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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Durham is one of the leading Archaeology departments in Britain, with a world-wide reputation, built up over many years, for its programmes of innovative, high quality research in British, European, Mediterranean and Asian archaeology from the earliest periods to the industrial revolution; in science-based archaeology; and in archaeological methodology and theory. The many fields in which our research groups are national and international leaders include artefact conservation, glass studies, luminescence dating, mortuary archaeology and palaeopathology, numismatics, surface survey, theoretical approaches to prehistoric and historical archaeology, and zooarchaeology, as well the study of themes and periods such as the prehistory of central and eastern Europe, ways of becoming Roman and the archaeology of buildings. All Category A staff are research active and work together in one or more of four main groupings, each with a research agenda focused around fundamental questions in the discipline:

A. The science of people, environment and time (Albarella, Bailiff, Caple, Dobney, Huntley, Millard, Roberts, Rowley-Conwy, White). The group's research focuses on chronometry and environments relating to past societies; and on the specific characteristics of the people themselves, their economic status and their artefact production. The aim of developing new research capabilities in these areas and of applying these to key archaeological questions has been enhanced by appointments of specialists in ancient disease (Roberts) and early human settlement (White). Fundamental research undertaken during the review period encompasses areas such as DNA in ancient sorghum (Rowley-Conwy); environmental changes in northern Britain from the Pre-Roman to Viking periods (Huntley); bone diagenesis and modelling isotopic systems accessible through human and animal remains (Millard); investigating diagnostic criteria for disease and biocultural approaches to infection (Roberts); human behaviour and settlement in the British Palaeolithic (White); luminescence dating of Holocene sediments and ceramics from Africa and Iron Age Britain (Bailiff, Barnett); and digital imaging and chemical characterisation of the burial environment (Caple). Major current projects include the archaeology of pig domestication and husbandry (Albarella; Dobney; Rowley-Conwy), which has attracted substantial grants from the AHRB and the Wellcome Trust; hunter-gather land use and the origin of the Three Age chronological system (Rowley-Conwy); the origin and significance of Levallois technology (White); the use of tephra for dating (Huntley); disability and respiratory disease in past societies (Roberts); development of remote imaging systems for artefact analysis (Caple); and developed application of Bayesian statistics in dating and the detection of human migration using isotopic systems (Millard). Staff are involved in a range of collaborative laboratory and fieldwork projects in Britain and abroad, while initiatives in progress include forming a research centre for the history of medicine and disease linked to the newly established School for Health on the Stockton campus. The group attracts high levels of external funding from both British and EU sources, enabling state-of-the-art equipment and laboratory facilities to be maintained for research and for supporting new developments. Since her NERC post-doctoral fellowship ended, Barnett has continued to collaborate with Bailiff, exploring new techniques for dating pottery. New members of the group include Budd, who is currently working with Millard, Roberts and Lucy; and (from July 2001) Zakrzewski, who was recently awarded the University’s Addison Wheeler Fellowship (in multi-disciplinary competition) for her project on late Pleistocene to mid-Holocene population migration and social structuring in north Africa and the Levant. The group currently has 10 full-time and 4 part-time research students, with 1 writing up. 6 students were awarded higher degrees during the review period.

B. The emergence of complex societies in Europe and the Mediterranean area (Chapman, Díaz-Andreu, Harding, Philip, Skeates). This group is concerned with the time period from the earliest farming communities to the rise of state societies in the Old World. Recent research has focused on field survey, artefactual studies and art. New studies on the significance of artefacts in archaeology, notably the study of fragmentation and enchainment (Chapman); on rock art (Díaz-Andreu); on warfare (Harding); on the study of metals and stone in the Levant (Philip); and on the changing values of collected objects, and on settlement and social life in prehistoric Italy (Skeates) have all led to outstanding publications in the review period. New fieldwork is in hand or being planned in Bulgaria (Chapman), Romania (Harding), Spain (Díaz-Andreu), Syria (Philip) and Wales (Skeates), while post-excavation analysis of previous long-term projects by Chapman, Harding, and Philip will all be completed during the coming period. Recent, highly successful international conferences on ancient warfare, and on rock art and shamanism will be followed up by sessions at the European Association of Archaeologists and the World Archaeological Congress. A major theme that runs through the work of all members of the group is the way in which theoretically informed understanding of archaeological data can be used to elucidate the processes by which complex societies emerged in the Old World. Two affiliated researchers (Sanchez Romero, Wilkinson) have contributed significantly to the output of the group during the review period. The group currently has 5 full-time and 3 part-time research students, with another 4 writing up; 3 were awarded their degrees during the review period.

C. From late Antiquity to early Capitalism (Caple, Gerrard, Graves, Johnson, Kennet, Lucy). This group is characterised by its explicitly theoretical approach to historical archaeology in Europe and Asia. Its research focuses particularly on excavated and standing domestic architecture, settlement and landscape studies, mortuary and religious archaeology, and architectural and artefactual analysis (particularly sculpture and window glass). The group's research projects address such central issues as economy, trade and urban origins (Graves, Kennet, Caple); settlement continuity and change (Gerrard, Johnson, Lucy); and the origins of some of the great world religions (Graves, Kennet). Substantial new syntheses and studies of Anglo-Saxon burial practice (Lucy); Welsh and English medieval castles (Caple, Johnson); the history of medieval archaeology (Gerrard); and later medieval parish churches in England (Graves); have been published or are close to completion. Other current research themes include ethnicity and identity (Gerrard, Graves, Lucy), while the long-term research project on Anglo-Saxon sculpture has entered a new 5-year phase funded by the AHRB (Cramp). Staff are currently engaged in field research in Denmark (Lucy); England and Spain (Gerrard); and in an extensive site-interpretation project in Iraq (Kennet). Post-excavation research is proceeding on three other major projects in England, India and the Emirates for which fieldwork was completed in 1999-2000 (Gerrard, Kennet). Several affiliated researchers contribute to the output of the group (Cambridge, Cramp, Emery, Gutiérrez); Barnes (returned in East Asian Studies), who has been working on state formation in China, Korea and Japan, is an associate member. The group currently has 5 full-time and 3 part-time research students; 6 are writing up. 2 were awarded research degrees in the review period and 2 since January 2001.
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D. The Graeco-Roman world and its neighbours (Haselgrove, Hingley, Price, Willis, Wilson). This group has a particular reputation for its research on identity and social change in the Graeco-Roman world and the socio-political structure of Iron Age and native provincial societies, underpinned by its special expertise in coinage, glass and pottery studies. Research published during the review period has produced significant new understanding of later Iron Age coinages and their chronology in transalpine Europe (Haselgrove); the historiography of Roman archaeology (Hingley); glass assemblages in Greece, Italy and western Europe (Price); the role of material culture in Romanization processes (Willis); and religious life in Egypt during the Ptolemaic-Roman period (Wilson). Other foci of research include glass production in its social context (Price); early Christianity in the eastern Empire (Wilson); and the dynamics of rural and urban settlement, and interaction between the Roman world and specific peoples (Haselgrove, Hingley, Wilson, Willis). The latter themes are being examined through new fieldwork projects in England (Hingley, Willis), France and Scotland (Haselgrove), and Egypt (Wilson), following on from earlier research programmes that have now been published - or are in the final stages of writing up. The standing of the group is further enhanced by the output of three retired staff (Casey, Dobson, Todd) and of two other researchers based in the Department (Lowther, Swan). Others who have contributed significantly to the group's research since 1996 include two Leverhulme Research Fellows (James, Terrenato), both of whom completed major projects in Durham before moving to lecturing posts elsewhere; and two former staff (Bintliff, Millett). The group currently has 6 full-time and 4 part-time research students; 2 are writing up. 16 students were awarded research degrees in the review period and 2 more since January 2001.

The research of all four groupings is characterised and informed by a high level of interaction between them. Among our distinctive strengths, we would stress: (1) the fully integrated application of scientific techniques, cultural and environmental data, and documentary evidence; (2) the emphasis on developing new kinds of theoretical understanding and critical awareness; (3) the pursuit of fundamental research goals through long-term fieldwork and laboratory studies; and (4) the application of innovatory techniques and methodologies. These shared interests between individuals and groups contributed significantly to the high quality of our research output and other achievements during the review period.

In 1996, the Department moved to spacious new premises on the University Science Site, which were equipped to its own specifications, affording a first-class research environment for staff and research students. The Dawson Building houses state-of-the-art laboratory suites for Conservation and Materials analysis and Luminescence dating, as well as well-equipped research laboratories for Archaeological Geochemistry, Bioarchaeology, and Palaeopathology (both with excellent reference collections built up over many years). A suite of project rooms provide space for staff writing up fieldwork and working on other externally funded research projects, and there are excellent computing and GIS facilities. Two Research Centres associated with the Department (below) have their own facilities and additional rooms are available from the University on a term by term basis for visiting researchers. The postgraduates occupy a self-contained suite of three offices, with individual desks and shelves for each full-time student. Each office is equipped with a networked PC and printer, and students have access to fax and photocopying facilities and telephones, as well as to the Department Drawing Office, Photographic Laboratory and Computer Room. Lap-top PCs, and geophysical, surveying and coring equipment are available for postgraduate fieldwork and research visits.

The work of the department is supported by excellent holdings in the University Library, located next door to the Dawson Building. Each department receives an annual library allocation based on its QR income, ensuring first class coverage in all fields in which archaeology staff are active. With one million printed items in the Library and subscriptions to over 3200 periodicals, most of the material required for staff research is already available locally, but arrangements with the British Library Lending Division at Boston Spa ensure that extra items required by staff and research students (who receive an annual allowance for inter-library loans) are made available with minimal delay. Other major research facilities within 10 minutes’ walk of the department include the Dean and Chapter Library, and the University and Cathedral Museums. These unique collections are themselves a significant factor in attracting research students; recent theses which have made use of these resources include studies of the Medieval Durham mint (Allen); identity in urban vernacular architecture (Green); and post-Medieval glass (Willmott).

We attach great importance to the stimulation that a regular programme of conferences and workshops brings to research. The presence in the Dawson Building of a state-of-the-art lecture theatre seating up to 300 people and a smaller lecture theatre seating 120 as well as large and small seminar rooms enables all but the largest meetings to be held on the premises. Since 1996, staff have organised over 50 internationally attended events in Durham and elsewhere, ranging from specialist workshops with less than 50 participants to large conferences like the 1999 Roman Archaeology Conference, with an attendance of several hundred. Many of these meetings lead to significant publications (RA2): books in preparation from recent conferences held in Durham include volumes on Hunter-Gatherers, Iron Age coinage, Rock Art and Images of Rome. Forthcoming meetings include a symposium on the earlier Iron Age and the 2002 International Congress of Archaeozooologists. The Department has a regular programme of research seminars and public lectures, as well as more informal workshops and presentations by visiting academics from all over the globe. The postgraduates organise their own seminar series and research meetings, and are encouraged to present the results of their work at departmental seminars as part of the writing up process.

Our postgraduates continue to obtain their share of awards from bodies like AHRB and NERC as well as ORS awards, while one or more University studentships are generally awarded to the Department annually; these are allocated competitively, based on the applicants’ ability and the quality of their proposals. The vast majority of students now complete their PhD in under 4 years, a success rate which we attribute to our strong monitoring practices and programme of annual review panels. Postgraduates are often co-supervised by staff from more than one research group, emphasising the integrated nature of our approach. All research students are members of the Graduate School, which runs a general induction and training programme to supplement the detailed instruction given within the Department, as well as providing an over-arching structure for monitoring student progress. The University Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research in Higher Education has university-wide responsibility for academic staff development programmes, which include workshops on supervising research students, making grant applications, career planning for contract research staff, and writing up research for publication.

