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Archive for Archaeology

Celebrate the Autumnal equinox

Cairn T at Loughcrew Neolithic Tomb complex. The door through which the rising sun shines on the equinox is partially hidden by the stone circle in the foreground. Photographed by a friend of mine.

Today is one of my favorite days of the year– the autumnal equinox. Today the length of the day and night are exactly the same, and Oktoberfest and other Harvest celebrations are underway. My soul feels deeply connected to harvest celebrations and winter preparations. Perhaps that’s why I was so drawn to the Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland when I was in graduate school. Some of you know about the Newgrange passage tomb that is aligned with the Summer and Winter solstices, but not everyone knows that this is part of a larger complex of monuments and other passage tombs that belonged to the same people–built thousands of years before the pyramids. Other megaliths and monuments at the Boyne Valley Site seem to be aligned with lunar phases, in compliment to Newgrange. A similar megalith complex exists in Loughcrew, a site I visited with my favorite professor. It is less famous, but Cairn T has an equally magnificent illumination on sunrise on the equinoxes. I love to tell people about these magical an monolithic calendars, and watch their eyes light up in wonder that people were capable of such wisdom, foresight, and incredibly sophisticated intelligence and technology so early on. Neolithic people were pretty amazing; launching themselves into a movement from hunting/gathering to sustainable agriculture and using this new intelligence and sociological development to highlight their profound relationship with the earth: the sun, first and foremost, but also the moon, and the seasons. How can we reconnect to the earth in such a profound way? What could we ever create that could inspire wonder and amazement in 5000 years? Happy Autumn My Friends!

My 5 Favorite Healthy Pumpkin Recipes For Fall

healthy pumpkin recipesHealthy recipes are hard to come by when talking about traditional used of canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin by nature is healthy– it is naturally sweet, fibrous, and energy-giving– and is legal on our Whole 30 challenge this month.  It is the combination of that can of pumpkin with things like evaporated milk, pastries, and sweeteners that detracts from your overall health. Check out these pumpkin recipe obsessions of mine. these are on my repertoire all fall!

5. Grain Free Pumpkin Pancakes. My age old trick is simple: Use the Against All Grain Banana Pancake Recipe, but replace the banana and chocolate chips with 1 can of pumpkin puree!! #foolproof

4. New Isagenix flavor Pumpkin Spice lean protein! Literally one of the best pumpkin spice flavors I’ve ever tasted, let alone the best protein shake I’ve ever tasted! I look SO forward to  having this every morning this fall with almond milk after a workout! Paired with a piece of fruit, it becomes the perfect 400 calories breakfast to energize your day and keep you full until lunch!

3. My Pumpkin Lemongrass Soup might be the recipe I am most proud of. It is so simple, wholesome and absolutely flavorful and delicious! Please make it this month!!

2. Massaged Tuscan Kale Salad with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and homemade Caesar dressing. I add a can of anchovies from Trader Joe’s to this beautiful Fall Salad for my lunches every day! To massage the kale, you just want to pre-dress it with your dressing of choice and lemon juice and massage the leaves to soften them. You can also shake it up in a tupperware.

1.My Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte is pretty famous for being delicious, healthy and low in calories. A Starbucks PSL contains some dangerously unnecessary additives and packs about 400 calories. Mine is more like 120 and contains only canned pumpkin, fall spices, maple syrup, coffee,  and light coconut milk.

A Guide to Ireland: The North

Finally, I can post my Northern Ireland Guide! Please see my other guides at A guide to Ireland: Dublin and A guide to Ireland: The Republic.

