Alison Does… Archaeology Fieldschool (Pt. 2)

Howdy again, folks!

Here’s the latest edition of my journal! To me, it seems a bit mundane because we are getting into the nitty gritty with the field work, but I hope you can find some of it enjoyable. If nothing else, you can get a kick from my lack of ability to draw! I hope to be able to write more about my experiences during free time. I went to Liverpool, a U2 concert at Croke Park in Dublin and Aran Islands, so I have a lot to show and tell you! Until then, this will have to do!


Day 11 – Monday, July 17th

Weather: 76° and sunshine all day


I realized that I hadn’t done any finds processing yet, so because there was an opening in the hut I was able to do it. We processed mostly ceramics and glass, but we had a couple of pieces of wire and metal as well. All of the finds were from C81 and C84. I started off weighing the finds and writing up bags to put them into, and then switched midway through and described and measured them. When we finished that, we were tasked with cleaning the massive amount of oyster shells that were being dug up in trench 4. I spent the rest of the day doing that and between the four of us cleaning, we got through 3 buckets worth of shells.



Day 12 – Tuesday, July 18th

Weather: 70° and windy with hazy cloud cover


I spent the day cleaning oyster shells again. I was trying to be as thorough as I could while still getting a lot done. I wanted to get through the entire wheelbarrow full of shells, but we did end up with more shells in the “done” pile than in the “dirty” pile, so I felt accomplished in that respect. I also helped with taking levels in trench 4 at various points in time and I checked in on the girls working in those trenches and they were making really good progress. The latrine part of the trench was showing no signs of stopping, with samples overflowing in the trays, so Rory had said that he may come back to trench 4 next year and keep going to be able to find everything he can from the area. Also, Kayla, who was working in that trench, found a key. It was a very neat find and I can’t wait to see what it looks ike when it’s cleaned! I hope some of the intricate details are still left on the outside.




With cleaning shells all day for almost two days, my back was hurting by the end as well as my scrubbing arm by the end of the day, so I hope to not have to do that again tomorrow. I want to trowel again before we have to start recording and backfilling, but that seems like it might not happen with things going the way they are. With it being so dry, we have had to bring in water cans to wet the soil to see the different contexts. It is very slow going in trench 5 at this point. Rory said he wanted to be done with digging by Wednesday (tomorrow), but the forecast says that we will have thunderstorms and an 80% chance of rain, so we will see what happens next.


Day 14 – Thursday, July 20th

Weather: 63° and rainstorms in the morning / sun in the afternoon


I was assigned to do elevation drawing with Yolanda in the morning. We got about 30 minutes into drawing when it started to rain heavily. We spent some time in the castle waiting out the rain and that gave me time to pick Yolanda’s brain about Masters and PhD programs in Ireland. It rained for so long that we had our tea time and then went back out after that to work. By the time we got everything set back up, we only had ten minutes to work before it started raining again.



In the afternoon, I troweled C101 with AJ. We wanted to get rid of backfill to see more of the inside of the wall that butts up against C101. We got about half a meter down when AJ found a large piece of what we thought looked like unglazed ceramic. We had Rory look at it and he said that it was actually brick. This is significant because bricks weren’t use in Ireland until 1580. This would mean that C101 was a much later addition (it looks like it was used to block out the embrasure (alcove) that was also part of C91.) The height of the north side of C91 also made us think that a window use to be there. When I found 5 large pieces of glass with signs of window came, our suspicions were supported.


(Above: glass found in C101; Below: brick fragment found in C101)


Day 15 – Friday, July 21st

Weather: 55° and windy with rain showers all day


We didn’t go to the site because of the weather. We did, however, get to see a few local sites of interest that help us to better understand Isert Kelly and its context in the area.


Corcomroe Abbey


Aillwee Cave




Kilmacduagh Complex


Day 16 – Monday, July 24th

Weather: 70° with sun and breezy


I began with setting up the level. It was harder than we thought to get it completely level to take the back sight reading, so we had Jay help us with it. Once that was done, we took the level and offset of our find from end of day Thursday. We then started troweling in C101 again. When we got close to the bottom of the context, I found a piece of glass with a rounded edge. Rory said that it was most likely from a goblet of some kind. When I asked if that would help to date the backfill of the wall, he said no because it could have been many years older than the event of backfilling the wall. When I asked about the brick we had found previously in that context, he said that it could tell us the “terminus post quem,” which means it can tell us after what date the wall could have been built.

