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19 May 2022  


Dr Elizabeth O'Brien

Dr Elizabeth O'Brien

Dr Elizabeth O'Brien

Dr Elizabeth O'Brien was awarded a Special Commendation Prize in the competition for the Irish Historical Research Prize for her publication, ‘Mapping Death: Burial in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Ireland’, published in 2020 by Four Courts Press.

I entered UCD as a mature student (in my 20’s) and I graduated with a BA (Archaeology, History, English) in 1971. In 1980 I completed my MA with a thesis entitled Pre-Norman Ecclesiastical Sites of the Half Barony of Rathdown (South County Dublin), which was later published in 1988 in KYMELIA ( Studies in Medieval Archaeology and History in Memory of Tom Delaney) Edited by Prof. Gearoid MacNiocaill & Dr. Pat Wallace.

I completed an M.Phil in Irish Studies (Archaeology and Early Irish History) in 1984, with a thesis entitled Late Prehistoric-Early Historic Ireland: The Burial Evidence Reviewed.

As I wished to expand my research to include burials outside of Ireland, I was encouraged to apply to Oxford University, where I was accepted as a Post-graduate student by Corpus Christi College. I spent four years at Oxford, and in 1996 was awarded a D.Phil, for my thesis Post Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England: The Burial Evidence Reviewed. My thesis included a study of historical Irish influences in the region during the seventh century conversion period. The thesis was published in 1999 in the BAR British Series 289. During 2007-2008 I lectured in Early Irish History: at Dept of New and Modern Irish, NUI Maynooth.

I have lectured on Early Medieval burial practices throughout Ireland and abroad, and I have published widely in academic journals at home and abroad. I have taken part in and directed excavations throughout Ireland.

The book Mapping Death: burial in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Ireland is the result of many years of research, which was assisted in no small way when Dr Edel Bhreathnach and myself were successful in obtaining a Heritage Council INSTAR grant in 2008. Until its completion in 2010, this project was based in the UCD Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute where I obtained a 3-year post-doctoral Research Fellowship. This enabled me to broaden my research and eventually to compile (with much appreciated assistance from colleagues) an on-line, fully searchable, database of burial sites and burials in Ireland under the title www.mappingdeathdb.ie. The database is currently housed in The Discovery Programme Ltd.

I am married to Eamon O’Brien, a Consulting Engineer (now retired) without whose patience, love and never-ending encouragement I could not have achieved anything. I live in Dundrum, Dublin. I have four children, and six grandchildren.