Director’s Report 2017/2018

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

How to Cite: Hamilton, S. (2018). Director’s Report 2017/2018. Archaeology International, 21(1).

Rights: © 2018 The Author(s)



Published on
04 Dec 2018

Welcome to the Director’s Report for the Institute of Archaeology (IoA) and to Archaeology International for 2017/18. Archaeology International has a new organisational structure to oversee the content and format of the journal. This has been achieved with the creation of an Editorial Board, which includes the Co-Heads of each of our three IoA Sections (Archaeological Sciences, Heritage Studies, and World Archaeology) as members. This year Alice Stevenson, Senior Lecturer in Museums Studies, is the Editor, supported by Jennifer French (Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow) as regular Features Editor and Barney Harris (PhD student) as copyeditor and Secretary to the Editorial Board.

The IoA has had a very busy, eventful and productive academic year. The on-going refurbishment of our building and its facilities continues, this year with a complete rewiring. In particular, we have had major investments in the facilities of the archaeological sciences. The latest addition to the IoA Wolfson Archaeological Science Laboratories, is a Carl Zeiss EVO 25 scanning electron microscope (SEM), which became fully operational in June 2018 (Figure 1). This state of the art instrument was funded by laboratory earned income, Departmental and Faculty funds, and replaces an SEM which was well over a decade old. We also now have new optical microscopy and zooarchaeology laboratories.

Figure 1
Figure 1

The new scanning electron microscope in the Wolfson Archaeological Science Laboratories (Photo: Tom Gregory).

Promotions and New Academic Staff

Firstly, in reporting the year’s events, the Institute is very pleased to announce the success of Dr Patrick Quinn in UCL’s Senior Staff Promotions. Patrick is promoted to Principal Research Fellow, effective from October 2018.

Patrick was invited this summer to undertake a research trip to China as part of the collaborative ‘Imperial Logistics: the Making of the Terracotta Army’ project where he utilised non-invasive portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry on the terracotta warriors to examine geochemical compositional patterning (Figure 2) This may be indicative of the organisation of production behind the manufacture of the c. 7000 figures and in particular the existence of several workshops working in tandem on the project, which is suggested by the presence of stamps and other markings.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Principal Research Fellow Patrick Quinn in China working on one of the terracotta warriors (Photo: Patrick Quinn).

We warmly welcome Rachel King (Figure 3) to the Institute who joined us in September 2017 to take up a new Lecturer post in Cultural Heritage studies. Rachel has a research focus on the archaeologies of the recent and contemporary past in southern Africa, particularly in marginal environments. Her work addresses disorder, outlaws, resistance, and heritage through innovative methodological and theoretical frameworks.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Rachel King, Lecturer Cultural Heritage studies at the IoA (Photo: Rachel King).

This June also brought a sad goodbye to our esteemed colleague Marcos Martinón-Torres, Professor of Archaeological Science. Marcos has been at the Institute since he joined as an MSc student in 2000, so we have had a long history together. We wish him all success in moving to Cambridge to take up the George Pitt-Rivers Professorship of Archaeological Science.

Awards and recognition

IoA staff, honorary associates and students both individually, and for specific projects, have been recognized through an impressive array of awards and related indicators, including media interest.

Research by Institute of Archaeology PhD student Hayley Simon into how to protect and preserve the cannonballs found on Henry VIII’s flagship vessel, The Mary Rose, was selected for the cover of the May edition of Angewandte Chemie, the prestigious journal of the German Chemistry Society. This research has been made possible through a ground-breaking partnership between UCL, The Mary Rose and Diamond Light Source and the project has gained media interest this year.

Institute student Victoria Ziegler was awarded the Royal Archaeological Institute’s Master’s Dissertation Prize for 2016/2017. Victoria studied the MA in Archaeology at the Institute as a part-time student. Her dissertation was on the topic ‘From Wic to Burh: Comparing the archaeological evidence from the last phases of activity at mid Saxon sites within Lundenwic with the earliest phases of activity at late Saxon sites in Lundenburh.’

