UCC International Office courses

Early Start Semester in Irish Archaeology

Course Fact File
Duration3 week pre-session course running from August to September, after which, students proceed with regular Autumn Semester
Teaching ModeFull-time. See Additional Teaching Mode Information for more info.
NFQ LevelN/A
Fees€8,700 (Tuition fees include the Early Start Programme and Autumn Semester) See Fees and Costs for full details.
Closing DateApplications close in June

Course Outline

The Early Start Programme in Irish Archaeology provides visiting students with a unique perspective on Ireland’s culture, history and landscapes. Through illustrated lectures, class discussion, and field- trips to spectacular archaeological monuments, students gain an understanding of the broad sweep of Ireland’s history from the initial settlement of the island after the last Ice Age, to the birth of the modern era in the seventeenth century AD. The course is designed to suit both archaeology/ anthropology majors and students with no previous experience of these subjects. Field-trips are a crucial part of the learning experience. As well as a range of sites in the Cork region, we explore Dublin city and its hinterland, Galway city and the stunning limestone landscapes of the Burren and the Aran Islands. The course runs for three weeks in late August/September, after which time students join standard classes with their Irish counterparts.

Download the brochure: Early Start in Irish Archaeology @ UCC

The wide chronological scope of the course allows students to appreciate the similarities and differences between the various societies that developed in Ireland over the millennia. The most interesting subjects are selected for quite detailed treatment.

Invaders of Ireland

Many archaeologists now question the popular view that the Irish are descended from Celtic invaders. By engaging with this debate, students gain a sophisticated understanding of how modern Irish identities are constructed. Archaeology also provides us with a more balanced view of later invaders: the Vikings and the Anglo-Normans.

Irish Art and Architecture

Art of world-significance was produced in Irish megalithic tombs of the Neolithic period (c.4000-2,500 BC) and again during Early Medieval period (c.400-1169 AD) when works of astonishing beauty, such as the Book of Kells, were produced. In class and in the field, we will debate the significance of this art for the people who commissioned it.

Reading the Irish Landscape

By the end of the course, you will be able to read the Irish landscape, to understand the significance of the monuments you encounter and to appreciate the impact of those who built them on the wider environment.


About half of the contact-time is in the form of field-trips. These have been carefully designed to give students as diverse an experience of Ireland as possible. An overnight trip to Dublin and its hinterland takes in some of Ireland’s most significant sites, including the decorated passage-tomb of Newgrange, one of the oldest surviving buildings in the world. Later on, we explore the Burren and the Aran Islands. Here, soil erosion, some of it due to human intervention, has exposed the limestone bedrock to dramatic effect, and the rock has been used to construct iconic monuments such as the magnificent cliff-edge fort of Dún Aonghasa.

When term begins some Early Start students choose to build on what they have learned by taking other archaeology modules. Follow this link for details of the wide range of archaeology modules available to Early Start students: https://www.ucc.ie/en/archaeology/studyhere/visitingstudents/


Additional Teaching Mode Information

Lectures; seminars/field trips

Course Practicalities

The Early Start in Irish Archaeology runs for three weeks in late August/September, after which time students will join standard classes with their Irish counterparts. On days when no field-trip is scheduled, the class meets in the morning for lectures, discussion and some practical sessions which make use of the Department of Archaeology’s artefact collection. Archaeology is a subject that cannot be confined to the classroom, and this course incorporates several day-trips and overnight trips to sites in different regions of Ireland. 

Assessment is in the form of an essay on one of the broad themes discussed in class, a project on one of the sites visited, and an in-class exam.

The course is taught by Dr Tomás Ó Carragáin, a leading expert on the archaeology of medieval Ireland. He is an excellent and approachable teacher who ensures that the course takes account of the latest discoveries and developments in Irish archaeology.

Why Choose This Course

A wonderful introduction to Ireland's culture, history and landscapes...

Tomás Ó Carragáin

Director, Early Start in Archaeology

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The field trips were amazing because you're able to bring to life what we learned in the classroom

Brianna Knoll

Student, University of Iowa

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The Early Start in Irish Archaeology:

  • is a wonderful introduction to Ireland’s culture, history and landscapes
  • incorporates field-trips to an unparalleled range of sites from fascinating local ruins to major complexes of international importance
  • gives students with no previous experience of archaeology the chance to study this exciting subject in a country with an outstanding archaeological heritage
  • provides anthropology and archaeology students with an engaging and challenging overview of Irish archaeology
  • considers aspects of Irish art and architecture and explores the role of buildings, monuments and artefacts in the formation of Irish identities. 

Skills and Careers Information

Students who take this course gain a new understanding of how people in the past, and indeed the present, use material culture (monuments and artefacts) to express social status, ideology, identity and gender. Some students choose to build upon what they have learned by taking other archaeology modules when term begins. Some choose to take one or more additional modules in the area of Irish Studies offered by, for example, History, Irish, English, Folklore and Music as well as Archaeology. 


The minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement for admission to the programme is normally 3.0 out of 4.0

Fees and Costs

€8,700- This includes the cost of meals and accommodation on field trips.

How To Apply

See Visiting US and Non-EU Students for how to apply.


For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact