Project Description


In January 2024 we are excited to continue our research project studying the Monastic Midlands in County Offaly. This field school takes a truly landscape scale approach to archaeological research. The program will examine the geological and glacial processes that shaped the landscape in which the early saints founded their monasteries. It will then apply a range of archaeological survey techniques to interpret the sites they left behind, recording the earthworks, structures, architectural fragments and grave slabs that continue to survive at these monasteries. The program will also provide osteoarchaeological training, through simulated excavations, and a basic introduction to archaeological laboratory techniques.

Overall, the course is especially suited to students interested in medieval or ecclesiastical history or those hoping to pursue a career in Cultural Resource Management (CRM), teaching as it does several core CRM survey and analytical skills. Equally the program is excellently suited to students with an interest in public archaeology, as it is run specifically to assist local communities in County Offaly better understand and protect their local sites. As the project responds to community requests content varies a little seasonally but typically includes total station and/or GPS survey, graveyard recording, architectural survey and site analyses, photogrammetry, geophysical survey and excavation skills (note the winter program does not include live excavation, unlike most summer seasons).

Previously referred to as a ‘flowering garden of monasteries’, County Offaly is best known archaeologically for the number and scale of the early medieval monasteries, which to this day continue to dominate the landscape – several of which, such as Seir Kieran, Lemanaghan and St Brendan’s, are assessed as part of this program. Between the fifth and seventh centuries AD evangelist monks arrived in what is now County Offaly, attracted by the region’s centrality and its proximity to four of the five medieval provincial boundaries. Of course, people had lived in the midlands for millennia before these missionaries arrived, so the archaeological landscape the missionaries entered is also of critical importance to understanding their placement. Equally, the early medieval monasteries were frequently surpassed by, or added to, by Anglo-Norman foundations, adding new chapters to the monasteries’ histories in the later medieval period. Indeed, whilst many of the monasteries fell out of use, several continue as places of veneration and worship into the present day. As such, this field school offers a holistic approach to investigating the Monastic Midlands of Ireland through time studying the landscape, earthworks, buildings, folklore, spirituality, artefacts and the buried human remains of these spectacular sites.

The field school is based in the heritage town of Birr, a handsome and charming town, which was the location at which St Brendan founded his c. sixth century monastery. Our campus in Birr serves as a base for all our course teaching and lab-work, but also acts as a launching pad to investigate several regional monastic and later medieval sites.

Staying with local families in homestay accommodation in Birr, this program also offers a deeply enriching cultural immersion, guaranteeing students a truly memorable experience.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course dates: January 4 – February 1, 2024

  • Enrollment Status: Closed

  • Tuition:$4250

  • Room & Board: $1356

  • Total Program Cost: $5606

  • Course Type: Archaeology, Landscape Archaeology, Bioarchaeology

  • Tuition Payment Deadline: November 30, 2023

  • Instructors: Dr. Denis Shine and Dr. Stephen Mandal

  • Orientation: Mon. Dec. 11 @ 2pm EST
  • Academic Credit: 5 Semester Credit Units (Equivalent to 7.5 Quarter Units)

Winter 23 Applications Closed
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The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Dr. Denis Shine
Dr. Denis Shine
Dr. Shine is a Director of the Irish Archaeology Field School. His research interests lie in the sub-disciplines of ethno-archaeology and community archaeology.
Dr. Stephen Mandal
Dr. Stephen Mandal
Dr. Mandal is the Director and co-founder of the Irish Heritage School and a leading Irish archaeologist.


This is a new IFR field school. No student testimonials are available at this time.


  • Fees include:
  • Cost of Academic Credit Units
  • Transcript Fee
  • Cost of Instruction
  • All Local Transportation
  • Health & Evacuation Insurance

Room & Board:

  • Fees include:
  • Housing: homestay accommodations
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Health & Evacuation Insurance

Student Fees

Application Fee: There is a $25 fee to submit an online application.

Deposit Payment:

  • Once you have been accepted to a program, you must place a nonrefundable $500 deposit fee to hold your seat in the program until the tuition payment deadline. The tuition payment deadline can be found in the top right of each field school’s web page under “Course Details”.
  • The $500 deposit fee is included as part of your total tuition fee and NOT in addition to it.

Tuition Fee 

  • The tuition balance is the total program tuition fee minus the $500 deposit fee.
  •  The full tuition fee must be paid by the tuition payment deadline in order to secure your seat in the program.
  • If you do not pay the full tuition fee by the deadline, your place in the program is no longer secure, and if you are unable to participate in the program for any reason, our Late Withdrawal policy below will apply.

Late Fee: A $100 late fee will be added to all accounts not paid in full by the tuition payment deadline.

Withdrawal Policy: If you place a deposit but decide to withdraw, you must notify IFR staff in writing before the tuition payment deadline. In the event of withdrawal, the $500 nonrefundable deposit fee remains nonrefundable and will not be refunded.

Late Withdrawal: If you paid the deposit fee but did not cancel your participation by the tuition payment deadline, you are legally responsible for the full tuition fee regardless of attendance at any IFR program. Please carefully read our Withdrawal & Cancellation Policy for further information.

Cancellation Policy: In the event that IFR must cancel a field school, all accepted students will be notified as soon as possible and will receive a refund of all tuition paid including the deposit fee. IFR offers students the opportunity to transfer to another field school, permitting that there are spots available and the program director approves the student to participate in their field school. Upon approval of the program director, IFR staff will make the arrangements to transfer the student’s application and payments.

Credit Card Processing Fee: A 3.5% processing fee is automatically incurred for all credit/debit card/online payments.

Academic Credit Opt Out: Students who wish to participate in an IFR field school without earning academic credit units may do so and receive the following discounts: $300 off a full program (4 or more weeks in length) or $200 off a short program (2-3 weeks in length).

Trip Cancellation Insurance: Please consider purchasing a travel interruption insurance policy that will cover your travel cost and the cost of the IFR program once you make a commitment to attend a field school.

The added risk of COVID-19  should be a “covered event” in your policy.
Please note that the cost of coverage varies, based on your age, the program duration and geographical location.
You may get help and advice from your insurance broker and we offer the links below to help you educate yourself on these insurance products.
– Compare quotes from different companies offering Trip Cancelation insurance plans.


Students will stay in homestay accommodation, i.e. with local families. Students live with local families and as such are afforded an experience of true home life in provincial Ireland. Typically, students will either walk to or be brought to John’s Hall daily, before availing of pre-arranged transport to sites where appropriate. Students should understand that some host families may be in rural settings, requiring taxis (or a longer walk) to reach the town of Birr. Breakfast and dinner will be provided along with a packed lunch. Students may avail of their free time at weekends and explore Ireland.

As students are placed in homestay all students have access to safe, sanitary accommodation as well as laundry, showering facilities etc. As noted above, homestay accommodation will include meals, including a packed lunch. Our homestay network caters for all main dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc.); they provide a well-balanced diet of Irish cuisine, but students should anticipate trying new cuisine and not having all the items they might expect at home.

Travel Info

IFR will assess the local conditions about 5 weeks prior to the start of the program and will make a Go/No Go decision then. Natural disasters, political changes, weather conditions and various other factors may force the cancellation of a field school. You are required to participate in the mandatory orientation meeting when we will discuss the latest travel information and regulations. We also suggest you consider postponing the purchase of your airline ticket until after the program orientation.

Students will be met at Johns Hall, Birr, Co. Offaly. Since students will arrive on different flights at different times of the day, we will meet all students on Thursday, January 4th, at Johns Hall at a designated time. Full details on reaching Birr will be provided in the online orientation once you are enrolled in the course. A travel sheet, with specific travel instructions, will also be issued. 

If you missed your connection or your flight is delayed, please call, text or email the field school director immediately. A local emergency mobile phone number will be provided to all enrolled students.


Citizens of the US and Canada do not require visas to enter Ireland. You will need your passport to be valid for at least 90 days and will enter on a tourist visa. Citizens of other countries are asked to check the embassy website page at their home country for specific visa requirements.

No other vaccinations are required for entry to Ireland but anyone working in archaeology in Ireland should have an up-to-date tetanus shot.

Student Safety

The IFR primary concern is with education. Traveling and conducting field research involve risk. Students interested in participating in IFR programs must weigh whether the potential risk is worth the value of education provided. While risk is inherent in everything we do, we do not take risk lightly. The IFR engages in intensive review of each field school location prior to approval. Once a program is accepted, the IFR reviews each program annually to make sure it complies with all our standards and policies, including student safety.

Students attending IFR international programs are covered by a comprehensive Health Insurance policy that includes physical illness or injury, mental or chronic conditions. No deductible and 100% of costs are covered up to $250,000. In addition, we provide Political and Natural Disaster Evacuation policy, which allow us to remove students from field school location if local conditions change. Our field school directors are scholars that know field school locations and cultures well and are plugged in into local communities and state institution structures.

Students attending IFR domestic programs (within the US) must have their own health insurance and provide proof upon enrollment. IFR field school directors are familiar with local authorities and if in need of evacuation, local emergency services and/or law enforcement will be notified and activated.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field. If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students may contact IFR personnel directly.

Call (877-839-4374) or email ( if you have questions about the safety of any particular program.