UCL researchers have been involved in an international study showing that the ancient population of Britain was almost completely replaced by newcomers around 4,500 years ago. This study was conducted by an international team of 144 archaeologists and geneticists from institutions in Europe and the United States. Research conducted at UCL was funded by the Wellcome Trust. It is the largest study of ancient human DNA ever conducted.

Andrew Gardner was invited to undertake a study visit at the Römisch-Germanische Kommission (RGK) in Frankfurt am Main this year to pursue research for his forthcoming book on ‘Roman Britain’. During his visit, Andrew gave a lecture entitled ‘A tale of two empires: Rome, Britain and Brexit’. The lecture included aspects of Andrew’s current research on the role of frontiers in the creation of imperial identities, relevant in both ancient and modern contexts, and which will be a major theme in his book.

Citrus fruit was being cultivated in India in the Late Neolithic period and in southern Thailand in the Iron Age , according to new findings by researchers at the Institute and Peking University, Beijing.

The results of collaborative research, involving Institute researcher Tomos Proffitt (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow), has forced us to rethink our cultural evolution. The discovery that chimps and some monkeys have a long history of making tools featured in New Scientist in January 2018.

Related collaborative research led by Tomos and involving researchers from the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok, Thailand) and Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), published in the Royal Society Open Science in March, highlighted how macaques appear to select stone tools based on the size and strength of their own body for efficiency (Figure 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4

IoA researcher Tomos Proffitt is part of a research team working on primate archaeology. Here, a male long tailed macaque is seen cracking oil palm nuts. (Photo: Lydia Luncz/The University of Oxford).

Funding awards for new research

Several of our staff have had their outstanding international research activities recognized by external funding and institutional awards and only a small selection may be mentioned here.

David Wengrow and Brenna Hassett have been awarded AHRC funding for their four-year collaborative project on ‘Radical Death and Early State Formation in the Ancient Near East’. Using new evidence from the Early Bronze Age graves of Başur Höyük, on the Upper Tigris, the project will examine how ritual killing was implicated in the political transformations of the third millennium BC. UCL’s partners on this project, which began in July, will include Suzanne Pilaar Birch of the University of Georgia, Athens; Ian Barnes and Selina Brace of the Natural History Museum; and Haluk Sağlamtimur of Ege University.

The Institute’s Centre for Applied Archaeology was awarded a grant of £831,300 from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, to survey wall paintings found in the historic temples of China’s Shanxi Province.

Philip Riris received a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship (3-years, due to start 1 Sept 2018) for his research project ‘Connected Communities: Network approaches to rock art in lowland South America’.

We also have three Marie Curie Fellows starting with us in Autumn 2018, for 2-year research projects:

Enora Gandon – ‘Individual Variations and Cultural Evolution: The pottery wheel-throwing skill as a case study’ (SKILL)

Maja Mise – ‘Economy of Pre-Roman Adriatic Communities: amphora production and trade patterns in a changing world’ (EPRAC)

Isabel Sanchez – ‘Urban Landscapes of Power in the Iberian Peninsula from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages’ (ULP.PILAEMA)

Gai Jorayev has received British Library Endangered Archives programme funding for his project ‘Digitisation and Advanced Analysis of Archives of the Khorezmian Archaeological-Ethnographic Expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR’.

Manuel Arroyo-Kalin has received a grant from the British Academy Sustainable Development Programme 2018 for a project on ‘Memorialising Ancestral Landscapes through Inter-Cultural Heritage Making in the Brazilian Northwest Amazon’.

Beverley Butler, Mike Rowlands, David Francis and Lisheng Zhang are collaborating on the project ‘Craft China: (Re)making ethnic heritage in China’s creative economy’ which received funding from the AHRC Thematic Call- Development Through the Creative Economy in China.

We have also had a number of small grants to support fieldwork and grants-in-kind for post-excavation analyses (Corisande Fenwick for research at Volubilis; Mike Parker Pearson for the ‘Welsh Origins of Stonehenge’ project as well as support for PhD student research on funerary diversity across the British Beaker period and Borja Legarra-Herrero for Spanish fieldwork as part of research into the socio-political impact of human cultural interaction in the Mediterranean).

