Research Article

Director’s Report 2014–2015

  • Sue Hamilton orcid logo (UCL Institute of Archaeology, London WC1H 0PY, United Kingdom)

How to Cite: Hamilton, S. (2015). Director’s Report 2014–2015. Archaeology International, 18(1).

Rights: Copyright: © 2015 The Author(s)



Published on
23 Nov 2015
Peer Reviewed

As incoming Director I would like to begin by thanking Professor Stephen Shennan for his immense contribution to, and leadership of the Institute as Director for the past nine years. During his service Stephen not only kept us on a steady keel, but importantly maintained Institute staff numbers and our breadth of global coverage in World Archaeology, Archaeological Science, and Heritage and Museum Studies. In particular during this period the Institute attracted a large number of post doctoral researchers, and generated the impressive research environment that has been confirmed by our recent success in the evaluation of research in the national Research Excellence Framework (REF) (see below).

Before reviewing the 2014/15 year, I would like to record with sadness the death of Sheppard Frere CBE, FBA, who died in February 2015 at the age of 98. Considered a giant of Roman Archaeology, he taught the subject at the Institute from 1955–1967, first as Lecturer and subsequently as Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Provinces. Those connected with the Institute in the 1950s and ‘60s will remember him well. A detailed obituary is available at

In reviewing this past year it is a pleasure to record the senior promotions effective from October 2014: Paul Basu – Professor of Anthropology and Cultural Heritage; Andrew Bevan – Professor of Spatial and Comparative Archaeology; Andrew Garrard – Reader in Early Prehistory; Louise Martin – Reader in Zooarchaeology; Richard Bussmann – Senior Lecturer, and Rachael Sparks – Senior Lecturer.

During 2014/15 we have also appointed several new members of staff. Corisande Fenwick brings to the Institute her project Building God’s Empire in the New Roman West, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and from 2016/17 Corisande will take up the post of Lecturer in the Archaeology of the Mediterranean. Her expertise in Roman, Late Antique & Islamic archaeology in North Africa and Mediterranean significantly adds to and extends the reach of our Mediterranean archaeology coverage into the Islamic world. Rhiannon Stevens joined us, bringing her European Research Council (ERC) funded project entitled UP-North – Colonisation and cultural diversification in northern Europe during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. The project explores relationships between climate change and human behaviour during the last deglaciation, specifically, the recolonisation of northern Europe that occurred during this period of rapid climate change and instability. Hazel Reade joined as UP-North’s Research Associate and additional researchers will be appointed. Importantly, the UP-North project enables the Institute to develop and extend its capacity to undertake isotope analysis and research. Following the retirement of Kevin Reeves after many years long service, Tom Gregory joined us as our Scanning Electron Microscopy and X-ray Microanalysis Technician, thus supporting another significant area of Institute research on archaeological materials.

The Institute has continued to maintain its thriving post doctoral research community and currently has the following numbers of postdoctoral researchers: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) -funded project researchers: 4; ERC-funded project researchers: 11; Leverhulme Trust-funded project researchers: 4; Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded project researchers: 3; European Union FP7-funded collaborative project researcher: 1; British Academy Postdoctoral Fellows: 2; Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow: 1; Marie Curie Fellows: 3.

We have had some changes to our permanent staff. Cyprian Broodbank has now left to take up the Disney Chair at Cambridge (as announced in the last Director’s Report), and Paul Basu has left to take up a professorial post at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Harriet White has left her post as Technician in Archaeomaterials Preparation and Analysis to go to the British Museum and Emily Garland has left her part-time post in the general office to take up another position in UCL After almost 40 years of continuous service, Barbara Brown (Departmental Manager) has decided to take flexible retirement and from October will work two days a week for our commercial Field Unit, Archaeology South-East (Fig. 1) Barbara has supported and assisted five Directors in the day-to-day running of the Institute. She has made an enormous contribution to both the Institute and UCL over the years, and has seen huge changes in university administration, employment law and management styles. But her character is such that she has always embraced change with enthusiasm and a ‘can do’ attitude.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Barbara Brown (Photo Lisa Daniel).

