Director’s Report 2015–2016

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

How to Cite: Hamilton, S. (2016). Director’s Report 2015–2016. Archaeology International, 19(1).

Rights: Copyright: © 2016 The Author(s)



Published on
12 Dec 2016
Peer Reviewed

We certainly have had a very busy, eventful and productive academic year (2015/16) at the Institute of Archaeology (IoA).


Firstly, the Institute was very pleased to announce the success of five staff members in UCL’s Senior Staff Promotions, effective from October 2016. These promotions, richly deserved, acknowledge staff research and teaching excellence in their respective fields. Rodney Harrison is promoted to Professor of Heritage Studies; Tim Williams is promoted to Reader in Silk Roads Archaeology; Gabriel Moshenska is promoted to Senior Lecturer; Yijie Zhuang is promoted to Senior Lecturer; and Matthew Pope is promoted to Principal Research Associate.

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 events. David Wengrow and colleagues won the Antiquity Prize for 2014 (awarded in 2015). The prize is awarded annually to the best contribution to the journal. The panel of judges chose the article entitled ‘Cultural convergence in the Neolithic of the Nile Valley: a prehistoric perspective on Egypt’s place in Africa’ as the winner. As part of the award the article will be made available on open access.

The European Research Council (ERC)-funded EUROEVOL project, led by Stephen Shennan, received a Shanghai Archaeology Forum Research Award for 2015. This award recognizes distinction achieved through innovative, creative, and rigorous works relating to the human past, which have generated new knowledge of particular relevance to the contemporary world.

Archaeology South-East’s Whitehawk Camp Community Archaeology Project was ‘highly commended’ in the Council for British Archaeology’s Marsh Archaeology Awards 2016. The Heritage Lottery funded project was run by the IoA Centre for Applied Archaeology in partnership with Royal Pavilion & Museums and Brighton & Hove Archaeological Society. It was managed by Hilary Orange and Jon Sygrave, with the involvement of Matt Pope and numerous members of Archaeology South-East staff.

The book ‘Stonehenge: Making sense of a prehistoric mystery’ by Mike Parker Pearson with Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas, Kate Welham, Peter Dunn, Adam Stanford, Irene de Luis and Catrina Appleby was ‘highly commended’ at this year’s British Archaeological Awards 2016 for ‘increasing our understanding of the past and introducing it to new audiences’.

The IoA received a UCL Green Impact Excellence Award for its Green Impact Team’s focus on making the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Laboratory more efficient. The project, managed by Tom Gregory and Sandra Bond, and in collaboration with UCL Estates, made improvements to metering and energy efficiency. In addition, the Institute of Archaeology Library was a Green Impact Silver Award winner this year.

Funding awards for new research

Several of our staff have had their outstanding international research recognized by funding awards. In our Archaeological Sciences Section, Dorian Fuller was awarded Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funding for a new project to investigate the impact of Asian rice production. This science-based project will compare the history of rice cultivation across the region and improve our understanding of how the development of rice agriculture relates to the long-term history of human societies in this region.

Amphora Profiling, a multi-application crowd-sourcing initiative developed and hosted as part of the MicroPasts Project was awarded the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) Digital Data Reuse Award 2015. The MicroPasts initiative, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is a collaboration between UCL IoA (with Andrew Bevan as Principal Investigator) and the British Museum. The app builds on the University of Southampton’s Roman Amphorae Archive and takes scanned line drawings of amphorae for the public to properly scale to allow the creation of clean (edge-matched) 2D vector polygons, which can be turned into 3D models.

In the IoA World Archaeology Section, Elizabeth Graham, together with Benjamin Vis (University of Kent, Canterbury), Christian Isendahl (University of Gothenburg) and Karsten Lambers (Leiden University), as part of the TruLife Research Network, (formed to face the challenges of increasing urbanisation), received an AHRC Research Networking Grant for 2016–18 entitled ‘Precolumbian Tropical Urban Life: Placing the past in designs for sustainable urban futures.’ Corisande Fenwick (Fig. 1) was awarded a 2016 British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award (BARSEA) for an engagement event and workshops entitled ‘Rethinking the (Early) Islamic State’. The initiative addresses the new and significant challenges facing those who study the archaeology and history of the Islamic world in the wake of the advance of the Islamic State group since 2011. Chiara Bonacchi, in collaboration with Durham University, has been awarded AHRC funding for the project ‘Iron Age and Roman Heritages: Exploring ancient identities in modern Britain’. This runs until 2019 and is divided into two interconnected sections – offline ethnography (based at Durham) and Chiara’s digital heritage (based at UCL).

Figure 1
Figure 1

Corisande Fenwick (Photo Lisa Daniel).

In the IoA Centre of Applied Archaeology, Paola Ponce (Archaeology South-East) in partnership with Andy Maxted, Curator of Archaeology at Brighton Museum and Dawn Cansfield, University of Winchester PhD student became the first winner of the Prehistoric Society’s new Collections Study Award. The project gained a further grant from the Art Fund’s Jonathan Ruffer Curational Grants Programme.

In the IoA Heritage Studies Section, the new joint Centre for Critical Heritage Studies, launched in April 2016 and based at University of Gothenburg (UGOT) and UCL IoA, won a c. €3.9million European grant to provide an international doctoral training programme. The network involves 21 Heritage and Museum Sector partner organizations, and includes a number of UCL-based researchers notably Beverley Butler, and Rodney Harrison (IoA Heritage Studies Section Head, and Principal Investigator) and Mike Rowlands (Co-ordinator).

Recognition by research bodies

Our staff have also gained prestigious recognition by major international institutional and research bodies. Rodney Harrison is one of three new Leadership Fellows, appointed by the AHRC, to focus on priority areas of design, heritage and modern languages, and to identify new and emerging trends in heritage research and to enable AHRC to respond to the latest developments in the field.

Stephen Shennan was invited to become a member of the prestigious International Scientific Advisory Board of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Stephen has been invited on the basis of his outstanding contribution to developing evolutionary approaches in archaeology.

IoA research students likewise have been successful in gaining awards and recognition through 2015/16. Laura Ware Adlington, PhD student, and a member of the IoA Early Glass Technology Research Network, won a prestigious travel award from The Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars. Laura’s work involves the analysis of medieval stained glass panels. PhD student Emma Payne was awarded a Fellowship at the Library of Congress, Washington DC as part of the AHRC’s International Placement Scheme (IPS). Her PhD research is on the condition, significance and conservation of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculptures. Jason Peters, received the Goodliff Award from the Huntingdonshire Local History Society to write a book on the ‘lost forest of Huntingdonshire’. The invitation follows from a lecture series Jason gave to various local history groups, which used his personal research at the University of Cambridge, and his current MPhil studies at UCL on adaptive continuity, pattern and process in the exploitation of woodland-pastures in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval England.

Institute student, Theresa O’Mahony, was invited to produce a fieldwork accessibility guide for UK directors of archaeological excavations and this has recently been published as a British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR) guide entitled Enabled Archaeology – Working with Disability (BAJR Guide 41). It outlines the case for making archaeological fieldwork accessible to all participants, whatever their current physical or mental circumstances.

Special events

Events have been held in specific recognition of honorary associates at the IoA. Honorary Professor, Andrew Burnett, was presented with a festschrift, Studies in Ancient Coinage in Honour of Andrew Burnett, at the International Numismatic Conference in Taormina, Sicily. Andrew completed his PhD at the IoA, supervised by Richard Reece (Emeritus Reader), who also contributed to the volume.

A celebratory tea was held in honour of Jane Hubert (Honorary Senior Research Associate) at the House of Lords on 22 January 2016 to mark her academic achievements in social anthropology and archaeology. Attending on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology, with which Jane has a long-standing association, were Beverley Butler, Dean Sully and Stephen Shennan. Beverley discussed Jane’s contributions in the field of cultural memory studies and Peter Stone (Newcastle University), talked about Jane’s important work (with Peter Ucko, former Director of the Institute) for the World Archaeological Congress, as well as her contributions to anthropology and archaeology.

Recognition of teaching and support

Congratulations to IoA staff who were yet again recognized for their outstanding contribution to the learning experience and success of UCL students, through UCLU Student Choice Teaching Awards 2016 which are run by UCL students. Rodney Harrison and Gabriel Moshenska received awards for Outstanding Personal Support , the category of award which celebrates excellence in student guidance and pastoral care. Thirty-six IoA staff were nominated, impressively representing just over 10% of all UCL nominations. Congratulations to Matt Pope (Fig. 2) who won a Provost’s Teaching Award for 2016. These awards celebrate excellence and leadership in teaching and learning across all UCL faculties and we are very proud that the IoA has won more of these awards than any other UCL department.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Matt Pope (Photo Lisa Daniel).

It is excellent to report that a number of Institute staff (Beverley Butler, Elizabeth Graham, Louise Martin, Ulrike Sommer) and PhD student/Teaching Assistant Leah Acheson Roberts were nominated for the Women at UCL: Presence and Absence project which marked International Women’s Day 2016. UCL staff and students were asked to nominate a woman at UCL who had inspired or encouraged them, or helped them to think differently about their work or study. In addition, Charlotte Frearson and Louise Martin held our own IoA Women’s International Day meeting with staff and students giving 5-minute talks, which was much enjoyed and very well attended.