I lived in Dublin, which is in the Republic, where I attended grad school. But if we’re being honest….there’s something mystical and ethereal about the north that is different from the republic. Those 6 little counties seem sad in a way; industrialized and tied to the UK in a way maybe some regret. But it’s that juxtaposition of the grey industrial with the bright green mountains of Mourn or valleys of Derry that is so mind-blowing. Equally, it’s the connectedness you feel looking over at the Scottish Isles from Giant’s Causeway or reaching out toward the North from Dunluce Castle (the mythical dwelling of Princess Isolde). So many worlds are closing in on one another at this point, you feel like you could just reach out and touch them, or like maybe you could picture your Scottish ancestors, fleeing persecution and landing safely in Ireland for a reprieve before sailing to America. It’s just sort of crazy how untouched it all still seems. here is my Top Ten for your visit to Northern Ireland! It goes without saying, take the coastal road, all the way around and down!

  1. Dunluce Castle, Portrush, County Antrim. It’s just poetic in its ruins. And since it’s falling into the sea, it won’t wait for you forever.
  2. Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim ( you can see the causeway for free if you buy a delicious Irish Coffee at the Hotel. It will be necessary. Trust me. It’s never warm in this spot.)
  3. The old Bushmills Distillery, Bushmills, County Antrim
  4. The Mountains of Mourne, County Down (The Mourne Wall, Hare’s Gap, any trail, insane views and sunsets here, Slieve Donard)
  5. Derry town , County Derry, Bishop’s Gate and only walled town in Ireland. Derry is geographically divided by a river and on the edge of the republic (Donegal). This town is fascinating, with it’s long history of upheaval and division between Northern Ireland Nationalists and the Republic supporters.
  6. Ulster Museum, Belfast has a fabulous mixture of modern exhibitions and historic permanent displays. They definitely have the advantage of the Brits as far as funding for fabulous museums goes
  7. Europa Hotel, Belfast. This is Europe’s most bombed hotel. Taken down by the IRA over 40 times, until the 1990’s– I think a more fitting title would be World’s most resilient hotel
  8. Belfast Murals are just so cool and gritty. Belfast’s graffiti is a piece of Ireland that you definitely have to experience. I know I harp on history and knowing where you’ve been, but…You’ve gotta know where you’re going too.
  9. Belfast City Hall, Where President Clinton helped facilitate peace agreements between the North and South in 1998.
  10. Beaghmore, County Tyrone, a complex of Bronze Age structures including stone circles and cairns.

Close contenders include: Titanic Museum. Belfast, Antrim Castle, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Devenish Island ( most extensive remains of an early Christian settlement in Ireland)

A guide to Ireland: The North


A Guide to Ireland: The Republic

SO this series is slightly off my usual topic, I know, but I’m really stoked to bring you the second installment of my Guide to Ireland!  As I mention in the first installment “Dublin”, I get asked about recommendations, tips, and pointers, for Ireland travel frequently! I hope you enjoy it, and please comment below if you have any questions, clarifications, or want to add to my suggestions!
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Archaeology and historical sites worth seeing around Dublin
Is an incredible passage tomb that is 2000 years older than the Egyptian Pyramids. The tour guides are excellent, and you actually get to enter the tomb, which is rare and spectacular! Newgrange is just 45 minutes outside of Dublin and is (little known fact) part of a neolithic tomb complex that includes the ones below as well.
Hill of Tara: This stop is exciting, more for its historical significance and natural beauty. This is the seat of the Irish Kings, for many millennia- yes, millennia.
Knowth and Dowth: While you can not enter these passage tombs, they are exciting to see as part of the larger “Bru na Boinne” passage tomb complex. Knowth is actually the largets of the 3, with 2 interior passages. Passage tombs are so-named because of the interior passages that align directly with the rising and setting sun on the winter and summer solstices, illuminating the passageway.
Slane Castle:
Made famous by the U2 concert, Slane is set in a beautiful landscape and makes for an excellent tour on a sunny day.

Southern Ireland
Limerick, Kerry, Killarney, and Dingle
is a fabulous town on the line of counties Limerick and Clare and along the River Shannon. Here, you can spend and entire day and night touring King John’s Castle and then have a spectacular and authentic medieval meal and show at Bunratty Castle. The Bunratty Manor Hotel has amazing Suites, great prices, and great food, so I highly recommend it.