We have again featured strongly in the Provost’s Teaching Awards. Both Sarah Dhanjal and Andrew Reid received Individual Teaching Awards. Likewise we had a strong showing in UCLU Student Choice Awards, where a total of 36 of our staff were nominated (representing 20% of all nominations). Of these the following gained awards: Outstanding Teaching – Tim Williams, and Carmen Vida; Outstanding Personal Support – Judy Medrington; Outstanding Researcher Development – Gabe Moshenska and Paul Basu. We have won more teaching awards than any other department in UCL.

Moving on to student awards: Theresa O’Mahony (BA Archaeology, 2015) has been awarded the Professor Sir Malcolm Grant Scholarship to support her graduate study at the Institute; PhD student Emma Payne won the Bernd Breuckmann Award for 2014, which supports 3D scanning projects in the Arts and Cultural Heritage.

We take green issues very seriously and our Green Impact Team has won a UCL Green Impact Excellence Award for making our Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Laboratory more efficient. Tom Gregory and Sandra Bond managed the project. In addition, the Institute Library achieved a Green Impact Silver Award.

Several staff received prestigious external awards. Elizabeth Pye has been awarded the 2015 Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) Conservation and Heritage Management Award for outstanding contributions to the field of objects conservation (Fig. 2). Jose Oliver has been awarded the Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) Distinguished Alumni Award (2015) by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) at Miami University (Ohio), where Jose did his undergraduate studies some 40 years ago. Finally, many congratulations go to Mike Parker Pearson who was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy. I am also pleased to congratulate our Honorary Staff on their receipt of awards: Elizabeth Baquedano (Honorary Senior Lecturer) was awarded the prestigious Ohtli Award by the Mexican Government for her contributions to Mexican culture; Roger Bland (Honorary Lecturer) was awarded a Royal Numismatic Society silver medal for 2014; and Henry Cleere (Honorary Visiting Professor), was this year awarded the ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) Gazzola Prize. We are also pleased to note that Institute alumna Kirsty Hayes (née Paton) was appointed UK Ambassador to Portugal in December 2014.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Elizabeth Pye speaking at the AIA Awards ceremony (Photo AIA).

The year has had several significant events. We had another highly successful World Archaeology Festival in June. It was co-ordinated by Ian Carroll, Charlotte Frearson, Andrew Reynolds and Kelly Trifiló and incorporated a wide range of activities organised by individual members of Institute staff (Fig. 3). Professor Lynn Meskell, University of Stanford, gave our prestigious Annual Lecture. Her talk was on UNESCO World Heritage: A New Global Order of Things. Professor Meskell looked at the recent developments and the significant implications of decisions taken by the World Heritage Committee in their implementation of the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Figure 3
Figure 3

World Archaeology Festival: Ulrike Sommer demonstrating fire-making to the 1st Brixton (Corpus Christi) Scout Group (Photo Lisa Daniel).

The exhibition, created by 2014/15 MA Museum Studies students, We Need to Talk: Connecting Through Technology is now on display for a year in the Institute’s A.G. Leventis Gallery of Cypriot and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology. It explores the technologies we have used to communicate with each other in different periods of time. The Institute Conference Award was won by Bill Sillar, Viviana Siveroni and Miguel Fuentes for Economics and Power in the Andes and the conference took place in June 2015. Papers were given by researchers working in the Andes who have been at the forefront of archaeological studies on how both the economic and ideological concerns influenced the development and deployment of ancient technologies.

Outside the Institute building, a notable event for our Centre for Applied Archaeology (CAA) has been the sucessful relocation of its Essex offices from Braintree to new offices in Witham.

Institute research and projects featured strongly in international conferences. Staff and students from the Institute and UCLQatar showcased the breadth of their research in archaeological sciences at the 40th International Symposium on Archaeometry in Los Angeles in May 2014, with UCL making up the largest cohort among the delegates. The diversity of Institute’s outstanding research was highlighted in the Society for American Archaeology’s 80th Annual Meeting held in San Francisco, California in April 2015, in various papers and posters as well as individual staff organising conference sessions. Institute staff and students were also major contributors to the Archaeometallurgy in Europe IV conference in Madrid In June 2015. Here, over 20 UCL staff and students (Institute and UCL Qatar) presented results of collaborative research on the production, exchange and use of metals across the world: from the Americas through the Aegean and Iran to China, from Iceland through Britain to the Iberian Peninsula. The Institute’s Early Glass Technology Research Network was well represented at the 20th Congress of the International Association for the History of Glass held in Fribourg, Switzerland in September 2015, with Ian Freestone delivering the keynote address. A list of conferences organised/hosted by the Institute in 2014–15 is available here:

