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Maree Project at Rathgurreen Ring Fort
Maree Peninsula, Ireland

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Exclusive Small Group Archaeology Dig Vacation with Ancient Odysseys®

Group Size: Max 10

Ages: 18+

from $3,709

EARLY BIRD PRICING UNTIL SEPT 1

Participation is subject to availability and is at the full discretion of the dig location. Prices and dates dates subject to change. Terms & Conditions apply.

About The Maree Project Archaeology Dig in Ireland

The Maree Project is your chance to join the excavation of a high-status (maybe even royal!) settlement, just south of Galway on the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland. Named ‘Rathgurreen’, the site is a type of ‘ringfort’ and is of interest to archaeologists as it is more than twice the size of the typical ringfort in Ireland.

 

The site is located on the Maree peninsula, the subject of a major new research project. The area around Rathgurreen is rich in archaeological remains dating as far back as the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age, 8000 – 4000 BC). This area of Ireland has had a high concentration of human activity over a long period of time, and the project aims to explore land use through all of these periods. Rathgurreen is the first excavation target of many sites on the peninsula.

 

Rathgurreen was partially excavated in the 1940s and, at that time, archaeologists unearthed some tantalizing artifacts including a Roman oil lamp and French pottery. This suggests that high-status residents lived at this location.  

 

At the moment, the earliest known activity at Rathgurreen ringfort dates to 374-601AD, with seemingly continuous use up until about 1100 AD. The settlement began life as a large-diameter univallate enclosure (surrounded by a single earthen bank and ditch). It was then transformed by creating an additional large bank and ditch inside the earlier versions – a very unusual feature. The modern excavations will test the results of the 1940s, and add to our understanding of the monument and its people.

 

Maree features in Irish mythology and early history. Variations of the name –  Mearuidhe/ Meadhraighe/Medrigia – are mentioned in early Irish texts in both fictional and factual sources. In recorded history, Maree is in the ancient territory of a people called Uí Fiachrach Aidhne. They held the provincial kingship of Connacht from 515 AD to 694 AD and ruled the Maree area for centuries. Recorded history shows they had some interactions with the Vikings – and not of a friendly nature!

How you will make an impact on this archaeology dig

Your participation in the excavation will contribute to knowledge of the specific site, but will also play an important role in the larger Maree research project, aiding exploration of native settlement, economics, society, and politics through time. This excavation has also been designed to examine land-use and sustainability, making the work very relevant to the modern population of the region. Your archaeological and financial contributions will facilitate a strong start at Rathgurreen, while also bringing an important international perspective to the project. The cost of the dig includes funds to support the archaeological fieldwork and research at Maree Project, including a contribution to artifact conservation, radiocarbon dating. 

Archaeology Work

June 29, 2025 | Arrival in Galway + Welcome Dinner

Ireland travels with Ancient Odysseys

Make your way to Galway City from Dublin or Shannon Airport to your home base in Galway City for the archaeological dig at Rathgurreen.

Galway, known as the City of Tribes is a city filled with energy, history and a lively nightlife. The cobbled medieval streets are home to all sorts of pubs, craft shops and cafés. Head to Kirwan's lane where you’ll find musicians playing for the crowds or daredevil street performers defying danger. Kirwan's Lane is also home to relics of 16th and 17th century architecture.

 

During the course of the day, you’ll make your way to the modern, boutique-style Hyde Hotel where we will be staying for the next 6 nights. Check in at 3pm (if you’re early, feel free to drop your bags) The hotel is in the heart of Galway City and only about a minute from Eyre Square. It’s close to some of Galway’s best bars and restaurants and the cobbled Shop Street, the retail hub of Galway.

You'll meet your dig companions tonight for a Welcome Dinner before heading back to the Hyde Hotel to settle in for the night. Tomorrow starts the real adventure!