After tea, we troweled some more and came to a layer of mortar that was approximately the same level as the footing on the outside of the wall. Yolanda and Rory said that it was the bottom of the context, so we should clean it up. I cleaned it so the all of the mortar spots were showing and then we took pictures. I asked Jay about doing another context sheet for the new mortar layer, but he said that we wouldn’t do one because it was the mortar that fell through the cracks when the back fill was put in. Rory said that he thought it was the floor of the alcove, which would be the same context as C91, so it wouldn’t need a new context number. So either way, we didn’t assign it a new context.

I watched Rory dig C120 at the base of C6 (the bawn wall). He had found C119, which was the cut of the original wall trench when the wall was built. C120 consisted of rubble fill that was packed around the foundation of C6.



Day 17 – Tuesdy, July 25th

Weather: 72° and sunny


I troweled in trench 5 evening out the northeast side of the balk in order to get the profile drawings of the soil stratigraphy.



After I got done with cleaning the balk, I took levels for a planning drawing for the south end of trench 5 as well as for my find in C100 (a piece of green bottle glass). I found it strange that something more recent like a bottle would be found so deep in the trench. Soon after that, the girls in trench 5 that were cleaning up for final pictures got finished up, so knowing that we wouldn’t be troweling much after that, we cleaned up the trowels, shovels, buckets and kneeling mats.


Day 18 – Wednesday, July 26th

Weather: 60° overcast and windy


I began the day in the shed and we had our final lecture. When that was done, we went out to trench 5 and Yolanda asked me to help clean a layer of sediment under C94 in order for them to take pictures and a profile of the area. We took pictures and I wrote them in the photo log.



After lunch, I helped to backfill the southern half of trench 5. We put rocks in first (level or close to level with the surrounding sod) and then we will fill it with the spoil afterwards. We didn’t get to the spoil part of the process today. I volunteered to wash bones and did that until the end of the day. I had washed oysters in the past, but I hadn’t washed bone, so it was good to get better acquainted with it. We had a lot of dirt in the C81 tray, so we had to separate the bones out of the dirt before we actually washed them. We started then with C93’s tray and didn’t have enough time to finish them.


Continue Reading

Alison Does… Archaeology Field School

Another week, another dig! For those of you who don’t know, I have been in Ireland for the last two weeks (minus a couple of days spent across the pond in Liverpool) to participate in an archaeology field school through a partnership of Weber State University with NUIG (National University of Ireland – Galway.) We are currently digging near a castle named Isert (ee-cert) Kelly, located in County Galway. This is my first foray into the world of archaeological excavation and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m really enjoying it! It’s been a fun, but challenging experience thus far. Here’s a photo of me in all my excavation glory:

The purpose of this post is to share with you some of the journal that I have to write as part of my grade for the school. I have been sending it to my husband everyday and he has been editing for grammar, so I hope its readable! Also, I’m not a Rhodes Scholar of archaeology by any means, so much of what I’m writing should be easy for anyone to understand. Here is what it has been like for me during these past two weeks:

*Sidenote: There will be names in this and most of them are my peers, but the ones to point out are Rory, who is heading up this excavation and also Jay, Chelsea, and Yolanda (which I may or may not mention from time to time.) Those are supervisors for the excavation that are teaching us when we are on the job.


Day 1 – Monday, July 3rd

Weather: 59° and light showers

Took a tour of the site and learned a bit about the history of the area and tower house. After break, I started troweling in trench 5, or what we think was a hall. My context (the layer of soil) was C79 (C means context and 59 is the number assigned to the context), which was an area where we think a wall fell down. Found lots of bones – mainly small animals such as rabbits, mice/rats and frogs. After lunch it started to rain more heavily and we went inside the hut for a lecture about the archaeology of the tower house.

Because the supervisors on site demolished a large rock pile in the middle of trench 5, we went back out to clear off some of the remnants of that area. We left the site early because of more inclement weather.

Day 2 – Tuesday, July 4th

Weather: 61° and light rain

Because it rained overnight and was also raining when we left to go to the site, Rory decided to take us on a fieldtrip to Kilconnell Friary and Pallas Castle. Pallas Castle was especially interesting because it has an intact bawn wall. It gave context to what we are working on at Isert Kelly.


(Above: Pallas Castle; Below: Kilconnell Friary)

After lunch we started troweling again. I was in trench 4, on the outer part of the intersectional wall. The context I was troweling was C90, which we determined to be sand/silt because it was malleable and the matrix had a smooth texture. I, personally, found 3 pieces of glazed pottery. I also reached the context beneath C90, which is C92. It has beige-y patches dispersed within it.

At the end of the day, we had to record our finds and I learned to use the level and staff. We also plotted the findings using tape measures to get an exact location of where we found each item in situ.

