are progressing well. I feel more confident in some of the tasks that I had previously done and have also gained new skills. My sketching skills still leave a lot to be desired as I learned when I attempted to sketch the concave surface in the wall. I think I'll need to take some sketching classes :). I am sad that Friday will be my last day on the Black Friary site for a while but I intend to come back and be a part of this dig as I feel a connection having been part of the first group to reveal stones that have been covered for decades and possibly centuries. But tomorrow we are off to Newgrange and I am very excited for that! It doesn't sound like a whole day kinda thing so hopefully I might get to do some souvenir shopping as I haven't gotten a chance to do that. Tonight we are going to the pub in Trim for live Traditional Irish music. This does not start until 10 p.m.! So I might be tired tomorrow but I figure I better go as I'm only here two more days.

Miss you all! xoxo

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In the Lab

Hey all!

Today was great! I was really tired yesterday after working with the geophys meter in the hot sun so I wasn’t really looking forward to doing anything that might require a lot of labor, Megan felt the same way. Luckily… the gods smiled on us and when Fin asked who wanted to work on cleaning up pottery sherds found on Watergate Street Megan, Kirsten and I were picked! Happy day for us! So off we went to the site house just around the block. Fin soon joined us and showed us two bags of pottery sherds. The sherds had been excavated from a small excavation in town that was taking place for city purposes near a bridge. These sherds were found as a result and removed for analysis. The sherds were clumped with the clay soil they were recovered with so our job was to gently wash and remove all the clay, lay them out to dry and then try to piece as many together as we could. So, we happily set about our task. It took us most of the morning to get the muck off of the pieces and we set them out to dry. Fin came in to check on us and also showed us some of the posters they had made with pictures from a previous site CRDS had worked on. At this site wood tools had been recovered in a peat bog. This site seemed very interesting to have worked on and I wish I could have been there! She asked if we had time to go ahead and hang them up in the site house. Laura and Emma were to come relieve us after lunch and none of us wanted to leave! Fin said some of us would be able to get a tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I was thrilled as I hadn’t yet gotten the chance.

Mark, another CRDS employee gave us the official tour. It was myself, Pearl, Elle and Kieran, an older gentleman from Trim who is also volunteering on site this week. Mark is actually doing his thesis on the Cathedral and it’s importance in Trim’s history as most of the focus is usually on Trim Castle. Saint Loman was left off on the Boyne by Saint Patrick where he converted the locals to Catholicism and founded the church. Mark was of course really knowledgeable as he is doing his thesis but he has also done many excavations in the area including on the road that passes in front of the church where burials were carbon dated to around the 5th century AD which would put them right at the time of St. Patrick! The tower at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the oldest remaining part standing, I believe dates to before Trim Castle (12th century) but I don’t remember if he said it was the 5th Century or not. It has a spiral staircase that goes up above the bells where we got a beautiful view of Trim. We were able to see the Castle of course, the Yellow Steeple, St. Mary’s Church, The Duke of Wellington pillar and even our site as it is not very far from the site. So I took a picture of our little worker bees on site. It was a great tour and I’d love to read Mark’s thesis after he has completed it so I’m going to try to get his contact info.

After the tour I returned to the house where Kirsten and Megan were still working on the sherds. They had made some great progress. We still didn’t want to leave so we decided to put up the posters up as Fin had requested. Just after we completed that task, Fin returned and rushed us off to the field. Luckily, as we arrived, Jean Marco wanted us all to get an introduction to the survey equipment that Nile, our Survey technician had been using. Nile is taking points to make a 3-D topographic representation of the site in order to better distinguish where walls and other features may be. So, we all got a brief overview of how his survey equipment works and we even got a chance to use it and take a couple of points down.

By the time we had finished it was time to begin cleaning up for the day. It had been a great day as I had gotten to do some lab work and also get a great tour! Tomorrow it looks like we’ll have more planning to do but also hopefully we’ll get a chance to dig more. However, Jean Marco says there is now rain in the forecast, so I’m not sure what they will have us do if it rains. It looks like Thursday our field trip will be to Newgrange and I’m so excited! Everyone says as an archaeologist you must visit that site when you are in Ireland so I hope that goes to plan.

Anyway, miss you all and will talk to you soon! xoxo

Monday, June 21, 2010

Geophysical Survey

Today it was back to work! We had four new people today. I met Ryan on Saturday, Jessica and Sam yesterday (Jessica is such a sweetheart! She always asks how everyone is doing and has such an upbeat attitude toward everything! I wonder if all Montreal-eans are like that) and Margaret, or Meg as she likes to be called, was dropped off to stay at Mary's this morning. Meg is from Boston but has lived in Ireland for 3 years as she attends University in Galway. She just graduated with her degree and will be going for her masters. I'm so glad Mary put her in Megan's room so I can continue to enjoy a room alone.  Is this relevant to the story you ask.... probably not. Anyway... But this did make our little group 9 instead of 7 so it made me wonder how we were going to arrange the ride as the CRDS bus only fits 7 plus the driver. Well, we found out when Fin got there that she was going to come back and pick two of us up and that ended up being me and Meg. :P That's going to be a little annoying for the whole week. We also have to return in shifts.

So today we were all supposed to be making a plan of our lovely stone pile. Jessica, Ryan and Sam went to help Emma and Laura in Cutting 1. We got Meg, but we were also joined by two girls from Ireland Carolyn and Pearl. (They're great). I started out doing the drawing but it seemed like all my stones were coming out shaped like triangles! So I gave up on the drawing. During this time, Meg wanted to be ahead of the curve and decided she could start mapping Feature 3 (another pile of stones in our cutting).  So, once she finally got everything together I was commandeered to help her and Pearl. So I told her I wasn't drawing as my last attempt was bad. So Pearl and I happily took points and gave them to her while she attempted to plot them. Luckily, this didn't last too long as Ian volunteered us to join him for geophysical survey work. Last week Ian did magnetometery where the instrument uses magnetic signals to detect features below the surface and he will use those readings to pick possible locations of interest. This week we are working on earth resistivity. There is a mobile unit with two mobile probes that go into the ground and detect an electrical current from two stationary probes off site in order to detect the resistance of the soil to the electrical current. This can also detect features but we were told by Ian, this warm weather is not the best time to do this as it is better during the fall or spring when there has been more wet activity and the moist soil shows up better and can better detect features. So there are small ropes on the ground that are 20 meters long and they are spaced 1 meter apart to create a 20 x 20 meter grid. There are red lines on the ropes at 50 cm intervals so we place the probes in the ground at each red tape. Well, this may sound easy and it's not that the machine is heavy but doing this in the heat at a rapid pace was so tiring! This was how I spent the rest of the day. Just taking turns with Pearl and Meg. I was the fastest of the three of us and nearly finished a whole grid by myself as Meg and Pearl had to go listen to the Health and Safety shpeel that we listened to last week. I did get to chat a good bit with Pearl and she's actually older than the other girls at 23. She'll be finished with her degree this coming year. She has four brothers, one a social worker in Dublin, one who's still in college one who's a contractor and one who's working in Australia. She's getting her degree in Community Work or something along those lines.

Well, after a hot day in the sun everyone else had cleaned up and were heading off site and they told me to meet at the house to get picked up as there were some going in the second pick up because they needed to get some groceries. So we helped Ian pick up his equipment and I said goodbye to Carolyn and Pearl as Meg had already ditched out and I headed to the site house. On my way I ran into Elle who was running to the shop to get ice cream for others. She said the site house door wouldn't open so she couldn't get in and they handed her money through the window. We went and got ice cream, I got one too and fed them back through the window. I learned the first group hadn't left yet and that's when Jean Marco pulled up with the van. Elle and I realized he'd have to come back anyway for the other 7 so off we went. Ha ha suckers!! Just kidding. I was just hot and was ready to take a shower to get all the sweat off of me! Anyway, that was my day, busy and hot but still worth it because, after all, I'm in Ireland.

Love you all and gnite!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Haymaking Festival

Well, today was the much awaited haymaking festival in Trim. I actually got to sleep in a little bit (until 9) but then I had to get up. I just hung around in my room for a while after I got ready which was a nice change, then I went downstairs and had breakfast. Mary and Mihal were gone to church and Megan soon joined me for breakfast and we sat there chatting for quite a while. We didn't know what time the festivities were to start but when returned to my room it appeared Elle texted me and said they were going to take the bus into town and to call when we arrived and we would meet up. So Megan and I decided that we would walk into Trim, it's only about a 1/2 hour walk, so off we went getting into town at about 1:00 p.m.

