It is with a heavy heart that we learned of the tragic passing of our dear friend Dr Eileen Reilly MIAI. Eileen was Vice-Chair of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland from 2013 through to 2015.
Eileen was an environmental archaeologist and one of few who specialised in archaeoentomology – the analysis of insect remains in archaeological soils. A graduate of Archaeology and Geography at University College Dublin in 1992, Eileen completed an MSc in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy at Sheffield University in 1995. Eileen worked on a number of research and commercial excavation projects as an archaeoentomologist between 1995-2002, including The Lisheen Mine Archaeological Project, Temple Bar West and Corlea Bog, and participated in the INTAR 3 research project in Novgorod, Russia. Eileen joined the Department of Botany at Trinity College Dublin, to carry out her PhD research examining insect biodiversity and woodland history change due to natural and human-driven influences.
After completing her PhD in 2008, Eileen continued to enjoy working in both the research and commercial archaeological sectors, including high profile projects such as the multi-period wetland complex at Edercloon and the Early Medieval monastic site of Skellig Michael, as well as the EPA-funded project Extreme Weather, Climate and Natural Disasters in Ireland project, and the Discovery Programme’s Environmental Pilot Project.
Between 2011-2013, Eileen worked with the National Museum by analysing samples from the iconic Viking Age Fishamble Street site, one of the very few archaeoentomological studies of a major urban settlement in Europe, which fuelled her post-doctoral research project at UCD Archaeology, ‘Dirt, Dwellings and Culture: Reconstructing living conditions in early medieval Ireland and Northwestern Europe, AD600-1100’, funded by the Irish Research Council (2013-15). Eileen was recently appointed an Adjunct Research Fellow at UCD Archaeology and also taught there. Her book, “Living Conditions in Early Medieval Europe: A Case Study from Viking Age Fishamble Street, Dublin” is due to be published by Archaeopress later this year.
Eileen was a full member of the IAI. She contributed widely to the Institute and also co-authored the Institute’s ‘Environmental Sampling Guidelines for Archaeologists’ in 2007. Eileen and I joined the Board of the Institute of Archaeologists at the same time, in 2013, where she took up the post of Vice-Chair. She was an inspiring colleague and worked on a number of important projects for the Institute including coordinating the Working Group on Pay and Conditions for the Board and representing the Institute in meetings at Stormont with the then Northern Irish Minster for the Environment.
In 2014, Eileen led the Institute for nine months as Acting Chair during a difficult time of transition, whilst also overseeing the Institute’s three-year plan and recruiting new staff. She achieved all of this while managing her post-doctoral research and co-authoring the National Roads Authority’s (now Transport Infrastructure Ireland) environmental sampling guidelines, which were published in 2015. Eileen brought professionalism, integrity, compassion and kindness with her wherever she went. Having worked in both the research and the commercial worlds in a highly specialised sub-discipline, she had a unique understanding of the profession that made her an excellent leader for the Institute, despite enormous pressure and never having sought the role of Acting Chair. She was, in short, the best Chair that the IAI never had.
Our research areas meant that we rarely met beyond the IAI Board Room, but I always enjoyed bumping into her at international conferences in Glasgow and Dublin. At the European Association of Archaeologists Conference in Vilnius in 2016, she popped by to say hello – Eileen insisted she wasn’t attending the Conference, she was enjoying a holiday!
Eileen will be sorely missed by all who knew her. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Ronan, her daughter Áine, and her family.
Details of the funeral arrangements can be found here: https://rip.ie/death-
James Bonsall MIAI
Chairperson, Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland