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Enfield Falls Archaeological Research Project
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Roundhouse 1, Achill Island, Co. Mayo, Ireland

The Upland Landscapes of Slievemore Mountain

Theresa McDonald
 Stuart Rathbone
Achill Archaeological Field School
Co. Mayo, Ireland


The Project

The Achill Archaeological Field School is an ongoing archaeological research field school that has been in operation for 20 years.  In that time, the excavation has focused on a variety of sites on Slievemore Mountain.  Initially, the focus of research was the Deserted Village.  Several late Medieval and post-Medieval houses, associated structures and field systems were excavation.  In recent years, the focus of excavation has shifted to the upland landscape of Slievemore Mountain.  Two Bronze Age roundhouses have been excavated, and current excavation has focused on a complex of small huts downslope from one of the roundhouses and a transhumance village on a neighboring hillside.  

The Achill Archaeological Field School is an accredited archaeological field school that instructs college students from all over the world in the proper methodology for all aspects of archaeological field and laboratory work.  For more information and queries please click below and visit the web-page for the Achill Archaeological Field School:


The application of phosphate analysis

Initially, I performed phosphate analysis on the site of two Bronze Age roundhouses prior to excavation as part of my MA thesis.  This work was undertaken to determine the applicability and validity of the methodology in the study area, and to identify possible ways in which the land surrounding and between the roundhouses may have been used.  The results of this study identified areas of relatively high phosphate content to the north of each structure, as well as along the field wall separating the roundhouses.  

I undertook a second phosphate analysis to the interior of Roundhouse 2 and surrounding area to both instruct students in phosphate analysis protocols and create a use-of-space model for Roundhouse 2.  This analysis was completed after some areas of Roundhouse 2 had already been excavated.  The study served to interpret areas between excavation trenches and assign possible function to the interior areas of the roundhouse.  Four functions were identified from the phosphate patterning on the interior of the structure; each quadrant showed distinctive and identifiable patterning.  A possible hearth area, sleeping area, storage area and a craft/living area were identified.  

I also performed a phosphate analysis survey in the area of several of the small hut structures (currently under excavation by the Achill Archaeological Field School).  The results of that test suggested the presence of an exterior activity area between the relatively clean hut structures.  

Johanna Ullrich, Ph.D.