Upon arriving we met up with Elle, Kirsten, Emma and the two girls who just arrived today, Jessica from Montreal, and Sam from Seattle. There wasn't much to the festival, the usual booths and such but many of them seemed more like second hand merchandise and there weren't really any traditional crafts for sale like I thought there might be. So we walked around for a bit, they didn't have any of the music going in the morning/early afternoon. There were farm animals and contests for the farmers (kinda like the stock show) but not much else going on. To be honest, we were slightly disappointed. Around 3 o'clock we were all a little hungry so we decided to get some lunch. Megan's sister had told her that she definitely needed to try some Indian food while she was in Ireland, I don't know why... but there was an Indian Food restaurant near our site office. So, while I'm in Ireland I thought "why not!" So we had Indian Food for lunch and it was really quite good.

When we returned to the festival the band we saw last night was finally playing on stage. We listened to them for a while but most of us decided we wanted to head back, especially Jessica and Sam as they just wanted to rest a bit. They had all bought the return pass for the bus but I didn't want to pay for the bus so I decided to walk back the way I'd come. Megan and Emma decided to stay. It was a hot day's walk back but the Boyne River Walk is really lovely because it passes through ruins of a cathedral and a cemetery. I stopped at the "petrol" station and purchased an soft serve ice cream for the last leg of my 30 minute walk and arrived to a quiet house. It was a good thing I remembered to bring my key today as Mary and Mihal are probably in town enjoying the festivities.

Well, it wasn't as exciting as yesterday and my legs are tired from all the walking. Gotta get ready for another day of field work tomorrow, but most of it will be drawing our lovely stones, painstakingly slow!


The Hill of Tara

Well I had one big goal when I came to Ireland and that was to visit the Hill of Tara. Yesterday I got to do that! Well, it took a little bit of prodding to get the other girls moving so first I got to spend some time on Mihal and Mary's farm as I hadn't yet gotten to. They have horses, sheep, goats, cows, donkey's, ducks and chickens. Mihal showed me how to milk a goat! :) (yes, I have pictures). I told him how when I was young my Great Grandpa  showed me how to milk a goat and squirted goat milk in my eye. Mihal laughed but he said he would do that to his granddaughter too. After milking the mama goat I got to bottle feed the baby goats! They were adorable. Two a bit older and one a bit younger. The younger one wanted to suck on my finger because he was still hungry... so cute! :) So after hanging out on the farm a bit, the girls were ready to go to the Hill of Tara so Mary arranged a taxi for us.

It was a beautiful day for visiting the hill. The sky was blue, there was a bit of a wind and standing on top of the hill I could see for miles around. There is a small church that serves as the visitors center and we stopped to buy tickets (only 1 Euro) to the quick 20 minute video that they show about the hill but we had 20 minutes to walk around before we had to be back. We walked through the cemetery, past the wall that now lies between the park and the hill. We first came upon the Mound of the Hostages which is the passage tomb that was excavated previously. I got some good pictures of the stone that has spirals and symbols on it on the inside. It's just amazing to see this beautiful landscape and know that it was laid out so many thousands of years ago and it was sacred to the people. We wandered around over the hills and mounds until it was time to watch the video. Then after the video we wandered around even more! After we had traversed every dip and mound we all just sat or laid in the grass. I just listened to the grass blowing in the wind and felt the sun on my face. One could almost expect to hear a singing on the wind from a ceremony long ago. It was a wonderful experience.

After returning from the Hill of Tara, we were picked up by Mary and we decided we wanted to go into Trim to get a tour of Trim Castle as most of us hadn't done that yet. We also had a new arrival, our first Male, Ryan from New Hampshire. Ryan stands about my height... if that... he was wearing green cargo shorts, a salmonish color long sleeve button up shirt, a brown fedora and argil socks scrunched down. He seems very nice but also kinda goofy :)

So we walked to Trim and they stayed sunny so by the time we got there we needed something to cool us off. So we stopped into the tourist shop across the street and got an ice cream. Boy did that hit the spot! We caught the last tour of the castle at 5 p.m. It is an amazing structure. I especially liked it because it hasn't been modified/modernized like a lot of the castle's. The floors are how they would be during medieval times and the only thing they added is a covering so the inside is no longer exposed to the weather. It's funny how we romanticize life in a castle when we don't realize that these people hardly bathed, wore heavy clothes that they hung in their "garderrobe" essentially the latrine so that the ammonia from the urine would delouse their clothes. One thing that I didn't know was that often castles were lime washed on the outside to make them appear bright and white but the latrines on the inside basically seeped down the side of the wall making not so lovely outer tapestries... :P

