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I recently took part in an archaeology course and dig facilitated by Rathgabhann Archaeology in association with Monaghan County Museum. This course was funded by Peace III and was offered free of charge to all participants. 

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I have to say it was a fantastic experience and one I thoroughly enjoyed. It is brilliant to see courses like this one being offered by museums. It is a great outlet for people who have an interest in history and archaeology but have no means to develop their skills and knowledge on this topic. 

The project ran over two days, one was an evening lecture and the second part was an onsite visit with a mock dig and trip up to a ring fort. The archaeology lecture was an informative and engaging discussion on the role that archaeology plays in society and it pointed out some of the key finds in recent history that have been intrinsic in changing the way we look at history. Some of the topics we discussed included the find of the body of Ozti with the mysterious tattoos and some of the famous neolithic structures around Ireland including the magnificent Loughcrew/Sliabh na Callaighe. This was an informal talk and was a great introduction to a topic that is extremely detailed and difficult to master.

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The onsite dig took place on Saturday 16th November. It was a great day that was jam packed with information and fun. I took a lot away from the day, the hands on approach of getting down on your knees digging in the muck gave you a real sense of what it would be like to be on a real dig. Discovering finds in the muck was such a fantastic feeling and I found myself getting immersed in the work searching for treasures as I trawled through the layers of mud and dirt. 

 We were first given the task of studying the area and pointing out places where there was likely to be archaeology, this involved looking for marks on the landscape, bumps, ridges and impressions in the soil. Then we had to get down and expertly trowel away the top layer of soil to discover the edge of where the archaeology lay. It was then on to mapping and recording the area so we could see all the points that needed attention. The dig was split into sections giving us the opportunity to explore the different time periods, I ended up digging in a Stone Age pit which was very apt considering it is my favourite time period in history.

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The digging itself was great fun, with our trowel we had to unearth all the treasures our respective pits had to offer by delicately searching through the dirt. Some of the pieces were minute which made the process slow and tiring. The pit I had was filled with small shards of bone making the process of reaching the bottom pretty slow.

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 Once we did reach the bottom we recorded the different soil levels and the layers of different earth that had filled the pit to indicate which levels were the oldest. This was a real eye opener, it was fulfilling to see your pit excavated and then rewarding to be able to record its findings. 

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After the dig we got the opportunity to visit a ringfort that abuts the land. The ringfort was quite sizable and I have no doubt it would make a thrilling and significance excavation. 

Overall the day was thoroughly enjoyable. Felim MacGabhann, the facilitator is extremely knowledgeable and more than happy to pass on some nuggets of wisdom he has learned over the years from taking part in many excavations around the country. This event was a PEACE III funded project that was ran in conjunction with Monaghan County Museum. I really loved this event and would be eager to see similar projects ran in other museums. I know I for one would definitely attend. 🙂

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