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Dr Elizabeth O'Brien

Principal Researcher

Dr O’Brien is a graduate of University College Dublin where she obtained her BA, MA (Archaeology) and M.Phil in Irish Studies (including archaeology). Her academic studies included the study of burial evidence for the Late prehistoric-Early Historic period in Ireland and related Early Irish History.  She graduated with a D.Phil from the University of Oxford where she studied the burial evidence for post-Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England, this included the building of a database of burials for the period being reviewed. Her doctoral thesis was published as a BAR volume in 1999.

She has lectured and published widely on the subject of burial in the late pre-historic, early medieval period, and has lectured at University level on Early Irish History. Her unique status as a leading expert on burial in Ireland has meant that all sectors dealing with archaeology and early history in Ireland have consulted her regularly in relation to Early Medieval burial practices..

Dr O’Brien is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London.

Academic Qualifications

1971:  BA (NUI) UCD

1980: MA (NUI) UCD

Thesis  Pre-Norman Ecclesiastical Sites of the Half Barony of Rathdown (South County  Dublin.)

1984: M.Phil. in Irish Studies. (N.U.I) U.C.D.
Research subjects: Archaeology  & Early Irish History.
Thesis Late Prehistoric-Early Historic Ireland: The Burial Evidence Reviewed.
1996: D.Phil. (University of Oxford). Corpus Christi College
Thesis Post Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England: The Burial Evidence Reviewed
A study of archaeological evidence for, and historical influences on, burial practices in late Roman Britain and early Anglo-Saxon England, plus Irish influences in the region during the seventh century conversion period.

Publication History   (writings relative to burial practices)

1990 ‘Iron Age Burial Practices in Leinster: Continuity and Change’ in Emania No. 7 pp.37-42 (Belfast)

1992 `Pagan and Christian burial in Ireland during the first millennium AD' in The Early Church in Wales and the West.  (Eds.) N. Edwards, A.Lane. pp.130-137. (Oxbow Monograph 16). (Oxford)

1992 `A Re-assessment of the `Great Sepulchral Mound' containing a Viking Burial at  Donnybrook, Dublin', in Medieval Archaeology Vol.XXXVI,1992. pp.170-173.  (London)

1993 ‘Contacts between Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England in the Seventh Century’ in Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History No. 6 (ed) W. Filmer-Sankey. Pp. 93-102. (Oxford University Committee for Archaeology).

1994  `Historical context, and archaeological parallels for Inhumation Cemeteries excavated  on the Dublin-Dundalk pipeline' in forthcoming publication of excavations conducted  by Margaret Gowen during laying of the North Co. Dublin gas pipe-line. (Publication pending)

1996 ‘Past rites, future concerns’ in Church Archaeology: Research Directions for the Future  (Eds) John Blair and Carol Pyrah. CBA Research Report 104 (York, 1996) pp. 160-166.

1998  `The Location and Context of Viking Burials at Kilmainham and Islandbridge, Dublin' in Ireland and Scandinavia in the Early Viking Age, (Eds) H.B. Clarke, M. Ní Mhaonaigh, R. Ó Floinn,  pp. 203-221.(Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1998)

1998 'A reconsideration of the Location and Context of Viking Burials at Kilmainham/Islandbridge, Dublin. in Dublin and Beyond the Pale: Studies in honour of Patrick Healy (ed) Conleth Manning, pp. 35-44 (Wordwell, Bray, Dublin)

1999 (Book)   Late Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England: Burial Practices Reviewed   BAR 289, British Series (Oxford) 1999

1999 `Excavation of a multi-period burial site at Ballymacaward, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal'Donegal Annual (Journal of the Co. Donegal Historical Society) No. 51.  pp.56-61

2000 (Published 2008)  'Literary Insights into the basis of some burial practices in Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England in the seventh and eighth centuries', in Aedificia Nova : Studies in Honor of Rosemary Cramp  (ed)  Catherine E. Karkov and Helen Damico.. Medieval Institute Publications,, Kalamazoo. 

2003. 'Burial Practices in Ireland, First to Seventh centuries AD' in 'Seachange: Orkney and Northern Europe in the late Iron Age, AD 300 - 800'   (eds) J. Downes, Anna Ritchie   The Pinkfoot Press, Balgavies, Angus. pp. 62-72

2005 (Published 2009)   ‘Pagan or Christian? Burial in Ireland during the 5th to 8th centuries AD',’ in ed. N .Edwards, The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Celtic Churches ,   pp 135-154. Soc. for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 29/Society for Church Archaeology Monograph 1.

2008. 'Early Medieval Sentinel Warrior Burials' in Peritia 20.  323-330.  Brepols.

2008.  'Mapping Death'  in Archaeology Ireland Vol. 22. No. 4. Winter 2009. p.4.

2009. 'Details of Mapping Death INSTAR project. in Society  for Medieval ArchaeologyNewsletter    Issue 42.  ed. Niall Brady.  pp 10-11.

2009. 'Murder mystery at Dundrum Castle, Co. Dublin' in ed. Joe Fenwick, Lost and Found II,  rediscovering Ireland's past.  pp 23-28.  Wordwell, Dublin.

2009. 'A re-evaluation of the find-spot, and a possible context for the Anthropoid Hilted sword from Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal'  in ed. Katharine Becker, Relics of Old Decency: archaeological studies in later prehistory  (Festschrift for Professor Barry Raftery).  pp. 193-198.  Wordwell, Dublin.

2010. 'Burnt Magic'  in  eds. M. Davies, U. MacConville, G.  Cooney  A Grand Gallimaufry, collected in honour of Nick Maxwell   pp 48-51.  Wordwell, Dublin

2010  'Foreword'  to book Death and Burial in Early Medieval Ireland in the light of recent archaeological excavations   Research papers in Irish Archaeology No. 2, edited by Chrisltiaan Corlett & Michael Potterton.  Wordwell, Dublin

Publications pending:

'Knowth Secondary Burials - Proto-Historic and Historic period'  in  George Eogan with Madeline O'Brien, Cathy Johnson and others, Excavations at Knowth 5: The Archaeology of Knowth in the first and second millennia AD    Royal Irish Academy.

'Some observations on the context and content of the cemetery at Owenbristy, Co. Galway'  for inclusion in forthcoming Monograph publication,   ed.    J. O'Sullivan.

Excavations-  as participant and/or burials consultant.

Dr O'Brien has been involved in and/or has been consulted in relation to burials in the following excavations: Westreave, Co. Dublin; Colp. Co. Meath; Kilshane, Co. Dublin; Derryvilla, Portarlington, Co. Laois; Newtown, Banagher, Co. Offaly;.Ahena, Claremorris, Co. Mayo; Knowth, Co. Meath; Chancellorsland, Co. Tipperary; Horseleap, Co.Westmeath;  Brownstown Quarry, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare; Kilcorney, Co. Clare; Johnstown, Co. Westmeath; Ratoath, Co. Meath; Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath; Ardsallagh,Co. Meath (M3); Context for Turoe Stone and burial at Feerwore, Co. Galway; New Inn, Co. Galway. (N6); Burials at Collierstown, Co. Meath (M3), Owenbristy, Co. Galway.

As Director of Excavations

Ballyman, Co. Dublin (1979-86); Dundrum Castle, Co. Dublin (1987-91); Broomfield, Co. Dublin (1985); Castledermot, Co. Kildare (1988, 1990); Islandbridge/ Kilmainham, Dublin (1989); Bullock Castle, Dalkey, Co. Dublin (1989); Naas, Co. Kildare (1989, 1990); Tallaght, Co.Dublin (1990); Ballymacaward, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal (1997/98)..