After our tour of the castle, Mary told us to stay in Trim as there would be live music and possibly dancing to start the festival that's happening tomorrow. She said it would be on High street and start around 7. Well, in Irish time that was really 8:30! So we wandered around and got some food, had more time and saw people start setting up around 7 :) and stopped at Brogan's Bar and Lounge where I tried my first Irish Cider. It's made from apples and fermented. It was actually good! Didn't have a bad after taste like beer does. So around 8:30, the music started I was so excited because we hadn't yet heard the traditional Irish music! We stayed for about an hour because we were all tired from a day of walking. After a Taxi ride home it was off to bed.

Today is the haymaking festival that we all plan to attend (after I get me some antihistamine that is!) We also might get to go to Loughcrew, another passage tomb for the summer solstice, which would be an amazing experience but I'm not sure if that would be really early in the morning tomorrow. We'll see! Fin's supposed to let us know. Well, until later!

Miss you!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Well today on the site wasn't all too eventful. It was of course a beautiful day for the Irish it was cloudy but warm. The sun didn't really come out, but as I type this at 8:11 p.m. it's blue skies and sun shine :). At the site we did a bit of tidy-ing up of our "cuts" (they're not called units like I call them) before we were able to take our pictures and.... start mapping! :P Ugh... mapping Yuck! At least the way I'm used to is so tedious! But apparently, there is a better way! Unfortunately, that won't show up at the site for a couple of weeks! So back to the old method which is apparently the one I know. Everyone else in my group was thinking it awful when I was explaining it to them! Well, that's what consumed our afternoon and then we went to our little site house that is just down the road and Fin showed us some of the "skele's" as she calls them or skeleton's that were recovered at the only other excavation that took place at the site. It was neat to see the real bones of people who lived in medieval Ireland!

So, tonight was the night that we were supposed to learn the card game "25". Apparently and Irish staple. Well, it is one of the most confusing games I've ever played. We were at it for about 2 hours and I think I barely started to get it, but not close to being able to play proficiently or even explain it to someone else! But I wasn't the only one because Mihal's son Michael's Irish friend didn't even understand it! At first that is, then he got the hang of it by the en. Mihal is so good natured that he just laughed at us. He wants me to try again next friday. We'll see.

So my roomy Melissa and our other house mate Gwen are leaving tomorrow. Melissa will be out really early as her flight is at 9:30 and she has to be there at 6 a.m. So I will be all alone, although Megan might be moving in with me and there is supposed to be another Australian who they think is in Full Cater so he might be in the house too.

Tomorrow is the only weekend I'll have to shop and see Ireland. So some of us want to go to The Hill of Tara which I want to more than anything!! So we have to figure out how to get there because I'm not sure if there is a bus over there but it's only 15 minutes away according to the Trim guide. Also, there is the haymaking festival in Trim on Sunday so that should be fun! I might want to take a Benadryl or the Irish equivalent before that one though! :)

Love you all and miss you!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day in Dublin and Dalkey

Well, I was very excited for Dublin and it turned out to be a lovely day! After standing outside our lodging to and waiving down the bus for Dublin (and one of them laughing at us because he was apparently closed) we were off to Dublin!

Today was such a whirlwind! When we arrived in Dublin, we met Steve and Ashton who was to give us the architectural tour. We started our tour in Trinity College. Such a beautiful campus! I wouldn't mind picking up a book and sitting outside on that campus. Although it is probably raining a lot for them so they don't get to enjoy it. We passed by the place where the Book of Kells is kept but didn't get to go in. Hopefully if I make it to Dublin this weekend I definitely have to see it! After Trinity we walked around the city, basically in a big inner and outer square. We learned about the Georgian Style window's and about the parliament building and even about how the postal bins have the symbol of King Edward VII when the British were in charge but were painted green when Ireland gained it's independence. (Yes... I took a picture of a postal bin). The cool thing I found within Dublin is we walked into two separate large parks that are in the middle of the city but you don't even feel like they're in the city because the trees surrounding them are tall and the landscaping is so enveloping and beautiful! They are little sanctuary's within the city. When we finished our walking tour we finally got to go to the National Museum of Ireland! Unfortunately, we only had one hour and a 1/2 to go around the museum and it just wasn't enough! I did get to see one of the bog bodies that I've read about! It was pretty fascinating!

After the museum, Steve, wanted to take us to this small harbor town called Dalkey. It was an important site in Medieval times because Dublin harbor was too shallow to allow some of the larger ships in so the cargo would be brought to Dalkey and travel by land to Dublin. Here we visited Dalkey Castle & Heritage Center. It's the remnants of a "castle" but really it's more like a fortified house. It was interesting, they had little re-enactors and we all had a good laugh and I took some beautiful pictures. We also picked up Steve's little 8 year old son Alex. He is a riot! Smart as can be and not afraid to say anything!

From Dalkey Castle we took a hike up Killiney Hill with some of the most scenic views of the east coast of Ireland! I got some beautiful pictures! The hike was long and for a Coloradan, not tough at all, but some of the other girls were a bit tired after wards! We walked down the hill ending ant Killiney Beach and climbing over some HUGE rocks on the beach before making it to the train to take us back to Dublin. Needless to say, for being tired from the hard day of fieldwork yesterday, we were all tired again from walking and hiking, but the view was totally worth it! Can't wait to show you all pictures! I better turn in for the night, one more day of field work this week before I can "take a break". Although, there is a haymaking festival in Trim on Sunday and I have to buy keepsakes sometime in between!

Love to all!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Rocks!

Well all, today was quite busy and productive at the site. Yesterday was all about the weeds, today was all about the rocks... that is after we finished getting through the roots of the weeds. I don't know if anyone has used a mattock ( I really don't know if that's how it's spelled either) but it's like a pick ax with a flat edge on one side. Or, as I've come to think of it... a pain in the back, arms, abs, basically all of the above muscle groups. Anyway, we used it a bit yesterday and a lot today. But our stoney outcrop is beginning to look a lot more like an archaeological investigation! :) (I apologize, my blog would be a lot more interesting with pictures but for some reason, blogger doesn't want to upload them). The stones were skillfully cleared by one of our resident Australians (Kirsten) and also by Megan. After disturbing several red aunt colonies that is. The day was hot again! Especially for Ireland but it reminded me of our hot day's on the dig at the Bradford-Perley House in Ken Caryl Valley. Another element that brought me back to that was the large amounts of stones! These, however, are not sandstone!

Finn instructed us to go down 20 centimeters and that will be our real starting level, clearing away debris first. A lot of the debris surrounding our wall stones is glass!! It appears that when this field wasn't as covered in grass, or the stones, that people used this for glass breaking target practice because it was almost like a glass pit! Our team worked really well together. Jean Marco had designated a spot far from our units (or cuttings as they call them here) to dump our wheelbarrows and trying to push a wheelbarrow full of dirt over these darn grass hillocks is nearly impossible. Needless to say, as the day went on, what Jean Marco thought was a good distance away from our units, is slowly beginning to close in distance :).

As I said, our pile of stones is looking more like an archaeological site than... well... I a pile of stones. On one side it appears to be a definite fallen wall but some of the stones stayed in a concave pattern horizontally, but on the other side (where I was working) there appears to be a line of stones with the stones in line vertically (I swear I wish I could post my pictures so you could see) so we aren't sure how this stone wall fell. Some of us think that it may have been an archway that collapsed. This is a good hypothesis I think because this corner area may have been an entrance to the cloister where the brothers gathered to contemplate. I'm not sure how accurate I am though knowing nothing about Irish architecture. So, at the end of the day, we were all mainly moving very slowly having mattox'ed and shoveled and troweled our little arms off. :) Tomorrow is my first field trip with IAFS and we get to spend the day in Dublin! I'm very excited as we'll get to do an architectural tour of an area of the city, then tour the museum and finally to a harbor town that I don't remember the name of (I'll have to clear that mystery up tomorrow.)

Well, it's a short post tonight, but it was a tiring day. I should have an interesting report from Dublin tomorrow!!

Love to all and miss you!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting dirty

Welcome back!

Today we were all very excited as we had laid out our transects yesterday and today we were going to get to dig! I'm thinking I brought the Colorado weather with me because today was beautiful, warm (about 70 degrees F I'd guess at least) and hardly any clouds crossed the sky! For the Irish this is an atypical summer day.... for the Australians this is a cool day "perfect for a picnic" Elle said... for the Americans it's somewhere in between a normal summer day. Lots of sunscreen was essential today and I feel like I'm still coated in it after my shower!

Anyway... our day started with Finn picking us up and per Mary's instructions, we brought her some of our brown bread and scones that we had made. We told her they were an offering but to beware of the scones because they turned out a little more like stones! (Really... it wasn't our fault!) Well, at least they tasted good last night :) I think that's the real reason Mary wanted us to take them, so that they wouldn't be in the house. :) Finn informed us that today we would be taking instruction from Jean Marco I don't know if that's how he spells his name but he's Italian.

Upon arrival to the site, Finn instructed us to start girding out our units. So the two teams split with each gaining a member or two from the family group. Susan went with the other group and Alex and Madison (that's the neice's name :) came with our group. They had been assisting Ian yesterday afternoon.

So... Griding... anyone who's ever worked on an archaeological dig knows... this takes a bit of time and several repetitions before you'll actually get the perfect measurement. "Why?" you might ask... because it involves math. Getting into archaeology I never thought that it would involve much math. I was not alone in this assumption as I often hear the same wishful thinking from other archaeology students. But alas, tis not true. In fact, the grid is all about the math and to grid in a unit, you definitely need math (the hypotenuse of a triangle!). Ok, it may not be the hardest math for some people (ahem... Elijah... Dad), but for the math skill deficient (that is me) any math is hard... without a calculator at least. :)

So in order to grid out our unit we have to measure in from the nearest grid points that we helped plot yesterday with the geophys guy Ian using the GPS. The GPS he uses takes readings from 8 satellites to pinpoint the exact locations for our grid points which are each 20 meters apart north to south and east to west. From the nearest grid point, the northeast corner of our unit will be 4 meters west and 3 meters south and our unit will be a 4 meter east-west by 5 meter north-south unit. A large portion of which there is a bit of what appears to be the remains of one of the walls of the friary but at the moment looks like a big lump of rock. Well, our lump of rock is covered in grass and weeds and of course nettles so most of the day was spent clearing away all of this stuff to get to the actual stones. And low and behold, we found our unit also has another bit of stones that belong to a wall. Well, my trowel got to see it's first bit of Irish dirt! It was actually mostly being used for cutting away the knots of weeds that we were removing from the surface of our stones. By the way, there are tons of different bugs that live in that knot of weeds, some that Megan and I think look like mini trilobites, as well as some pissed off red ants. They bite too... but I think the nettle stings are worse.

When we stopped for lunch, some of us headed to the SuperValu, since we now know it is around the corner of the site and we were going to walk down to the cafe when we saw some of our other companions disappear into a house just down the street. We discovered this is going to be our site house that Finn has been cleaning up for the past two days. It was recently vacated by a squatter and was in less than ideal condition when the town council decided we could use it. Finn has put a lot into cleaning it. One interesting thing we noted was the leopard print border running along the top of the wall near the ceiling. Makes you wonder who was actually living there before. I also finally got to meet the mysterious Steve, who was my only contact before attending the school but who has never been on site. We all laugh because he's kind of like the "Oz" of IAFS. We were sitting around in our new headquarters when this tall guy with dark hair just walked in the house and said "Hello". We all politely, and somewhat awkwardly said hello back thinking... "who is that?" and it was almost as if he heard our thoughts because he said "I'm Steve" and all of us sitting there said "OH!" with such realization it was funny.

Upon returning from lunch, we continued working on the weeds and grass covering our stones. We got a fair amount of the stones uncovered before Jean Marco asked us to all start picking up the rubbish that is surrounding our site so that Ian could start using the magnetometer to run over the site and see what he finds (this area had been used as a dump by the surrounding neighbors so it'll be a wonder if he doesn't have a lot of interference). It's amazing what people will dump! I'll try to post a picture of our rubbish pile later. So after we cleaned up, Finn returned with some ice pops from the shop while we got a quick run down of our safety from the health and safety inspector before calling it a day.

Today Finn asked if Jean Marco could drop as at our lodging with Mary and after a wrong turn he found his way to Mary's place. (It's hard to give directions to an Italian driving in Ireland...)