Day 3 – Wednesday, July 5th

Weather: 66° and no rain in the forecast

Did more leveling and recording of the latrine in trench 4. We troweled after that and found bones – including a partial mandible and a few pieces of glass. We then had a lecture given by Dr. Fiona Beglane from IT Sligo.

After bones class, I continued troweling in trench 4. I did light troweling to clean up any existing remnants of C90 in preparation of taking pictures of the next context, C92. As I cleaned, I found a piece of glass that was contained in C92, so we marked it to record after taking photos. We took photographs from every direction (NSEW) along with aerial. We then measured, took levels and recorded my find along with 6 more in that trench. An interesting side note: A large ash deposit was found in the latrine area under the tower house (C96). We think that means that the latrine as later used as a fireplace or it is where they disposed of used ashes. We also think the ash extends all the way up the tower house wall to the top of the latrine (where newborn kittens reside currently).

Day 4 – Thursday, July 6th

Weather: 63° with 10% chance of rain

Started off in trench 4 again, troweling C92, but we found out soon after that we still had C90 to dig in the SE portion of our trench.

After some help from Rory, we located boundaries of C90/C92, so Becca (my trench partner) started working on C90 and got approximately 2 inches down and hit a very light grey ashy and gravelly layer. On the SW side where I was digging, it was very, very hard to trowel and we thought it may be a ground surface or had been trampled at some point in time. As I dug through that layer, I hit a very orange deposit that looked like clay. Rory decided that it probably went with the other beige deposits found in C92.

Day 5 – Friday, July 7th

Weather: 62° and overcast with drizzle throughout the morning

Troweled in trench 4 again this morning. I was in the SW corner troweling towards the NW corner of the trench. Once I had dug about an inch down and approximately two feet from the wall, we filled out a context sheet for C92.

As I continued troweling towards the NW corner, some stones began to show up that looked very much like a metalled (purposeful, rocky) surface. We took a leaf trowel and started to define the edges of the stones in order to see them in more detail. We took pictures of the surface before we stopped for the day.

We gave a context number to the grey, ashy, gravelly layer – C97. It is found in the SE corner as well as a little in the NE corner. At the very end of the day, Becca found a lot of small rocks that look like they could be connected to form a pathway of some kind, but we had to leave for the day before we could find out what it was.

Day 6 – Monday, July 10th

Weather: 61° with 40% chance of rain in the afternoon

I helped with elevation drawings of the bawn wall (C6) in trench 5. We were the last to help draw it, so we had Jay and Rory check our work multiple times to make sure we fixed any mistakes.

After lunch, I helped some of the other girls in trench 5 to clean up their rocks and buckets of dirt to tidy up the area. I then got to help write context sheets for C94 (the stones found in what we think is the punched out portion of the bawn wall that they later made into a doorway) and C95 (the western wall of the hall). When we were filling out C94’s context sheet, I was wondering why the rocks were so deliberately placed in the doorway, but also weren’t finished or flat. It looked like they were put over a ditch between the bawn wall and the interior of the hall. When I asked Rory about it, he said that when walls are built, a trench is also dug around the foundation in order to make sure the wall is in the ground and sound. He said that it could be possible that the rocks did indeed cover up that trench around the bawn wall, but we won’t know for sure until we excavate further down into C87. I was really happy that I was thinking along the same lines. It made me a little more confident in my deducing abilities.

Day 7 – Tuesday, July 11th

Weather: 62° with scattered sprinkles and sun

Started off finishing the context sheet for C95. We also had Jay check both C94 and C95’s context sheets. For the most part, I did well on it, but I messed up the dimensions – numbers are not my thing. I need to be more careful when measuring. Then I helped Amanda put the final touches on the elevation drawing for C6, including putting the profile of the top on the drawing. We took down the cross section string and cleaned the front of C95 (what we think is an interior wall of the hall) so we could set it up to do another elevation drawing. Right before lunch I had a lot of downtime. I tried to keep busy by helping with various tasks around trench 5.

After lunch, I helped again with cleaning the surface of C95. Amanda and I started another elevation drawing again when that was done. I took measurements by myself while she drew for the first few stones, but that got to be too complicated, so we had Francesca come and help me with measuring. The wall is about 7 meters long, so it’s fairly long, but Rory said he would like for us to have the whole thing done by tomorrow afternoon. I’m not that certain we will get it done by then, but for the time we had this afternoon to get it started, we did fairly well.

