Greenville student to study archaeology in Ireland

Staff report

SPRINGFIELD — Known for its many castles and beautiful greenery, Ireland captured one student’s heart last spring while studying abroad. Now Hannah McCartney, class of ’18 from Greenville, Ohio, will have a chance to return to the snake-free island in the North Atlantic through the Institute of Field Research (IFR), an organization created to bring archaeological field schools to students.

McCartney, a history major who is also pursuing minors in archaeology, pre-modern studies and studio art, will be part of the Blackfriary program in the town of Trim in County Meath, Ireland. During her stay from June 11 to July 8, McCartney will be attending lectures, learning excavation methods, participating in class trips, working on a course research assignment, excavating at the Black Friary site and touring Trim, the prehistoric passage tombs and the National Museum of Ireland.

“I have always wanted to study/work in Ireland, and after studying abroad with the Witt in Witt program last spring through Wittenberg, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Ireland for a few days,” she said. “I absolutely loved it, and I made it my goal to hopefully go back and study Ireland more intensely. After learning more about the program itself, I also really wanted to investigate the 13th century and Trim further.”

The Blackfriary program is a community archaeology project that provides students with the opportunity to have an in-depth education on community archaeology, bioarcheology and excavation methods through the excavation of the Black Friary buildings. The program focuses on the excavation of a 13th century Friary, founded by Dominicans around the year 1263.

McCartney’s journey will begin on June 6, when she travels to Inishark, Ireland, in order to learn methods for and experiences related to an excavation.

“Depending on time and travel, I hope to fly to London, England, in July after my course is finished in order to work at the British Library to do further research for my senior thesis,” said McCartney. She is taking the Blackfriary course available through the IFR and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), through which she will receive class credits in order to complete her archaeology minor for Wittenberg.

“The program provides a diverse array of experiences that is so important to my future in history and archaeology,” added McCartney, who will be staying with a host family in Trim, about 45 minutes outside of Dublin, Ireland. “With the Blackfriary program, I not only have the opportunity to have a hands-on experience in excavation, but I am able to learn more about fields in archaeology, which I have not previously had much interaction with. For example, I am looking forward to learning more about bioarcheology and working with the community in which I am excavating.”

McCartney learned about the Blackfriary program through Catilin Lobl, 2016 Wittenberg alumna, who attended it a few years ago. After doing further research and meeting with Darlene Brooks Hedstrom, professor of history, department chair and the director of archaeology at Wittenberg, and H. Orth Hirt Professor of History Dr. Amy Livingstone, McCartney went through the application process.

“After returning from studying abroad with the Witt in Witt program, the first thing that Hannah said to me is that she absolutely wants to do something with archaeology,” Brooks Hedstrom said. “The trip solidified her pursuit of archaeology, and because she had taken my Introduction to Archaeology class, I could direct her to the IFR.

“Hannah is exuberant and enthusiastic about history,” Brooks Hedstrom continued. “She has a passion to spread the message of history and point out how interesting and surprising the subject can be. She is very diligent and will thrive in an environment that provides her with so many opportunities. The Blackfriary program is one of the best programs available for someone who wants to learn the field work as well as the public side of archaeology, and it will build on her Witt in Witt experience. The program offers many components, including a little on bioarchaeology, which I can’t offer here, and post excavation. The exposure to all sides of archaeology is very important, allowing students to decide what they like best.”

McCartney chose this project due to the fact that with this research and travel, she will be able to investigate a time and place that are both very important to her. During her time in Ireland, she will also be able to begin her senior thesis and have the opportunity to conduct research for a topic that fuels her passion.

“I had a great deal of support and assistance from my professors,” McCartney said. “With their help, I was able to develop a summer research grant proposal for my history senior thesis. I received phenomenal advice from Dr. Livingstone and Dr. Brooks Hedstrom, as well as an amazing recommendation from Dr. Brooks Hedstrom when I was applying to the IFR.

“Wittenberg University has provided me with many experiences that helped me with the application and pursuit of this project,” she added. “I am very grateful for the amazing opportunities that I have received in the past three years. I believe that the classes that I have previously taken here will help me with the coursework and experiences that I will have with the Blackfriary program. I feel well prepared for the Blackfriary course, and I cannot wait to begin researching.”

McCartney is one of two students receiving the 2017 Nancy Benco Archaeological Research Fund award to help with her expenses. Emmaline Higgins, also a junior, won the 2017 Benco Award and has been accepted into the Turin Museum of Egyptology program in Turin, Italy, as a summer intern.

The scholarship was created by alumna Dr. Nancy L. Benco, class of 1966 and a professional archaeologist, to help fund history majors and minors who wish to study archaeology and the human past. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to the Wittenberg History Department and archaeology program to promote the study and appreciation of archaeology at the university through student research, fieldwork and learning experiences for undergraduates interested in the human past around the globe. Learn more about the fund at

Staff report