Accommodation: Hyde Hotel,  Double Occupancy

Meals: Dinner

Juee 30-July 4, 2025 | Archaeological Excavation at Maree Project

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The next morning begins your five-day excavation of the Rathgurreen ringfort. This ringfort has not been excavated in over 70 years, with 2025 marking the beginning of modern excavations at the site – the application of modern methods and technology to test and enhance our knowledge of the site. Your work at Rathgurreen will take place over the course of five days, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the excavation, collection, and study of the artifacts and features awaiting discovery. ​

 

Your work this year will entail excavation of an area in the interior of the ringfort and the exploration of some of its earthworks. You will be hands-on for the entire five days of this excavation, learning the methods of archaeological excavation and archaeological recording.

 

Each day begins with a hearty Irish breakfast at your hotel. You'll grab a specially packed lunch, drinks and snacks for later and then at 8:15am, your driver will transport you and your group for the 30-minute drive to archaeological dig site at Rathgurreeen on the Maree Peninsula. 

During your 5-day excavation, your days will consist of:

Working with site directors, Dr. Michelle Comber and Dr. Noel McCarthy. Both will be on-site for the duration of the excavation and will work with participants daily.

This year’s dig you’ll be working alongside archaeology students from the University of Galway and other international students.

Archaeological fieldwork begins at 9am and ends at 5pm each day.

You’ll break for mid-morning and lunch (It’s time to find your hearty packed lunch and enjoy a well-deserved break to your day.)

At about 5pm each day, your driver will be waiting for you to escort you back to the Hyde Hotel.​

Evenings are free to relax and enjoy on your own

 

Accommodation: Hyde Hotel,  Double Occupancy

Meals: Breakfast and a packed lunch each day

Monday through Thursday evenings, dinner and excursions on your own.

Friday after we return to Galway, we’ll dine together for a Farewell meal and enjoy our final night together in this unique city. ​

July 5, 2025 | Corrib River Cruise and Departure

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This morning, after breakfast at the hotel, we’ll head out to enjoy a memorable 90-minute guided cruise on the Corrib Princess, traversing the Corrib River that flows through the city. It glides out from Galway city into waterways surrounded by the lush green countryside. Sail by ancient castles, ruins and Ireland’s famously beautiful landscape. On board, enjoy a drink from the bar. And they do an UNBELIEVABLE Irish coffee.

After your cruise, you’ll make your own way to Dublin or Shannon airport or any other additional travels. If you are boarding a flight, be sure to arrive at the airport at least three and a half hours before your flight. Transportation to and from the airport can be arranged in advance for an additional fee.

 

Meals: Breakfast ​

What to Expect and What to Bring for the Archaeology Dig

Guided archaeological training in Ireland

You will be working under the supervision of the archaeologists, for the duration of the excavation. Note that the tasks associated with working on an excavation can involve certain risks. Excavation work may involve difficult conditions, uneven terrain, unanticipated natural hazards, use of digging equipment, and/or strenuous manual labor. A general level of fitness is necessary for excavations, such as walking over uneven ground every day, walking up and down steps and inclines, kneeling, filling and carrying buckets of soil and stones. Most if not all activities will occur outdoors and are subject to the weather. 

The Irish weather is notoriously changeable - rain, wind, sun all in one day; and sometimes even all at once! Generally, though, none of these are too extreme in summer and are easily managed with appropriate clothing.This is a rural area, so expect to encounter pollen, wild vegetation (like nettles), and insects - none of these are poisonous or very harmful in Ireland.

 

On-site facilities are rustic. There are no bathrooms, but portable toilets will be available. There will also be a few on-site tents for daytime shelter.