The International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA), a joint association between the Institute and the School for Archaeology and Museology of Peking University, has had another fruitful year with its on-going events, lecture series, and co-research. In particular, the ICCHA co-hosted with our Peking University partners a conference on Dialogue of Civilizations: Comparing Multiple Centres of Early Civilisations of the World held in Beijing and co-sponsored by the National Geographical Society. Presentations were given in English or Chinese and brought together international experts from across China, from several European, Asian and American countries, and UCL, to present on recent research and varied perspectives on early civilizations across the Old World and Mesoamerica (see News Item in this issue).

We have had several large grant successes in 2014/15. Rodney Harrison as Principal Investigator (PI), with York/Exeter/Linnaeus University, has been awarded an AHRC Care for the Future grant of £1.6 million for Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage and was featured in the Times Higher. Jose Oliver received £330,000 from the Leverhulme Trust for The Cotua Island Entrepot: building a reflexive archaeology in the Orinoco basin. Stephen Shennan and Andrew Bevan were awarded Leverhulme Trust funding just short of £140,000 for their participation in the project Changing the face of the Mediterranean: land cover and population since the advent of farming (led by PI: Neil Roberts, University of Plymouth). Stephen Shennan, Mike Parker Pearson and Tim Kerig (now Cologne University) were awarded Leverhulme Trust funding for a research project on the Economics of Neolithic Mining in NW Europe which will commence in December 2015 and will analyse the evidence for stone quarrying and flint mining and the consumption of their products by early farming communities in Britain and North-west Europe over the period c.5300–2000 BC. Stephen Shennan also supported a successful Marie Curie Fellowship application on Life Histories of the Neolithic Transition. Andrew Bevan and Daniel Pett (British Museum) were awarded AHRC Follow on Funding for the MicroPasts programme of knowledge exchange activities. Matt Pope was successful in his application to the Jersey Tourist Board for La Cotte Regeneration Grant of ca. £170,000 (see Research Article in this issue).

£3,000 from the 75th Anniversary Fund was used to support Institute graduate students in fieldwork (variously in Argentina, Belize, New Zealand and Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania), to attend key international conferences and colloquia (Greece, Italy, Taiwan) and to fund radiocarbon dates relating to student research into iron production in the Angkorian Khmer kingdom, Cambodia.

We now have the REF 2014 results. The Institute received the top score of 100% 4* for the excellence of our research environment. Two thirds (66%) of our research outputs were rated in the 4* or 3* categories (world leading and internationally excellent) while nearly 50% of our research impact was deemed to be of 4* quality. The Institute was the largest submitting unit within UK academic archaeology and we submitted the largest volume of research that was deemed to be world-leading.

Our latest league table results are also good. The Institute was ranked first, for the fifth year in a row, in the Guardian University Guide 2016 out of the 43 institutions teaching archaeology in the UK, with a top score of 100/100 based on factors including student satisfaction with course, teaching and feedback and staff-student ratio. We also did well in the National Student Survey with significantly higher scores than the average for Archaeology nationwide being obtained under every heading.

Finally, in June we had an Awayday at Mary Ward House, just a stone’s throw from the Institute, where we had dedicated access to the facilities of the whole basement floor. Academic, research and support staff met to jointly discuss key issues for the Institute strategic planning for the future, particularly on Research, Teaching, Administrative Structures and Work-life balance (Fig. 4). We all benefited from this get-together and agreed that we hope to meet as an institution outside our building more regularly for ‘awayday’ discussions.

Figure 4
Figure 4

The Institute Awayday: showing, l-r, Tom Gregory, Marcos Martinon-Torres, Rhiannon Stevens and Yijie Zhuang tackling an ‘Awayday’ topic (Photo Lisa Daniel).