Also, at the very end of the day, Rory was talking about the northern end of trench 5 and what he thinks of the threshold area and walls of the hall. There is a big masonry pile in the middle of the eastern side of the trench, and the way its sitting makes him think it could have slid off in a chunk off of the wall (like in a mudslide fashion), but the exterior wall of the hall measured around 140 cm and the wall in the masonry pile measured at 115 cm, so it doesn’t add up. I thought it could have been the floor of the second story, but apparently the walls aren’t wide enough to support a second story, so we still don’t know what it is doing there.

Day 8 – Wednesday, July 12th

Weather: 67° and sunshine

Today was day three of doing elevation drawings. We continued where we left off on C95 and got about a fourth of the way through the drawing by the end of the day. Rory wanted it completely done by the time we left for the day, so this wasn’t ideal.

At about 3:30, we hit a wall. It was very sunny and warm, so getting up and down doing the readings was hard as well as the fact that there was one rock that we had to take measurements for and redraw about four times. Amanda got really frustrated with the drawing, so I suggested that we all take a minute to get in the shade and stop looking at the drawing. I cleaned some oyster shells from the massive amount that have been found on site for a few minutes and then went back to trench 5.

During one of our breaks during drawing, I also got to see how planning was done. I’m starting to realize that every single task (besides troweling) require a plumb bob! It looks like tedious work and I’ll just have to be extra careful when I finally try it out.

Day 9 – Thursday, July 13th

Weather: 63° and spotty sprinkles with sun

So glad to be troweling again! Jay put me on cleaning duty in C100 so we could take pictures and do a context sheet. When they tried to do it yesterday, the weather was so sunny and dry that the context was drying out too fast. They couldn’t distinguish between layers. When I got about an hour into cleaning, my area was also drying out too quickly again, so Jay decided to wait until it rained to do pictures and asked me to clean and level part of the eastern wall of the trench where there was a stone with punch dressing on it. I cleaned it until lunch and got it prepped for pictures.

After a lecture from Rory, we went on a field trip to both Isert Kelly Church and a nearby ring fort. The church is a couple of hundred years older than Isert Kelly and most of the actual church is in disrepair and under a layer of sod and ivy. It was nice to see its proximity to the tower house. The ring fort was unusual in the fact that while most ring forts have only one rampart (ditch and mound), this one contains three (“tri-vallate”). Also, something that was interesting about it was that the land it’s on is protected, but not because of its historical significance, but because of the locals belief in faeries. They believe if they mess with the wooded area that is on the fort, that they will have to deal with angry faeries. I would love to excavate it, but Rory said that because of animals burrowing (there were badger holes) and tree roots, it would be nearly impossible to do a thorough and comprehensive dig of the site.

(Isert Kelly Parish Church and cemetery) 


I will do more posts as I can. The internet is very shoddy in our apartment! Until then, happy travels!

Continue Reading

Just In! Free Anthropology, Archaeology, History and Travel Graphics!

I have had some extra time lately to get onto a graphic design website called Canva. I had to make a few buttons for a fundraiser that the Anthropology Club did this semester and I wanted to post them on here so if anyone finds them funny or useful, they can use them! I will be adding more as I make more, so make sure to check back to see what I’ve been creating! Also, if you’d like larger sizes, feel free to contact me and I will get you the full-size versions.



Continue Reading

Alison Does… France, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands! (Post Trip Summary)

As with most things in life, I had good intentions on updating this website everyday that I was traveling this summer. Flash forward to now (December 7th) and as you can tell from my previous post about the trip, I made it all of one day! I was a crazy, fun, whirlwind of a trip (as most study abroad programs are), and also internet was very spotty, so there you go. I’ll stop making excuses now.

Luckily for me, my grandparents-in-law hail from Germany. They had my husband and I over to eat some schnitzel and spaetzle in exchange for me showing them pictures of the trip! That is what I will share with you on this post. It’s nothing fancy at all, but it captures some of the highlights of my trip. I hope to add to it in the future as I get more pictures from others. (Side note: For some reason, I lost a LOT of pictures that I took on the trip. It’s super upsetting to me, but I have some awesome friends that took pictures to help me out.)

So, without further ado, here is the presentation that I made to commemorate my trip!

Europe Study Abroad 2016

Also, here are some more pictures that didn’t quite make the cut! Some are mine and others are from some of the very nice folks that were with me on the trip. Enjoy!


The city of Hallstatt, Austria.

Salt blocks deep in Hallstatt Mine.

Walkway used by the Celts that worked the salt mine.

The dreamy little island of St. Mont Michel in Normandy.

A little cave (grotto) in Huelgoat, France.

Dr. Swedin and I found the Anthropology Department at Tubingen University in Germany!

Getting ready to walk into Hallstatt Salt Mine.

Eating in Frankfurt.

Lunching with the ladies in Hallstatt.

Continue Reading

Alison Does… France, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands!

Hello my fellow wanderers! I am gearing up for this summer’s study abroad trip to Europe, and so I will try to post as much about my itinerary and details about my trip as possible before I go! To start off, here is a link to a Google map of what our journey should look like:

Continental Celts Study Abroad Trip 2016

Also, here is a webpage that I made with *most* of our itinerary information on it:

Travefy Page for Continental Celts Study Abroad Trip 2016

Sunday, June 5th –

So, today was a long day! I had originally planned on flying direct to Paris from Salt Lake City, but the universe had different plans! Because of the high temperatures outside, the plane I was supposed to fly on needed more fuel to fly with, and so they had  to take 32 seats off of the flight to compensate. I am flying on a buddy pass, so I am at the mercy of the Delta gods! Here’s a live Facebook video I did (my first one ever!) to explain everything:

Live Facebook Rant!


I decided, with my dad’s help, to try to go to Seattle and then take a direct flight from there to Paris. There are more seats available to Paris (around 90) this time, so I am currently in Seattle, hoping that fate treats me well tomorrow. If not, I will be in a huge pickle. Here’s hoping!

For now, I’m enjoying being in one of my favorite places! It’s not hard to see why I love it…



I will keep adding more information as I have time, but for now, Au Revior and Auf Wiedersehen!

Continue Reading

Alison Does… Wendover, Utah!

Hey fellow travelers!

I haven’t been updating the site as much as I’ve wanted to because of school and work, but now that I have finals out of the way, I will hopefully be able to post more fun things for you guys to see!

For one of my classes this past semester, I had to write about a field trip that I have taken recently.  I chose to do my paper on Wendover, Utah because it holds a special place in my heart!  Anyone who knows me can tell you that I have a fascination with military history, especially World War II.

It just so happens that Wendover served as a military base for a few years during the war.  The base’s importance is mainly due to its ties to the training of the 509th Composite Group in the use of the Enola Gay, a B-29 aircraft, to drop atomic bombs onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

I have done a few projects on Wendover over the years and have visited there more than a few times.  I wanted to post those here to give some background and information about how Wendover has changed throughout the years.

Continue Reading

Alison Does… Travel Advice and Tips

Hey there! I have been seeing a plethora of travel advice posts on various websites and thought I would compile a list and share them with you here! I have some tips of my own as well, and I will add to this list as I think of more! But for now, here is what I have for you to look at:

How To Travel Like A Grown-Ass Woman (Without Breaking The Bank)

15 Unforgettable Bucket List Trips You Can Do On A Budget

This Is How People With Full-Time Jobs Can Travel The World

24 Surreal Places Around The World To Visit Before You Die

Here’s How 23 Experts Travel On A Budget

Is Europe Safe for Travelers? Yes, Experts Say, but Here Are Some Tips


infographic (1)

Continue Reading

Alison Does… England, Ireland and Wales!

As I have time, I will update this post with pictures and commentary of the places I saw on my study abroad trip in 2013 to England, Ireland and Wales! It was an awesome trip and one I won’t forget soon!


This is me on top of one of the towers at Conwy Castle in Wales. It was a looong trip up those spiral stairs and a scary descent!


The view from that same tower at Conwy Castle. It was the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen.

Achill Field School 2014

The study abroad group that I went with on Achill Island, off the west coast of Ireland.


Views from our bus going through Snowdonia National Park in Wales.

Continue Reading

Alison Does… This Amazing Website!

Hello everyone!

I, with the help of some talented individuals, am creating this website for all of you that love to travel, try new things and live life to the fullest!  It is my hope that, as a reader, you can learn through my experiences as I go through life.  Also, I want to learn from YOU!  Have a hot tip about a shop that sells shrunken heads?  Have an inkling to try a foreign delicacy but want someone else to tell you if you should go for it (or not?)  I’m your girl!  This is an interactive experience and I want you to teach me new things as I go along.  I also, hopefully, can share my wisdom (or lack thereof) with you about my travels in and outside of these great United States!

I just have to put a quick plug in – I could not have created this website without the help of two very important things – money and a web designer!  Thank you to the Study Abroad Program at Weber State University for helping me fund this awesome website!  Also, thank you a million times over to David Haymes for creating this website for me to share with the world!  I honestly couldn’t have made this work without you!

Now, with that being said, I have a trip scheduled in early April to go to Moab, Utah, with my History of the American West class, so I will hope to get that (and other projects I have in the works) started soon!  Thank you for reading this and I will see you next time!

Continue Reading