Kerry is definitely in the running for most rugged and beautiful county. My favorite professor is from County Kerry, and it is known for its incredible plethora of archaeology, including many standing and carved stones, and its dark-headed Irish beauties (archaeologically speaking, this is arguably a result of some transplants from the Iberian Peninsula 10,000 years ago). This county is fabulous for driving, and will provide you all of the quintessential Irish sights you’re looking for!

Killarney is a quaint a sweet town where I stayed with my friend Veronica in 2012.  We had the best spot, above a pub with traditional Irish music, close to Ross Castle. This is a great stop if you plan on seeing the Ring of Kerry or sojourning to Dingle Peninsula from Dublin!

Dingle Peninsula  is the must see for the southwesterly region. It is filled with quaint “beach towns” and the winding roads and steep emerald hills that you’re dreaming of. I can smell the salt air and see the bright colors now.

Western Ireland
Clare, Aran Islands, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal
Driving into County Clare is what I think of when I think of Ireland. I’ve made the drive to the Cliffs of Moher so many times, but every time it’s different and more beautiful. I can’t recommend this touristy cliche enough. And don’t forget to check out The Burren as you drive away!  If you really love the cliffs, then you will adore The Aran Islands. Geologically, the islands are the missing puzzle piece to the Cliffs of Moher. They broke off in the last Ice Age and created quite the dramatic landscape. The island is a 45 minute ferry ride away (check ferry listings near Galway) and is VERY quite, but houses some great pubs, great island tours, and most definitely the most awe-inspiring landscape I’ve seen….possibly ever.

Galway is my favorite city in Ireland. It is the CAN’T MISS of this section. The last time I went, I stayed in Eyre Square at a hotel (NOT a hostel) and it was fabulous. Downtown Galway is completely walkable and hosts some of the most classic nightlife in Ireland. It’s a popular destination for Stag/Hen celebrations–and I guarantee you’ll see one! As a port town, the fish and chips is amazing here and I go to McDonagh’s EVERY time I’m in Galway! It’s sort of amazing that you can can pay a small fee to relax with a newspaper full of fish and chips and a bottle of wine on a picnic table overlooking downtown.

Mayo is remote and glorious. I did my fieldwork in Belderring, with the coolest locals on earth. Belderring is home to bouncy bogs, 10,000 years of archaeology, tons of B&Bs, a rugged coastline, the AMAZING site Ceide Fields.…and one pub. Where I lost REALLY badly in an intense game of snooker. It is also a famous Seamus Heaney poem, and the 40ish people who call Belderring home know him well. If you want to do something different and authentic. I 100% recommend this.

Sligo is famous for being home to WB Yeats and the incomparable Benbulben. There are some beautiful spots to stay on the water outside the city center here, with easy access to a hike up to Benbulben. The City Center of Sligo is unique and memorable. McGarrigle’s is one of the best pubs I remember in Ireland, so don’t miss it! Inishmurray is an uninhabited island 7 miles off the coast of Sligo, with some incredible and rare archaeology. A boat ride around the Sligo coastline and its islands is a must. And if you love Yeats as much as I do, then you MUST to the Yeats tour of all his favorite spots and topics of of his poetry.

Donegal is where my family is from. So I’m biased. But this place is unbiasedly recognized as the most authentic and “old-world” county in The Republic. It is situated in the North, alongside the counties of Northern Ireland, but juxtaposed against the counties of Great Britain, it retains some of the most ancient and traditional Irish character you will find. I adore the Clanree Hotel in Letterkenny, Donegal for a traditional Irish experience. Donegal is also home to the Slieve League Cliffs (pictured here), and Glenveagh National Park which is a ridiculously stunning and dynamic drive. Pick up some traditional Irish music CDs for your car if you don’t have any yet when you visit Glenveagh Castle!

To summarize this incredible region, I have some Top Picks below:

Best off-the-beaten-path location: Belderrig, Mayo
Best authentic Irish food: McDonagh’s, Galway
Most Scenic locale: Dingle Peninsula, Kerry
Can’t Miss: Night life in Galway and Aran Islands (tie)
Best Stay: Bunratty Manor, Limerick
Best Tourist Trap: Bunratty Castle Medieval Dinner Theatre, Limerick

* I’m SO sorry that I have not visited Cork for long enough to give good recommendations. It is a wonderful town, and absolutely beautiful!

Thanks for reading!


Ring of Kerry

A Guide to Ireland: Dublin

In the few years since I’ve returned from Ireland, I have written many an email to my wise friends and friends-of-friends traveling to Ireland, my home-away-from-from. This first installment is a guide to Dublin, the 2nd installment will be a Guide to the Republic, the 26 counties in the southern and western parts of the island, all of which I managed to visit. and tomorrow, you can look for my Guide to Northern Ireland, the 6 counties that remained part of Great Britain after the Irish war for Independence in 1921. DSCN0107 1

The first section of my guide focuses on Dublin, where I lived during my Masters Program at University College of Dublin. The next part I will publish focuses more on archaeological sites and landscapes around Dublin, and the last couple sections focus on the southern counties and western counties, where I did a lot of my field work and research. And tomorrow, I will publish Northern Ireland.

I hope this is helpful in planning your next trio to Ireland, and if you weren’t planning on vacationing there, perhaps it can be your inspiration. Ireland is both affordable and manageable for a week-long or month-long trip. And its natural beauty is equally rugged and breathtaking. Feel free to comment below if you have visited Ireland and have additional recommendations for travelers!

City Center
– Recommend staying here, so you can easily walk to all of the following destinationsGrafton Street for shopping and people-watching and dinner al-fresco.
Recommend: Fallon & Byrne on Exchequer for lunch and/or provisions, Bewley’s for breakfast,    and al fresco dining  at Coppinger Row and The Bailey.
Nearby, is Dawson Street where  you can find Hodges & Figgis Bookstore from Ulysses/ James Joyce fame
My favorite stop in this area is the National Museum of Ireland– archaeology on Kildare st. which houses bog bodies, bronze age hoards, viking ships, early bibles, and the Tara Brooch, of course.
You can also easily get to the National Gallery, which is also free and delightful. You access the Gallery from Nassau st. which runs by Trinity College. Walk through the quad at Trinity and pay a small fee to visit their famous library and the Book of Kells. Worth it! St. Stephen’s Green is also a beautiful stroll, but I prefer Merrion Square Park, where you will find artists selling photographs and paintings next to a memorial to Oscar Wilde (one of my favorites).
A short walk from this very central area is Dame St. which is another favorite spot of mine. It’s here that you’ll find the incredible Dublin Castle that dates to Viking times and the seasonal market on Cow’s Lane, which is the ancient trading post, dating back before Viking times to, you guessed it, The Neolithic!!! You have to stop in Queen of Tarts while you’re there or grab a pint in the back alleys, popularly referred to as Temple Bar. 
Continuing down Dame St. you pass Christ Church Cathedral and are well on your way to the Guinness Factory, which I highly recommend. This is a well-done brewery tour with an epic view at the Sky Bar at the end. Don’t miss it. Another can’t miss in Dublin is Phoenix Park- the largest city park in Europe. It is incredibly beautiful, especially in the mornings, and has been populated, hunted, and in use since (at least) the Neolithic, 5,000 years ago. You also have to walk along the River Liffey and visit O’Connell Street for awesome shopping at Zara, Penney’s, and Dunnes Stores, to name a few. There are some great dinner options here around Bachelor’s Walk. I could go on and on about Dublin, so I’m just going to sum up below with a few “favorites” so we can move on to the rest of Ireland!