We have also had a number of institutional funding success this year including Rachel King – ‘Dealing with damage across disciplines: Exploring collaborative approaches to heritage in conflict’ (UCL Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Fund) and Mark Altaweel – Modelling Strategic Decisions in Neo-Assyrian and Post-Neo-Assyrian Periods (UCL Global Engagement Funds).

Additionally, our recently-established Centre for Critical Heritage Studies (CCHS), a collaborative international, interdisciplinary research centre, jointly run between the University of Gothenburg and UCL has continued its Small Grants Scheme this year. Applications are invited from UCL academic staff or doctoral/postdoctoral researchers for projects that lead to, or support, collaborative research on critical heritage studies. In the most recent round, Gabriel Moshenska and collaborative partners were successful in receiving funding for a project to study and record the archaeological heritage of the Mau Mau Emergency, working with local community partners to generate a digital archive, a documentary film, and museum exhibitions in the UK and Kenya.

Recognition by research bodies and the discipline

Collaborative research on the terracotta army by Marcos Martinón-Torres, Andrew Bevan, Patrick Quinn and Janice Li has had its British Academy Project status renewed. The project ‘Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army’ seeks to understand the crafting methods and logistical organisation behind the creation of the famous Terracotta Army and the broader mausoleum constructed in the 3rd century BC for China’s first emperor. Research began in 2006 as a collaboration between the Institute of Archaeology and the Museum of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum, under the auspices of the International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA) and the Chinese Ministry of Culture. The research collaboration was renewed in 2016, the agreement being sanctioned by the Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The renewal of British Academy Project status (2017–2022), confirms institutional endorsement at the highest level in both China and the UK.

Matt Pope (Principal Research Associate) and colleagues’ ‘The Ice Age Island’ project on Jersey was nominated for Best Research Project of the Year in Current Archaeology’s Awards for 2018.

Special events

The Institute hosts and generates numerous events on many different aspects of archaeology and is linked to other heritage institutions, archaeological societies and organizations, providing an outstanding research environment for staff, students and visitors. A small selection of events over the past year are highlighted here.

Institute staff and students organised a special event on UN World Refugee Day (20th June 2018) to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees and displaced persons. The World Refugee Day event was organised by Beverley Butler, Reader in Cultural Heritage Studies at the Institute and also Heritage and Wellbeing Lead at the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies, as well as MA in Cultural Heritage placement students Haeree Shim and Andrea Potts.

A series of dialogues , aimed at considering archaeology as an original perspective from which we can look at the social, economic and cultural complexities of our society, was organised this year by Corinna Riva and Andrew Gardner, and hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute in London . Italian and British archaeologists met to discuss the traces of our past and its heritage and how we can approach them today, thus offering a deep-time view of our era and, vice-versa, a contemporary view on the mechanisms that shaped our history.

The 4th Annual UCL Lecture on Climate and Human History was held in February. The event was sponsored by the UCL Past Climates Group, Department of Geography and the Institute’s Archaeological Sciences Section. This year’s speaker was Jared Diamond (Department of Geography, UCLA) who gave a presentation entitled ‘Why did agriculture have different consequences in different world regions?’

The Institute of Archaeology Gordon Childe Lecture 2018 was given by Kristian Kristiansen (University of Gothenburg) (Figure 5) in February and was entitled ‘Towards a new European Prehistory – genetics, archaeology and language dispersals.’ See News section in this issue for further details.

Figure 5
Figure 5

Kristian Kristiansen, speaker at the annual Gordon Childe Lecture in February 2018, receiving the Graham Clark medal from the British Academy in 2016 (Photo: British Academy).