Upon returning to Mary's and cleaning off the grime of the day, Maeve, our little baking instructor wanted to teach us how to make brownies. We had all been thinking of the brownies all day so we were ready! Flour, cocoa, brown sugar, butter and eggs and viola! Brownies! The first batch didn't turn out to Maeve's liking but she told us we had to make the second batch "on your own". But by that time, Mary said dinner was ready and we all sat down to a nice little barbecue in the backyard. Mary's daughter Mora joined us for a bit. She's a primary school teacher who's going to be taking a whole year off to travel the world starting with three months in South America and continuing to New Zealand, Australia and Egypt! Wow... if only! After dinner, we enjoyed our cup'o tea with our brownies, ice cream and strawberries as served beautifully by Maeve. It still being light out like usual we had plenty of time to continue with our next batch of brownies. Maeve had disappeared with Michal to pick up Emma and Megan so we all made the second batch of brownies. This batch turned out to Maeve's liking. After we had each enjoyed a brownie from the second batch the doorbell rang and Elle had walked all the way from their cottage (4.5 miles) to join us!

This is where it got interesting :) Maeve decided we needed to play a card game called spoons. I don't know if any of you have ever played it, but I haven't. It's really quite fun. However many players there are you have one less spoon (yes an actual spoon). You set them in the middle of the players and you each get five cards. The dealer takes a card and passes it on with each person keeping a card if they need it or passing it on to the next person. The first person to gather four of the same cards (like four 5s or kings, etc) grabs a spoon and everyone grabs a spoon after that but whoever doesn't grab a spoon is the loser. (It's kind of like musical chairs but with cards and spoons and no music... ok, maybe it's not like musical chairs but same concept). Then you keep playing removing a spoon each time. Elle, being from Australia mentioned that it is sometimes played without the spoons but by sticking out your tongue. This was an even more fun version because we are left looking down at the card just passed to us and then looking up around at everyone else as we pass that card or another on, while still attempting to keep straight which card we need. In the end everyone is just left looking paranoid around at everyone else while just moving cards around. This version is slightly more difficult because you don't really know who the last person to stick out there tongue was because if you are the first person, you just continue to pass cards like normal until someone notices :) My problem was I would get the four cards and my brain would slow down to say "stick out your tongue" and wouldn't grab the cards and someone would notice me. But I didn't loose, I just had a slow tongue reaction time! So in one evening I played an Irish and Australian version of a card game. Although I'm sure there is an American version that is fairly similar, I just never came across it.

Anyway... it's 11 p.m. here, the sun has finally gone down, and it is time for me to as well!

Until tomorrow!

Monday, June 14, 2010

First Day of Field School

Today was the first day of field school.

Mary instructed us that we would need to be waiting by the road by 8:30 for Fin (the lead archaeologist) to pick us up. So Melissa, Gwen and I were up, ate our breakfast with our sack lunch made and were waiting by 8:30. Well, I think tomorrow we won't have to be out there until 8:45 because she doesn't get to the other girls cottages until 8:40 :). So Fin is short for Finola. (I've alway's liked that name). She's about a middle aged woman I'd say early 50's. We got in the CRDS van and headed off to Trim. Well, I found out that the site is right near the SuperValu that we found yesterday (good to know). We got to the Black Friary site and it's got a wood fence around it but that's the only thing keeping it from the urban place surrounding it. In the distance is Trim Castle and the "Yellow Steeple" as I learned. Fin gave us a brief overview of the history of the site which I'll have to get more detail later. Fin went off to pick up another group who was staying in Trim. A mother with her son and neice (Susan, Alex and... I can't remember her name).

Anyway, the site is a friary founded by the Dominican Monks in 1273 (I think I got that year right...) on the outer walls of Trim. There has previously been a small excavation where they recovered some remains. That area is believed to be part of the friary's cemetery. A geophysical survey was done in the 1980s where the archaeologist demarcated where he believed the cloister, kitchen, living quarters and tower were. We are going to be trying to find remaining walls and possibly floors. This project is anticipated to continue for at least 10 years. It's quite exciting to be at the beginning of a project as I've only ever been involved in the tail end of what people have already worked on. Maybe I can come back in the future and be a continuing part of the process! Currently, the site has been derelict for a long time. There are no standing walls and it looks like an empty field with odd shaped hills (probably where walls are hidden) and there was LOTS of grass that has been cut, and plenty of rubbish that people have dumped. There are also so evil plants with prickley's called nettles that will poke you and cause a bump if you itch it. They are our nemisis at the site!
Well the day was mostly filled with familiarizing ourselves with the site. Kirsten, Elle, Megan and I helped the geophysicist, Ian, finish our grid. After a short break, we broke into two teams to choose areas where we think a test trench should be dug. We kept the same group and picked a spot on a rock outcrop that Fin believes was part of one of the walls. We took our measurements for the area and the cross section and by that time it was time to pack up. We were then dropped off at Mary's where Maeve again greeted us. We ate a quick dinner and Maeve informed us that we were going to make brown bread (another staple in Ireland) and scones.

