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Ireland's Young Archaeologists

The Association of Young Irish Archaeologists was founded in Belfast in 1968 by a group of students who have since gone on to become well known archaeologists, including some Professors! Membership is automatic for individuals who are members of the AYIA's affiliated societies in the various Universities, Institutes and Colleges around the country, however, recent graduate students and those relatively new to the profession are also eagerly encouraged to participate. The AYIA governing council is elected annually. It is their responsibility to encourage membership and organise the conference for that year. The purpose of the association, as per its constitution, is to further communication and c

o-operation between interested parties, to provide a forum for new ideas and to foster interest and enthusiasm for archaeology at a 'junior' level in Ireland. As is clear from this, the use of the word 'young' is somewhat misleading as the AYIA's members may include individuals of any age who are undergraduates, postgraduates or relatively new to the profession and related disciplines.



The level of activity of the AYIA has fluctuated over the last thirty-seven years, demonstrated by the lack of an annual conference some years. The conference, however, is the association's main event and is hosted in rotation by the various student societies. Assistance is also acquired from departments within the host university and, on occasion, funding support from external organisations, such as the National Monuments Division of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Environment and The Heritage Service (NI). The 2004 conference was held jointly by Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, while Queens University Belfast had the honour in 2005.

  The conference usually consists of an opening lecture and wine reception on the Friday evening, followed by a day of twenty-minute lectures on the Saturday and a local fieldtrip on the Sunday. The topics covered during the 2005 conference certainly covered a broad

range of interests. Proceedings began with landscape studies in the Suir River Valley, the Feale Valley and the landscape setting of portal tombs. We then progressed to an interdisciplinary research project on the ecological effects of varying management strategies on archaeological sites. This was followed by a look at Mesolithic palaeoenvironmental evidence in the light of modern hunter-gather societies. A study of the Cross of Cong was followed by a discussion of Roman finds in Ireland and then a examination of Psychological approaches to landscape archaeology. The next two lectures dealt with classical archaeology and its literary sources, followed by the role of Minoan sacred caves in ecstatic religion. The day was finished on a specialist note where the faunal remains from Dunnyneill Island, Strangford Lough were discussed, followed by the search for evidence of the shift from the use of domesticates solely as a source of meat to the use of their renewable resources. This wide variety of papers is typical of the annual conference and certainly offers something of interest to everyone.



Of particular interest last year was the opening lecture by Dr. Ian Armit, of Queens University Belfast, where he discussed in depth 'The Cult of the Head in Iron Age Europe'. His research has led him to a number of fascinating sites, including the famous sites of Roquepertuse and Entremont in southern Gaul. He also discussed shrunken heads and drew many interesting images and parallels from ethnographic studies. The Sunday fieldtrip in Belfast was also of note. Thom Kerr led us to five impressive sites spanning all archaeological periods. The spectacular Giant's Ring (Ballynahatty), a henge monument with a central megalithic tomb, was certainly one of the highlights, as was the view from the multi-period Donegore motte.


The forthcoming conference will be held in University College Cork from the 3rd to the 5th of February 2006. This year is particularly important, as it is the first year the Institute of Technology, Sligo is involved. Dr. Marion Dowd, of the School of Science in Sligo, will present the inaugural lecture and some of her students are also participating in lectures on the Saturday. The three-day conference is an invaluable opportunity for the participants to present a twenty-minute lecture on a particular topic they have researched. The AYIA, therefore, is a platform through which people can present their unique views and open the floor to discussion. It can often be the first opportunity for people to present their research in public and, with the reputation of a friendly atmosphere, there can be no better place to take this first step.

 The 2006 conference will begin on the Friday evening with an opening address by Prof. Woodman, a founding member of the AYIA. This will be followed by a lecture by Dr. Dowd and then a wine reception in University College Cork. Saturday will be dedicated to a series of twelve lectures presented by people from the various Universities, Institutions and archaeological companies around Ireland. The important AGM on the Saturday evening will elect the AYIA Council for the coming year and relevant issues will be debated. A 'Party Night' in a local public house, with some music and fun to celebrate the success of another year, will follow this! The Sunday, as always, is devoted to a fieldtrip, this time with some of the beautiful sites of West Cork on the agenda, including the prehistoric complex at Drombeg, the impressive medieval ringfort at Garranes and the wonderful seventeenth century fortified house of Coppinger's Court. Depending on funding it is also hoped to publish the proceedings of the conference and these will then be available in the Libraries of both the Universities and Institutions involved.


We are currently looking for papers for the Saturday sessions, with three hundred word abstracts to be submitted by December the 12th 2005 to . The final paper should be no more than twenty minutes long so as to provide ample time for discussion. All types of multimedia can be catered for.


The Association of Young Irish Archaeologists is a dynamic group that offers valuable opportunities to all students and recent graduates of archaeology, no matter what period or type of archaeology interests you. The conference weekend is always great fun and productive in terms of future contacts and appraising the types of research being undertaken across Ireland. This group is a fantastic starting point for the future archaeologists who will lecture in Universities and Institutions, run companies, direct important excavations and advise on our national heritage. University College Cork, 3rd-5th February 2006, it's worth checking out!


All enquires can be directed to Kerri Cleary at the Department of Archaeology, University College Cork or or visit our Yahoo Group Page, become a member and keep up to date with what's going on.


About the author

Kerri Cleary has just begun her third year of full-time PhD research in the Department of Archaeology, UCC on the topic of Irish Bronze Age settlements. She has been involved in the AYIA for the past five years or so and is currently Chairperson for the 2005/06 Council. She sees her role primarily to oversee the organisation and running of the anual conference in February.

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