The Institute was co-organiser, with the High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in the UK and the University of Cyprus, of a special lecture which took place in London in February. Vasiliki Kassianidou, Director of the Archaeological Research Unit, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Cyprus gave a lecture entitled ‘In Cyprus where copper was first discovered…’ (Pliny, Natural History XXXIV.2-4) at the High Commission in London. The welcome address was given by High Commissioner Euripides L. Evriviades while the lecture was introduced by Marcos Martinón-Torres.

The 5th Annual Workshop on Maya Myths and Glyphs was held at the Institute in February. Maya Myths and Glyphs 2018 included an introductory public lecture given by Harri Kettunen (University of Helsinki) as well as two days of workshops. The theme this year was Yaxchilan and its inscriptions.

The 4th Islamic Archaeology Day, jointly hosted by SOAS and UCL at the Institute, took place in early February and involved presentations on the latest archaeological research across the Islamic world.

The conference Heritage, Decolonisation and the Field, co-organised by the AHRC Heritage Priority Area theme (led by AHRC Priority Area Leadership Fellow, Rodney Harrison), German Historical Institute of London/Max Weber Stiftung and the Institute was held in January.

Bruce Love (Former President, Mayas for Ancient Mayan & Curator, Contributions to Mesoamerican Studies) gave a special lecture at the Institute in December entitled ‘Unlocking Maya Hieroglyphs and how the English helped solve the mystery’.

Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University) gave the Professor Beno Rothenberg Memorial Lecture 2017 at the Institute in November entitled ‘King Solomon’s mines reconsidered: Recent discoveries of the Central Timna Valley Project’. The Beno Rothenberg Memorial Lecture is a high-profile event organised by the Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies (IAMS) to celebrate the memory of a true pioneer.

At the Curating Heads: Human Remains in Museums Round table in November, Alice Stevenson chaired a panel of museum professionals who have curated human remains and material culture around death and dying.

Chris Stringer gave a lecture organised by the Human Evolution@UCL network at the Institute in October.

James Graham-Campbell presented the 9th Annual Sir David Wilson Lecture in Medieval Studies in October on ‘The Galloway (2014) Viking hoard’, a collection of over 100 objects of gold and silver, and buried in the late 9th/early 10th century, apparently inside a timber building within a large (?ecclesiastical) enclosure. This lecture was the first event in the 2017/18 Institute of Archaeology/British Museum Medieval Seminar Series.

The UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies (CCHS) held its inaugural annual lecture in October, with UCL Emeritus Professor David Lowenthal in conversation.

In November Tristram Hunt, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, delivered the first in a series of lectures for CCHS in 2017/18 on ‘The Victoria and Albert Museum: Embracing the Past, Preserving the Future’.

Recognition of teaching and support

Congratulations to those Institute staff who were recognised for their outstanding contribution to the learning experience and success of UCL students in the UCL Education (formerly Provost’s Teaching Awards) & UCLU Student Choice Teaching Awards 2018. As in previous years, Institute staff received a significant number of nominations for the latter awards with 27 being nominated across the various categories.

Institute winners included Mark Lake who received a UCL Education Award (Figure 6), Gabriel Moshenska who received a UCLU Student Choice Award for Exceptional Personal Tutoring and Iida Kayhko (MA Public Archaeology student) who received an award for Faculty Academic Rep of the Year.

Figure 6
Figure 6

Mark Lake receiving his UCL Education Award (Photo: K. Holst/UCL Communications).

Delegations and official visits

The scale of the Institute, and the diversity of its activities, facilitates sustainable links with an extensive network of collaborators in the UK and overseas.

Of special note is our MoU with Northwest University and this year our joint launch of The UCL Institute of Archaeology and Northwest University (NWU) International Research Centre for Silk Roads Archaeology & Heritage at a special event in Xian, China in April. See News section in this issue for further details.

Enhancing current connections with the British Museum

A number of collaborative workshops and other events were organised during the 2017/18 academic session by UCL and the British Museum as part of the project ‘UCL and the British Museum – Exploring and Enhancing Current Relationships’. This project, led by David Wengrow, funded by UCL’s Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Fund during 2017–18 offered opportunities for staff from both institutions to showcase existing collaborations and run workshops to explore future joint projects.

  • UCL and the British Museum in Africa and the Middle East: Current Projects, Future Agendas (UCL IoA, 25th May 2018)

  • Archaeological science of food and environment (British Museum, 31st May 2018)

  • Material Matters – Exploring Materials Analysis in the BM and UCL (UCL IoA, 12th June 2018)

  • What does the future hold for conservation? (UCL IoA, 18th June 2018)

Outreach and public engagement and the media

The Institute is strongly committed to a programme of public engagement activities, part of its mission being to play a major role in furthering the understanding of London’s archaeological and historical past and to provide archaeological opportunities of the highest quality to all, regardless of background.

AHRC Heritage Research and the AHRC-funded Heritage Futures research programme, both based at the Institute, were invited to act as content partners at this year’s FutureFest, held at London’s Tobacco Dock on 6–7th July 2018. Rodney Harrison, AHRC Heritage Priority Area Leadership Fellow and Principal Investigator on the Heritage Futures research programme, worked with Nesta (festival host) during the year to develop two panels for the festival, both of which he chaired.

The European Commission-funded collaborative BigPicnic Project, involving Theano Moussouri at the Institute, undertook a large-scale survey during the year to explore motivation in food choices. The BigPicnic survey will look at what motivates people across Europe and beyond to choose the food they eat. This will help in the development of recommendations to shape the future of research and innovation in areas related to food and food security.

The Institute’s annual World Archaeology Festival event took place this year on Saturday 9 June. The World Archaeology Festival formed part of the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology Fringe 2018. The UCL Festival of Culture also took place at this time (4th-8th June).

The Institute’s new student exhibition, ‘Defying Death: A Human Journey Through Medicine’, opened to the public in May 2018. The temporary exhibition created by MA Museum Studies students will be displayed in the A.G. Leventis Gallery of Cypriot and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology until April 2019. The exhibition showcases how humanity has used medicine to extend life and defy death throughout time. A variety of ways to defy death are explored including complementary, religious, social, surgical and technological approaches.

The work of CITiZAN (the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network) featured in the new series of ‘Britain at Low Tide’ this year which began broadcasting in February. This second series of ‘Britain at Low Tide’ continues to have strong UCL connections. The presenter, Tori Herridge and the featured archaeologists, Oliver Hutchinson and Charlotte Mecklenburg are all UCL alumni while Gustav Milne, the CITiZAN Project Leader, is currently an Honorary Senior Lecturer. A third series was filmed this summer.

Clare Balding joined the Institute’s Charlotte Frearson (Figure 7) and her dog, Indy, on their daily walk to work as part of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Ramblings’ series with a focus on urban ramblings on 8th March.

Figure 7
Figure 7

The IoA’s Charlotte Frearson and Indy with Clare Balding (Photo: Charlotte Frearson/Lisa Daniel).

Andrew Reid was interviewed by the New York Times in March about the proposed plans for the repatriation of African artifacts held in French museums.

Archaeology South-East (ASE) uncovered human remains dating to the 11th century during excavation work on the South Downs, with the body showing signs of a traumatic death, which gained some media interest during the year.

Mike Parker Pearson led a team of experts protesting against plans for a road tunnel past Stonehenge, arguing it would damage the integrity of the World Heritage Site.

David Wengrow, and co-author David Graeber, suggested a re-think is needed about the course of human history in an essay for the leading cultural magazine, Eurozine (March 2018).

Dorian Fuller and colleagues discovered that sorghum was domesticated from its wild ancestor more than 5,000 years ago.

The Institute also featured on the UCL news site

Rock engravings located in Western Venezuela were mapped in unprecedented detail by Philip Riris.

Why was Stonehenge built? (Mike Parker Pearson and Barney Harris)

Oldest known waterway system is discovered in China (Yijie Zhuang)

Finally, some recent news from our IoA website:

Collaborative research involving UCL archaeologists has uncovered the oldest direct evidence of bread found to date, predating the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years:

Research in Turkey’s southeastern Siirt province has revealed the 5,000 year old story of eight young people who were buried as ‘retainers’:

Open days and evenings

The Institute hosted a virtual open day for prospective students on 24th May 2018. Archaeology is a very broad subject that combines arts, humanities and sciences and is great for developing a mixture of academic and practical skills while an archaeology degree can open doors to all kinds of careers.

