Sheila Tierney

Project Title: ‘Genetic analysis of archaeological human remains from Sheila1Ballyhanna cemetery Co Donegal’

Student Name: Sheila Tierney              

Supervisor: Dr. Jeremy Bird

Funding Body: National Roads Authority



Archaeological test excavations carried out in 2003 in Ballyhanna on the outskirts of Ballyshannon, County Donegal resulted in the discovery of a ‘lost’ medieval cemetery and the ruined remains of a medieval church. Subsequent excavations over the course of 6 months in 2003/4 resulted in the full excavation of approximately 1286 human skeletons, in various states of preservation including a significant number of juveniles. This represents one of the largest assemblages of medieval human remains ever excavated in Ireland. The skeletal assemblages date from the 8th-17th century AD.

By conducting ancient DNA (aDNA) research on the Ballyhanna skeletal remains it is our hope that we will be able to extract and amplify ancient DNA and thus establish a simple method of sexing individuals in the skeletal assemblage, with specific interest in some of the many juvenile remains recovered, which may not be reliably sexed by conventional osteological methods. We also hope to extend this to further molecular analysis such as Mycobacterium Tuberculosis and Cystic Fibrosis detection.

Publications/Conferences attended:

  • Tierney, S., Bird, J. Biomolecular analysis of Ancient DNA from Ballyhanna, “Seanda Archaeological Magazine”, Issue 4, 2009.
  • Presented for Science week, 2009 at the Institute of Technology, Sligo, November 2009
  • Presented a Paper at the World Archaeological Congress 2008 conference held at University College Dublin, August 2008.
  • Presented a Paper for the National Roads Authority Monograph Series in the Gresham Hotel, Dublin, August 2007
  • Presented at the Flight of the Earls and Ballyhanna Commemoration on the 15th July 2007 for the Ballyhanna Research Project
  • Presented at Donegal County Museum for the Ballyhanna Research Project, Letterkenny, March 2007
  • Poster
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