This was great fun and we took all of our utensils and baking equipment to a table in the backyard where we all took part in making the brown bread. It was actually quite easy, as were the scones and they came out pretty good. They will be in our lunch tomorrow! :) Mary is actually quite picky about the way things are done and she will sometimes come over and "show" us... aka... do it for us. But she has been doing it longer than we have! :) After we tried our scones and bread it was time to clean up for bed... or so I thought. After I had gotten out of the shower I heard that the other girls (Kirsten, Elle, Megan and Emma) came over for a chat. As I am upstairs typing I hear them laughing away. I think I look too much of a mess to go down there but I might peak my head in. Well, goodnight for now! I'll update again tomorrow.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


June 13, 2010

Well hello to everyone!

Here I am in Ireland! Today was my first day actually doing something instead of sleeping the jet lag away! We woke up to the smell of warm scones and a cup'o tea. So far, I love that about Ireland, scones! Yum! Mary asked us if we would like to attend church with her and we thought "why not?!" So after breakfast she drove us to church. Having grown up catholic I didn't know if the mass would be the same as what I was used to. It absolutely was EXCEPT it was like a fast forwarded version. First Reading... Second Reading... responsorial... bam... bam... bam! The church that Mary attends is quite beautiful. The cemetery is in the front, which Mary says is unusual for Irish church's.

After our little church adventure we, meaning Mary, decided that we would go horseback riding the true english style. We didn't have any plans so we agreed it would sound like fun. We went to meet Mary's husband Michal who had just picked up two new students Elle and Kirsten. They flew in all the way from Australia! A really, really long flight! But they were both willing to jump into anything... that is after their tea and scones. Michal would take them and meet us at Kelly's Equestrian Center.

After Mary, Melissa and I picked up, Emma and Megan from The Dairy we met our instructor Caroline. The lesson was only an hour but I'd say we got our money's worth! (25 Euro by the way). We learned how to do the standing trot. Kirsten had ridden before and was the star of us all but I think I did pretty good! The 1..2.. up and down in the saddle was a little challenging if you lost your rhythm with the horse. My horses name was Teddy and I don't think he liked me being in control of his reigns because he kept trying to pull them out of my hands. I just reassured him that I was only on his back for an hour and he would have to endure! Kirsten did do a small jump and as she said, having not jumped in 7 years she did well! Melissa also took a chance on a small... very small jump and fell off the first time! But she totally fell like a pro! She just rolled off the front of her horses neck and didn't get in the way of his hooves. She was a champ too and got back up and tried again :) I was NOT brave enough to jump but Kirsten said usually you'll have to do 8 months of training before you can really jump so I didn't feel like such a wuss. I wasn't the only one who didn't try either. Elle didn't ride but took some brilliant pictures!

So after the horse back riding, the nice host and hostess at Kelly's Equestrian Center served us scones and tea (yum!) and returned us to The Dairy. Elle and Kirsten needed to get groceries and I wanted to go into Trim, so we all decided to take a short trip via bus. The buses in Ireland are great, you just find which route you need, stand on the road and wave your hand out as you see them coming. You don't even have to be at a bus stop, only on the route! :) So we waited (in the rain) for the 3:20 bus and took it into Trim. Unfortunately, everything was closed! Everything except the SuperValu store which we had to wonder around all of Trim to find. After finally asking directions, we discovered we were on the wrong end of town! The day trip wasn't a total loss as I was able to take some lovely pictures of Trim Castle!

So we waited for the return bus to Trim missed Mary's house (as it is right off Dublin Road at the Hat Hire sign) and stopped right after at Jack Quinn's Pub. (Those are our landmarks). When we got back we were greeted by Mary's neice Maeve. Maeve is 13 years old and has such a great personality! She is smart and funny and loves to just laugh at our quirks. She was trying to have us do an Irish accent and just giggling :)

We also met Gwen, our new roommate who will be staying with us for the week. She's originally from Pennsylvania but is going to college in Aberdeen, Scotland! After dinner we all stayed up for a bit talking to Maebh and turned in for the night. If I forgot to mention, the days here are very long as the sun doesn't disappear until about 10:30 or 11! And it rises around 3 or 3:30! So, needless to say, you have to have good curtains!

Well that's it for tonight! Tomorrow is my first day of field school!!