Graduate Open Evenings were also held during the year while the Institute also exhibited at this year’s Society for American Archaeology’s Annual Meeting in Washington DC (11–15th April 2018), providing another opportunity for students to make contact with the Institute’s Graduate Admissions and Research Student Administrator as well as academic and research staff.

The 2nd Annual University Archaeology Day was held on Saturday 23rd June 2018 at The British Museum in London. This free event is designed for prospective students, teachers and parents to learn about the many archaeology degree programmes on offer across the UK, to discover the huge range of career opportunities that an archaeology degree can lead to, and to hear about some of the latest archaeological research. UCL archaeologists worked with experts from 24 other universities to create the UK’s first University Archaeology Day in 2017, aimed at inspiring a much-needed next generation of archaeologists. In an article for Current Archaeology, Charlotte Frearson, Jennifer French, and Andrew Gardner discussed why prospective undergraduates should give the discipline serious consideration.

Prestigious lectures and conferences

José Oliver was invited to present his research on ancient Caribbean migrations as part of Tulane University’s Anthropology Colloquium Series in April.

Stephen Shennan was invited to give two special lectures at Korean universities in April relating to his newly-published research on the first farmers of Europe.

Ian Freestone was invited to present the 2018 Mark and Ismene Fitch Laboratory Lecture at the British School at Athens (14th May). Ian’s lecture which was entitled ‘‘The long ‘Roman’ glass industry’’ – Scientific Evidence gave an overview of current understanding of the Roman glass industry, based upon his long experience of working on the materials analysis of early glass.

The Institute and International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA) were co-organisers of an international conference held in China in April. The purpose of the ‘Materialising Empires in Ancient Rome and Han China’ conference, hosted by Peking University and held over three days, was to develop comparative discussions of the archaeologies of the Roman and early Chinese empires, by bringing together specialists in the archaeology and material culture of both traditions. This was organised and led on the Institute side by Jeremy Tanner. The conference was accompanied by an exhibition of ‘Uncovering Empire: Roman Archaeology at UCL Institute of Archaeology’ at the prestigious PKU Sackler Gallery:

The Institute’s outstanding research and the extent of its collaborative links were again highlighted at the Society for American Archaeology’s 83rd Annual Meeting, held in Washington DC in April.

Alumni and former staff

Another year unfortunately and inevitably also brings with it great sadness. Institute staff, students, friends and colleagues were saddened to hear of deaths of several IoA alumni and friends:

  • Jo Cutler

  • Ian Glover

  • Gordon Hillman

  • Alison Weisskopf

  • Henry Cleere

Further details are given in the Obituaries section in this issue.

Concluding remarks: into the future

It has been a great pleasure to map a further year of the varied and dynamic life and output of the Institute. I could do no better than quote the acknowledgement of Stephen Shennan in his recently published seminal book The First Farmers of Europe: An Evolutionary Perspective (see Bookshelf section, this issue) in which he writes ‘The Institute provides the best possible open-minded stimulating and congenial community for archaeological teaching and research…’ (Shennan 2018: xvii). This is indeed exactly what the Institute is and what we have every care and ambition to continue to be. Over the past several years the Institute has transformed its scope and role in Heritage Studies, heavily invested in Archaeological Sciences to further its capacity and outstanding research in bioarchaeology and materials science, while its World Archaeology section encompasses work on the big issues of what it is to be human on a global, comparative, scale. Our Bloomsbury location positions us in a remarkable London knowledge quarter that stretches from the Francis Crick Institute and the British Library through UCL libraries and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology to the British Museum. It is our vision to yet further build on our research and teaching contacts with London’s great heritage and science institutions, all of which is exemplified in the Institute’s activities of the past year.