Collaboration with workers in other Durham departments further enhances research by providing access to complementary expertise and equipment. Examples are: Rowley-Conwy’s research on hunter-gatherers with Layton and Panter-Brick (Anthropology); Díaz-Andreu and Layton's work on rock art and shamanism; Philip's research with Allison and Donaghue (Geography) on palaeo-environments and satellite imagery respectively; Chapman’s work on isotopic sourcing of salt with Armstrong (Geology); and White's quaternary research programme with Bridgland (Geography). Links within the University and with other HE institutions in north-east England are further promoted by staff involvement in inter-disciplinary research centres, two of them based in the Department: the Centre for the Archaeology of Central and Eastern Europe (which primarily involves archaeologists from Durham and Newcastle), and the Centre for Roman Provincial Archaeology (which includes staff from Archaeology, Classics and Ancient History, and Palaeography, as well as many locally-based archaeologists). Both centres have their own regular programmes of meetings and seminars. Other centres with significant departmental input include the Centre for East Asian Archaeology; the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies; and the Environmental Research Centre. The centres play an important role in attracting visiting researchers and Research Fellows and in raising additional research funding. During the review period, the Department has hosted ten externally funded fellowships and two Visiting Professors from overseas (see RA6) and several new applications are under consideration for 2001. Other contributors to our research profile include our two Visiting Professors (Breeze, Mercer) and numerous Honorary Research Associates.

In line with the research strategy stated in our 1996 submission, our policy during the review period has been to consolidate our existing research specialisms, while investing selectively in new fields that offered additional possibilities for integrated research, providing these were areas that Durham was already strategically well placed to support. Since 1996, we have filled three lectureships vacated by departure or retirement, and created three new posts, bringing the core lecturing staff to 19. The post in Roman archaeology vacated by Millett's move to Southampton was filled by Hingley, who has similar research interests to his predecessor, but different perspectives. The post vacated by Bintliff's appointment to the Leiden Chair has been filled by Gerrard, who shares Bintliff's research interests in the history of archaeology, surface survey, and medieval Mediterranean societies, and with Hingley brings additional expertise in heritage management. Casey's retirement enabled us to appoint a specialist Egyptologist (Wilson), whose research interests in Ptolemaic-Roman religion and early Christianity complement those of other staff working in the eastern Mediterranean and in Asia. Egyptology and Coptic Studies were taught in the School of Oriental Studies until 1990, and the University Museums and Library are particularly well resourced in these areas.

The continued expansion of student numbers since 1996, especially postgraduates, has enabled us to make three entirely new lecturing appointments in fields which build strategically on our existing groups. The post in early hominid archaeology and lithic technology (White) complements our research on hunter-gatherers and chronometry as well as providing new links with the Department of Geography through the Environmental Research Centre, while the post in palaeopathology (Roberts) links in with work on ancient diet and body chemistry and burial environments. The third appointment in museum studies (Skeates) augments our existing research on prehistoric material culture and provides additional academic support for the University Museums following Brewster's promotion to the post of Keeper, as well as permitting recruitment for the MA in Museum and Artefact Studies to be significantly increased. This is one of the few courses of its kind in Britain to incorporate specialist training in artefact studies, an aspect of archaeology that a number of recent period research agendas have identified as being under threat for lack of trained postgraduates.

In 1997, the Society for South Asian Studies selected Durham as the best-founded department nationally to establish a new Research Fellowship, to which Kennet was appointed. His research interests in India and the Gulf, and Islamic archaeology provide a link between other members of the Department working in Egypt and the Levant and in historical archaeology, and the research on East Asia led by Professor Barnes. In January 2001, the South Asian Studies Fellowship was renewed for three further years, with increased lecturing duties, and will become part of our permanent lecturing establishment from 2004. In addition, following Todd's retirement, we have appointed a Research Fellow in Roman Archaeology until 2002 (Willis) in order to maintain our strength in this field until funding for a permanent lectureship becomes available.


Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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