<< Previous Page

Barry Raftery

1944 – 22nd August 2010

Appreciation by
Gabriel Cooney

Professor Barry Raftery (Professor Emeritus, Archaeology, University College Dublin) died peacefully at St Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, on Sunday August 22, 2010. Professor Raftery, who was 66, retired as Professor of Celtic Archaeology in the UCD School of Archaeology at the end of August 2007 after a long and internationally distinguished career. Barry had a major impact on archaeology in Ireland and at a European level. In Ireland he was recognised as the leading scholar on the archaeology of later prehistoric societies. His early postgraduate work was on hillforts and he published the first overview of the form and roles of this site type in Ireland. This also led to the excavation of the critically important hillfort site of Rathgall, Co. Wicklow in the 1970s which he was in the final stages of preparing for publication. His doctoral research was on the Irish Iron Age and this resulted in two major books; A catalogue of Irish Iron Age antiquities (1983) and La Tène in Ireland: problems of origin, development and chronology (1984). Barry always thought at a European level and he had a wide network of colleagues and friends across Europe. His recognition of the need to see early societies in Ireland in a European context was the foundation for his wider contribution to our understanding of later prehistoric societies in Europe and the study of the Celts. This is reflected in the major role that he played in the international Celtic exhibition in Venice in the early 1990s, the resulting large volume on The Celts (1991), of which he was an editor and his own landmark book on Pagan Celtic Ireland (1994).

From the mid 1980s Barry added a new dimension to his research and teaching through a programme of innovative research on wooden trackways and associated features in Irish raised bogs. This began with the excavation of a very large second-century BC trackway at Corlea, Co. Longford and then expanded to the direction of an extensive research programme of survey and excavation over several years. The results were published in 1996 as Trackway excavations in the Mountdillon Bogs, Co. Longford, 1985–91. This work led to the setting up of the Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit (1988). An interpretative centre has been built around part of the major trackway at Corlea that was the initial stimulus of this research programme.

During his time as Head of the then Department of Archaeology in UCD (1996–2001) Barry very successfully led a major programme of change and development in the department. In his leadership role at a national level he played a key role in the funding and development of archaeological research and led initiatives in critical areas. As a former student wrote in appreciation, Barry was an inspired teacher and communicator, always encouraging colleagues and students in developing their research and careers. His work and humanity will ensure that he will be always remembered and treasured.