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Professor Aidan O'Sullivan


Aidan O'Sullivan

School of Archaeology
01 716 8252
University College Dublin, School of Archaeology, Newman Building Belfield Dublin 4


I am a Professor in UCD School of Archaeology. I was appointed to UCD as a College Lecturer in September 2000, promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2005 and to an Associate Professorship in 2014. I have been Head of UCD School of Archaeology (2012/2013) and am currently and have been previously Deputy Head of School (2011-2014, 2016-2019). I was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy (MRIA) in 2017, and am a Member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (MIAI), and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA), London. Academic awards include an IRCHSS Senior Research Scholarship in 2002-2003, a UCD President's Research Fellowship in 2004-2005 and I was an invited Visiting Professor at Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) at the University of Rennes I, France in May 2010. I was born and raised in Valleymount, in the west Wicklow mountains, and from walking to archaeological monuments with my father, I gained an interest in Irish archaeology, history and folklore. I was awarded a BA (1988) in Archaeology and Early Irish History at UCD; an MA (1991, First Class) in Archaeology at UCD and a PhD (2004) for my doctoral thesis, The social and ideological roles of crannogs in early medieval Ireland at the Department of History, NUI Maynooth. I previously taught as a Visiting Professor of Celtic Archaeology at the Celtic Studies Programme, St Michael's College, University of Toronto (Canada, Spring 2000) and as an occasional Lecturer in the Department of History, NUI Maynooth (1997-1999). Research My research is focused on three principal areas: Early medieval Ireland in its northwest European context. My own research focuses on early medieval settlement and landscape, on social identity and materiality, and on interdisciplinary research combining historical sources, archaeology and palaeoecology. I am Principal Investigator of the Early Medieval Archaeology Project (EMAP), the Heritage Council INSTAR-funded UCD/QUB (and partners) collaborative research project seeking to create knowledge, through books, papers, online reports and other resources, from the extensive data gathered in early medieval archaeological excavations in Ireland. EMAP's reports (see to download reports) include major studies on early medieval dwellings and settlements, early medieval griculture, early medieval crafts and industry, the early medieval economy in Ireland and bibliographies of early medieval archaeology in Ireland and beyond). I have directed several early medieval archaeological excavations of my own, including at an early medieval pilgrims' church and graveyard at Templeteenaun, Co. Wicklow, of a early medieval crannog at Coolure Demesne, Co. Westmeath and of an early medieval wooden bridge at Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly (see here for a brief account). I lead UCD School of Archaeology's Early Medieval Research and Viking Age Research Group (EMVARG) of Postdoctoral Fellows, PhD and MA students - the largest and most successful (i.e. in terms of postgraduate scholarship awards) research group investigating early medieval archaeology in Ireland. Since 2005, I have mentored four Postdoctoral Research Fellowship projects (three IRC Fellows in Dr Stephen Harrison, Dr Eileen Reilly and Dr Alvaro Carvajal Castro and one Dr Garrett Fitzgerald NUI Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Humanities in Dr Meriel McClatchie). I have also supervised thirteen PhD theses (seven to completion) on the early medieval archaeology of Britain and Ireland. I have supervised c.30 MA theses; three of my MA students were awarded the UK's Medieval Settlement Research Group (MSRG) John Hurst Prize for the Best Thesis on Medieval Settlement in Britain and Ireland, including Triona Nicholl, (2004) Experimental archaeology and early medieval houses; Jonathan Kinsella (2005) Locating the poor and unfree: early medieval low-status settlement in Ireland and Niamh Arthur (2009) The Viking Age longphort in Ireland. Key publications: O'Sullivan, A., McCormick, F., Kerr, T. and Harney, L. 2014 Early Medieval Ireland, AD 400-1100. The evidence from archaeological excavations. Royal Irish Academy. Dublin. O'Sullivan, A., McCormick, F., Kerr, T.R., Harney, L. and Kinsella, J. 2014 Early Medieval Dwellings and Settlements in Ireland, AD 400-1100. BAR International Series 2604, Archaeopress. Oxford. McCormick, F., Kerr, T.R., McClatchie, M., and O'Sullivan, A. 2014 Early Medieval Agriculture, Livestock and Cereal Production in Ireland, AD 400-1100. BAR International Series 2647 Archaeopress. Oxford. Wetland archaeology and environments across the world My research explores how past peoples engaged with dynamic wetland environments across time, in Ireland in particular but also globally. My wetland archaeology publications investigate different aspects of past social identity and linkages to wetlands lifeways and practices. Recent wetland archaeological projects have included archaeological investigations of early medieval crannogs and lake dwellings in Ireland, and intertidal archaeological surveys on the Fergus estuary, Co. Clare (2007-11), with its spectacular medieval fishing complex at Boarland Rock. I have been involved in collaborative research links with colleagues in France for a project on Medieval fishweirs in northwest Europe. Prior to my appointment at UCD, between 1992-2000, I was a Project Director of the Lake Settlement Project in The Discovery Programme , where I also directed a pioneering archaeological survey of the Shannon estuary (1992-2000) and for EHS, N. Ireland, of Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland (1996). I have widespread experience in the commercial, research and academic archaeological sectors, having worked on numerous archaeological excavations and environmental consultancy projects in Ireland, Britain, Switzerland and France. Key publications: Van de Noort, R. and O'Sullivan, A. (2006) Rethinking Wetland Archaeology Duckworth, London/New York. Menotti, F. and O'Sullivan, A. (eds. 2013) The Oxford Handbook of Wetland Archaeology Oxford University Press, Oxford. Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture I am a Board member of EXARC, the international network of experimental archaeologists and open-air museums around the world. I am the Director of the UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture, which is UCD School of Archaeology's facility for experimental archaeology teaching and research. I coordinate our MSc in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture, and teach graduate and undergraduate courses in experimental archaeology and have supervised several PhDs and MA students with an emphasis on experimental archaeology. I co-ordinate the active 'UCD Experimental Archaeology' Facebook group ( with over 3,700 members around the world, linking Irish experimental archaeologists with colleagues everywhere and leading an international conversation about experimental archaeology. I was a co-organiser of the 9th Experimental Archaeology Conference (EAC9), held at University College Dublin and the Irish National Heritage Park, 18-19 January, 2015, and have previously been an academic adviser to the Irish National Heritage Park open-air museum, at Ferrycarrig, Co. Wexford, Ireland (particularly on aspects of their early medieval and Viking Age reconstructions). Teaching My teaching tends to explore how people in the past used places, objects, animals and their environments to create and inhabit social worlds that are very different than our own, and thence reveal the potential diversity of the human experience. I am Module Co-ordinator for several undergraduate and graduate modules in UCD School of Archaeology Professional Activities I am a Member of the Royal Irish Academy (MRIA), of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (MIAI) and was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA, London). As a professional Irish archaeologist, I have previously been Vice-Chair and Board Member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (IAI) (2007-2008; 2004-2008); and a member of the Royal Irish Academy Committee for Archaeology (2004-2008), the Council of The Prehistoric Society (2000-2003); the Council of The Discovery Programme (1998-2003) and the Council of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Other professional activities include acting as:PhD External Examiner for doctoral theses at New York University (NYU) (USA), University of London (UK), University of Nottingham (UK, 2 times), University of Manchester, James Cook University (Australia), University of Wales at Newport (Wales) and the University of Ulster at Coleraine (N. Ireland). Dissertation or Comprehensive Exam Committee member for PhD theses at University of Pennsylvania (USA) and Memorial University, St. Johns, Newfoundland (Canada) External Examiner for the MSc in The Archaeology of the North, at University of Aberdeen, Scotland (2016- ), and was previously External Examiner of the BSc in Applied Archaeology at Institute of Technology, Sligo (2009-2012) and the MSc in Maritime Archaeology, at the Centre for Maritime Archaeology, University of Ulster at Coleraine (N. Ireland). External National Assessor for applications to the Irish IRCHSS Postgraduate Scholarships and NUI Travelling Studentships. International Assessor for research project applications to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO, The Dutch Research Council); also the Odyssee Research Programme in The Netherlands, and for the Croatian Agency of Science and Higher Education (for the Croatian Scientific Centres of Excellence Programme, 2014), amongst others. Invited international archaeological project adviser to the 'Past Societies' project in Poland, for its 5-volume archaeology of Poland up until AD 1000, included attending as one of two invited foreign archaeologists at a project workshop at Biskupin, Poland, October 2013. Peer reviewer for numerous papers in international scientific journals, including Antiquity, Current Anthropology, Environmental Archaeology: The Journal of Human Palaeoecology, Journal of Archaeological Science, International Journal of Palaeopathology, Medieval Archaeology, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, Journal of Wetland Archaeology, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy and numerous papers for edited international conference proceedings. Member of the Editorial Boards of Journal of Wetland Archaeology; Journal of the North Atlantic, Journal of Maritime Archaeology; Journal of Irish Archaeology and Archaeology Ireland. Co-organiser of many archaeological conferences, including 9th Experimental Archaeology Conference (EAC9, 2015), Experimental Archaeology in Northwest Europe (2011); Early Medieval settlements in Northwest Europe (2010), Wetland Archaeology in Ireland and Beyond (2009), Fishing and Coastal Communities in northwest Europe (2009), as well as the popular Archaeology Ireland annual conferences; Stories of our Past (2007), The Body, Dress and Jewellery (2006), Food, Culture and identity (2005). For the international Sixth World Archaeology Congress (WAC-6), held in Dublin (2008), I was a member of the National Organising Committee and the Programme Committee and also organised a major theme on Wetland Archaeology across the World. I have been invited to speak at many conferences, seminars and events, and at universities in USA, Canada, UK (e.g. Manchester, Oxford, Hull, Bangor, Glasgow), Ireland and Europe and was also an invited Irish speaker in April 2005 for the Irish American Cultural Institute (IACI), lecturing on early medieval Ireland at Irish-American venues in New York, Connetticut, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, Kansas and other places and has also been an invited lecturer at Appalachian State University and East Carolina University, North Carolina (March 2006). However, really significant career achievements included once playing for Wicklow (U-14, U-16, U-18 and U-21) hurling teams and winning two Junior Hurling Championship medals with Valleymount in 1985 and 1990. Every Saturday, I go hurling with our two little boys, Cóilín (who is 9) and Dáire (who is 7) and would expect from their skills, that they will both win All-Ireland Hurling Championship medals in 2031 with Dublin, Clare or perhaps even... Wicklow.


  • College Lecturer
    University College Dublin30 Dec 1999 - 30 Dec 1999


  • Project director
    The Discovery Programme30 Dec 1999 - 30 Dec 1999


  • BA
    University College Dublin
  • MA
    University College Dublin
  • PhD
    Maynooth University