Favorite Irish breakfast: Bliss Cafe, hidden away on Montague Ln. Alley off Harcourt. It’s 6 euro for a Full Irish including Coffee or tea.
Favorite place to be with locals: Ranelagh,
just take the LUAS (lightrail) 2 stops from City Center
Favorite Car Rental: Budget Rental, lower Drumcondra Rd. Walkable to city center & right on the N2.
Favorite Hike: Howth Coastal Hike
Favorite Bar with Traditional Music: The Temple Bar, Beer Garden
Best Nightlife: Dicey’s Garden, Harcourt Street

Best Shopping: Cow’s Lane
Favorite Tourist Trap: The Hop on, Hop off Bus takes you to all the places I listed above, so if you don’t like walking 5-10 miles a day like I do, then it is a GREAT deal.
Absolutely Don’t Miss: Phoenix Park. Seriously, it’s off the beaten path so you might miss it. Don’t.
RENT-A-BIKE all over the city is a great way to see more!


Neolithic People: Orkney, Scotland

Aerial of modern farmland in Orkney

Aerial of modern farmland in Orkney (Nat Geo)

Paleolithic People get so much publicity in our modern world, so I want to tell you a little bit about the people I study: the first sustainable farmers, the Master Builders, the spiritually connected  Neolithic People of The British Isles. I went to graduate school in Ireland, so the majority of my knowledge and thus “archaeology” posts will focus on The British Isles. Long before the Egyptian Pyramids, and even before Stonehenge, around 3200 B.C.E, the farmers and herdsmen on the Orkney Islands built one of the most complete and comfortable Neolithic villages that remains today. This landscape is as fascinating as it is breathtaking, and surprisingly remote, yet within trade distance of the Scottish mainland, Norway, The Shetlands, and Ireland. Today, sheep graze where multiple Neolithic sites are scattered across a group of islands that once formed the spiritual and cultural center of Neolithic Britain.

The (largely sandstone) sites in Orkney form a larger complex, one that is sophisticated enough to make us seriously question the modern perception that cities began in and grew out of the fertile crescent, what we now call the “Middle East.” Neolithic Orcadians not only had the time to build massive stone monuments and houses, but were also some of the earliest farmers to manure their fields and import cattle and sheep, not native to the islands, but still there today. From what we can tell, archaeologically, these Neolithic people used only stone tools, which might explain why their culture became ‘obsolete’ when bronze  tools (later replaced by iron) reaches the British Isles.  It’s hard to know why, but we can tell that they ceremoniously and permanently abandoned their site at this time. Offerings of the bones of over 400 cattle and unslaughtered red deer lay untouched in the temple for for over 4000 years, and the system of buildings and monuments was covered with rubble. Did these Neolithic people do this to their own site? Did a conquering group do it?

It was hard for me to choose my concentration as an archaeology student because I love all history. I chose prehistory, and eventually the end of prehistory (the Neolithic), because of the mystery that surrounds these people that don’t have documented “histories” or use formal writing. We may never know the exact truth, but we do know that, like all people in history, they DID travel great distances, meet foreigners, and exchange ideas. They DID have incredibly sophisticated art, architecture, and religious and spiritual beliefs, and they DID incorporate sophisticated technologies and herbal medicines into their everyday lives, including those that allowed them to become the master farmers and builders we see left behind in remnants such as these.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands. 1000 years older than Stonehenge.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands. 1000 years older than Stonehenge (Nat Geo)





I’m so happy to be writing my first post on the Full Moon in Taurus. “A full moon in Taurus also coaxes us to shed the layers of our old selves, allowing the illumined authentic self to finally, truly emerge. Many of us have experienced the intensity of recent cosmic shifts, so it’s time to release the perpetual grip we still have on what no longer serves us, for good.”

Now that’s a sentiment that I can surely get behind. RELEASE the perpetual grip YOU STILL HAVE on what NO LONGER SERVES YOU. After this full moon begins to wane,the tight grip that I’ve had on all the things that do not serve the person I am becoming will loosen. I will let go. Why wait until New Year’s! I’m making a list of all the things that no longer serve me:

1.) Past hurts
2.) Unreasonable Grief
3.) Complacency in my job
4.) Processed food and harmful  “cheats” I haven’t fully let go of
5.) Excess alcohol
6.) Ever believing that I don’t deserve to be totally. joyful.
7.) Waiting until tomorrow….