Raftery, Barry (1944–2010), archaeologist, was born in Dublin on 16 August 1944, the younger of two sons of Joseph Raftery (qv) and his wife Charlotte Raftery (née Lang), who was German. His father was an archaeologist, keeper of Irish antiquities in the NMI, and his sons helped on archaeological digs, notably at Lough Gara in Sligo, during school summer holidays. After attending Belvedere College, Barry graduated BA in archaeology and geography (1965) and MA (1967) at UCD. He taught part-time in UCD from that year, and then held a scholarship (1968–71) that enabled him (like his father before him) to study in Marburg, Germany. In 1970 he was appointed assistant lecturer in the department of archaeology in UCD, and became associate professor in 1993. Awarded a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt fellowship, he returned to Marburg, where he undertook research in the important Celtic collections (1981–3). He was O'Donnell fellow in Celtic studies in Oxford University (1988–9), visiting professor of European prehistory in Ludwig-Maximilian Universität in Munich (1988–90), and visiting professor in Kiel (1991) and in the University of Vienna (1997). In 1996 he was offered the post of professor of prehistoric and early historic archaeology in Marburg, but opted instead to take up the chair of Celtic archaeology in UCD.
Raftery early became one of Ireland's most important archaeologists, elucidating especially the hitherto problematic Iron Age. As a postgraduate student he helped excavate hill forts, particularly an important late Bronze Age multivallate site at Rathgall, Co. Wicklow, and in the 1970s published the first typological analyses of hill forts in Ireland. Hill forts remained one of his abiding interests, and he worked intermittently on Rathgall throughout his career. Raftery first published in 1967, aged just 22, and over the next forty years contributed more than one hundred articles to European journals and edited collections; some were in German, a language in which Raftery had near-native fluency.
His Ph.D. degree, awarded in 1977 by UCD, was based on research into the origins and chronology of various aspects of the Iron Age, later amplified into two seminal books, A catalogue of Iron Age antiquities (1983), which sets out to list and describe all artefacts then known, and La Tène in Ireland: problems of origin and chronology (1984). Four other books and several popular pamphlets followed; Pagan Celtic Ireland (1994) was particularly significant and, like all his work, was generally accessible for interested amateurs, as well as relevant to scholars in several different disciplines. He also jointly edited seven books with international colleagues, having made many contacts and friends in academic circles throughout the world. His ability to move easily across European contexts and within widely separated aspects of his subject ensured that he was able to elucidate connections and influences across the whole field of Celtic archaeology. Raftery was one of the organisers of a huge and unprecedented international exhibition on the Celts, in the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, and in June 1991 was the main interlocutor at the opening of an associated conference in Dublin. Throughout his career, he lectured in institutions across Europe.
As such a prolific author, and with such an international profile, Raftery was one of the best-known scholars of his time in Ireland, regularly appearing on radio and television programmes, and becoming increasingly associated in the public mind with one of the major interests of his career: ancient trackways found in Irish bogs. He excavated a uniquely large and well-preserved trackway, in a bog at Corlea, Co. Longford, over several seasons (1985–91), and published a report on his findings in 1996. By then the significance of what he found in Corlea was widely acknowledged, with new awareness of the importance of prehistoric bog trackways in palaeoenvironmental studies. His work led to important developments in the techniques of digging in wetlands and in preservation of artefacts from bogs. With international colleagues and European funding, he initiated and participated in postgraduate training programmes (1988–93), involving young archaeologists from several countries where such habitats survived, including Japan. The Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit was established in 1988. There was considerable community interest in discoveries made in Irish bogs, and Charles Haughey (qv) as taoiseach visited Corlea. When Raftery informed him that two million pounds would be needed to preserve, display and explain the site, Haughey loftily responded that this sum was 'a mere technicality', and a visitor centre was duly opened in 1994.
An article on Iron Age trackways in a Festschrift for Barry Raftery refers to Corlea as a 'Colossus of roads', but the play on words also suggests that Raftery, elsewhere described as a 'gentle giant' (Ir. Times, 26 August 2010), bestrode the archaeological scene. As head of the department in UCD, he led a programme of development and expansion of teaching and research, and was an inspiration for increased numbers of undergraduates and postgraduates. He worked at a national level to secure increased funding for, and awareness of, archaeological projects, especially as a member (1996–2000) and director (2000–05) of the council of the Discovery Programme. At the same time, he was an elected member (1996–9) of the executive board of the European Association of Archaeologists.
Raftery's commitment to his subject was honoured by the Royal Irish Academy, when it elected him a member in 1988. He gave in return a great deal of time to the academy: he was senior vice-president (1994–5), chairman of the National Committee for Archaeology (2000–04), and chairman of the committee for the publication of the Dublin excavations (2000–06). Other honours included membership of the German Archaeological Institute (1988), and election as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (1995). Relics of old decency (2009), an elaborate Festschrift in honour of his life's work, contained, as well as substantial scholarly contributions, many warm and appreciative comments from international and Irish colleagues. By then Raftery was very ill, and he died after a long illness on 22 August 2010, in St Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin. He was buried in Glenfarne, Co. Leitrim, where he had had a house for many years. He was survived by his wife Nuala and their two daughters. Nuala Sproule, from Derry, was an archaeology student when she and Barry met in UCD in the late 1960s; she assisted her husband with several excavations and was responsible for volume five in the series Irish field monuments, published in 1988.