 

Please pack:

  1. Waterproof boots

  2. Waterproof coat

  3. Waterproof over-trousers

  4. Clothes layers that can be removed

  5. A hat for both rain and sun

  6. Gardening gloves

  7. Sunscreen

  8. Allergy medications if needed

  9. Daily packed lunch and drinks

  10. Water bottle

  11. Backpack

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   An interview with Michelle Comber | Head of Archaeology | The Maree Project | University of Galway

Caherconnell Michelle Comber, archaeologist who heads dig in Ireland

1.  What makes the Maree Project significant?

The Maree Peninsula provides an ideal opportunity to study land-use through time as it preserves remains from every era of the Irish past. Rathgurreen Ringfort is important for a number of reasons – it may have Iron Age origins (Iron Age archaeology can be very difficult to find in Ireland), it had overseas contact, it was a high-status settlement in a well-known area, and also seems to have a strange - and as yet unique - construction sequence!

2.  What are your current research objectives at Rathgurreen?

This excavation has been designed to examine land-use and sustainability to help gain knowledge relevant to the modern world. How did the people who lived at Rathgurreen interact with the land over time? How does that fit into the bigger picture on the peninsula – both contemporary with the site and what came before and after? How and why did things change? We have lots of questions!

3. What was the most important or rewarding find at Rathgurreen?​

When the site was excavated in the 1940s, part of a Roman oil lamp and French pottery were found. That is an indication that this was the site of a high-status family with connections to the outside world. We are looking forward to seeing what else we can dig up!

Suggestions for Enjoying Galway

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Activities and dinner from Monday-Thursday are your own. We suggest:

Monday: Make your way to nearby Eyre Square, where you’ll find a bust of US President John F Kennedy standing on the spot where he made a speech to approximately 100,000 people in Galway in 1963, on his last trip before his assassination. The architecturally significant old county courthouse, town hall and Lynch’s Castle are also close by.  

Tuesday: Venture to the Spanish Arch, built in 1584 and overlooking the River Corrib. The arches were used to access the quays from the town when Galway was a walled city and this is all that remains. Nearby, The Spanish Arch Hotel on the bustling Quay Street is the perfect spot to enjoy a locally brewed beer and some people watching from its outdoor seating. Quay Street is home to most of the pubs, restaurants and cafes in Galway. It also has the best selection of live traditional music in bars such as The Quays, Tigh Neachtain and The Spanish Arch Hotel Bar. Sit in on a sessiún and enjoy the sounds of the bodhráns and banjos.

Wednesday: Head to the Latin Quarter and treat yourself to an evening meal, perhaps a hearty bowl of Irish stew to warm you up, washed down with a hot Irish whiskey or creamy pint of Guinness. If you still have a little energy left in the tank, then take a stroll down the Salthill Promenade. This walk offers gorgeous views of Galway Bay and, on a clear day, the hills of County Clare.

Thursday: Venture to Salthill and take a stroll along the famous promenade, overlooking Galway bay. There are many fine restaurants and well-known pubs offering live Irish music. Among them are The Crane Bar, Tigh Neachtain, An Pucan and The Kings Head.

Meet the scientist
tri cost
Clover Leaves

Includes:

  • All tools for archaeological excavation are provided, along with dedicated on-site training, instruction, and supervision.

  • The cost of the dig includes funds to support the archaeological fieldwork and research at Rathgurreen, including a contribution to artifact conservation and radiocarbon dating.

  • 6 nights accommodations in Galway with breakfast included each morning

  • All transportation to and from the site for 5 days, including snacks and water

  • Breakfast each day

  • Packed lunch snacks, water, and electrolytes each day for the dig site

  • Welcome dinner on Sunday and Farewell dinner on Friday.  

 

Excludes:​

  • International airfare

  • Arrival and departure transportation to Galway accommodations. Airport transfers can be arranged for an additional cost.

  • Dinner for 4 nights

  • Any evening activities

  • Lunch on your arrival and departure days

  • Travel Insurance is mandatory 

  • All other travel necessities /valid passports and visas, for travel from point of original departure through to the final destination are strictly the responsibility of the traveller.  

7 days/6 nights

June 29-July 5, 2025

 

EARLY BIRD PRICING UNTIL SEPT 1 From:

US $3,709

Pricing is based on an 8-guest minimum, double-occupancy. Single occupancy starts at $4,680.

Price increases +$600 after Sept 1, 2024.

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