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Assoc Professor Barry Molloy

Assoc Professor

Barry Molloy

Associate Professor
School of Archaeology
01 716 8529
University College Dublin, School of Archaeology, Newman Building Belfield Dublin 4


I never liked to define myself narrowly within the field, and have active research interests across Europe, from the Atlantic coasts to the vibrant riverine networks of the Balkan peninsula or the beautiful island of Crete. At first, my major interest was the archaeology of warfare, and within this I co-developed a specific strand called combat archaeology, a multi-disciplinary approach aimed at accessing the uniquely human face of war and the actions and experiences of those people who faced violence in their lives. I was particularly intrigued by the weapons of the Bronze Age, and went on to use these as media to explore a wide range of social activities, from the long-distance networks required to get access to tin and copper, through the technology of producing metalwork using casting and smithing, and on to other aspects of the life-cycle of artefacts looking at use and deposition patterns. It is quite amazing how the social life of weaponry links into so many other aspects of social organisation when you examine it and all of its relationships in their totality in this way. This has led to the development of my current research on the biographies of bronze artefacts. I have been using the rich datasets from Ireland to develop this work recently, and have been particularly focusing on use-wear analyses of tools and weapons. Experimental archaeology has always been close to my heart, not only in testing how things work, but also for accessing why they were made in the way they were and gaining insights into the decisions and choices of the ancient people who interacted with the very same objects. This interest has led me to expand my analysis of metalwork to encompass a wide variety of functional forms and so I presently consider stories that can be told looking at metalwork. I am also keen to think more about how we can best visualise ancient metallurgy, and have been exploring a variety of 3D modelling methods. My work with ancient metalwork led me to the question of changes that took place at the end of the Bronze Age, whereby new types emerged across Europe, including the Aegean, that were all very closely related. How and why this happened has been debated since the beginning of archaeology, and tales of ancient migrations remain a particularly contentious issue. This led me to explore new methodologies and approaches to interaction and mobility, including recent scientific developments in aDNA and isotope studies, and to design a new research project that could consider the end of the Bronze Age from a variety of perspectives. These include evaluating the actual movement of ancient people, the ideas and practices they may have brought with them and transmitted to others, and how the activities surrounding such interactions led to changes in settlement and society. Ultimately, it is my belief that major developments in the Balkan region played a central role in the widespread destructions and abandonments marking the end of the Bronze Age. The old ideas of mass migrations no longer work, so my mission now is to develop new empirical analyses that can lead us to new and more nuanced models of the role of people in the collapse of social systems and ways of life.