International Conferences

Institute staff and students have maintained a strong profile in international conferences. The IoA’s Early Glass Technology Research Network was strongly represented at the 20th Congress of the International Association for the History of Glass held in Fribourg, Switzerland. This Research Network brings together researchers based around London who undertake research on ancient glass and aims to contribute to discussions of economic, social and historical aspects of past cultures.

The Institute was one of the sponsors of a millennial conference to commemorate the siege of London in 1016. The conference Aethelred II and Cnut the Great took place at both UCL and the University of Winchester in July 2016, and explored the relationship between Anglo-Saxon England and Scandinavia during the early eleventh century. The diversity of the Institute’s outstanding research and the extent of its collaborative links were displayed at the Society for American Archaeology’s 81st Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida in early April 2016.

A large delegation of staff and research students from the UCL Institute of Archaeology and UCL Qatar showcased their work at the 41st International Symposium on Archaeometry in Kalamata, Greece (May 2016). Around 30 contributions were presented by those currently at UCL, in addition to many more presented by past graduates of our MSc in the Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials. UCL made up the largest group from any single institution. The work presented typically combined fieldwork with scientific research at the Wolfson Archaeological Science Laboratories.

Lastly, our newly established UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies has been selected to host the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) Biennial International Conference in 2020. Rodney Harrison, outgoing Vice President of the Association will act as conference chair. The conference will be hosted in collaboration with the British Museum’s Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

The 2015/16 winner of the IoA Annual Conference Competition was ‘ Comparative Water Technologies and Management: Pathways to Social Complexity and Environmental Change organized by Yijie Zhuang and Mark Altaweel. The conference took place at UCL in April 2016 and brought scholars together from different disciplines, looking at water problems across time and the insights that technical developments in water technologies give to present day water issues.

‘New format’ Institute of Archaeology Annual Lecture

An important event in May 2016, that brought the whole Institute together, was the inaugural Gordon Childe Lecture and Advanced Seminar. These were given by James C. Scott (the Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, and Director of Agrarian Studies at Yale University) and his lecture was entitled ‘A Brief History of Flight from the State’ . (For more details please see the relevant news item in this issue.) The remit of the Gordon Childe Lecture is to take a broad view of its topic and make it interesting both to the general public and subject specialists. It is hoped that the eminence of the speakers will make this a well-known event within the archaeological community, and also significantly raise the profile of archaeology with audiences far beyond academia. The event is generously funded by a donor, to whom we are most grateful.

Delegations and official visits

It has been a pleasure through 2015/16 for the IoA to host a wide range of delegations and official visitors. 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. In March 2016 the Institute hosted a delegation from Gauhati University, Assam, India led by Dr Mridul Hazarika, Vice Chancellor of Gauhati University, and including representatives from several of the Unversity’s departments. Then, in May 2016 the Institute hosted a visit by descendants of the excavation teams of Igbo-Ukwu (southern Nigeria), one of West Africa’s most celebrated and enigmatic archaeological sites.

The IoA maintains strong contacts with Chinese Institutions. In July 2016 the Institute hosted a delegation from the School of Cultural Heritage, Northwest University (NWU), Xi’an, China to renew a Memorandum of Understanding between both institutions concerning exchange and collaboration in the fields of archaeology and cultural heritage, conservation and management. The NWU’s School of Cultural Heritage is one of the leading archaeological departments in China and leads research in Zhou/Qin/Han/Tang period archaeology, Silk Road Studies and Eurasian Archaeology Studies.

In August 2016, IoA and the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum Museum in Xi’an (China) held a Signing Ceremony and Reception at UCL to mark the renewal of our collaborative research agreement with representatives from UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences and high level representation from China. In tandem with this signing, forty leading international archaeologists, conservators, historians and sinologists met at UCL for an invitation-only symposium on Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum in Global Perspective (Fig. 3). The event, jointly organized by the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum and the IoA (led by Marcos Martinón-Torres and Andrew Bevan), and sponsored by the BBC and National Geographic, included presentations and discussion on numerous dimensions of the site, famous worldwide for the Terracotta Army and for its status as a World Heritage site. A special session was devoted to the ‘Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army’, project, a joint research initiative between the UCL IoA and the Museum of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum which included presentations by IoA’s Andrew Bevan, Xiuzhen Li, Marcos Martinón-Torres, Patrick Quinn and Thilo Rehren. The collaboration is generously sponsored by the British Academy and Rio Tinto, in addition to the partner institutions.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Poster advertising the symposium entitled ‘Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum in Global Perspective’ (Photo Lisa Daniel).

Exhibitions and public engagement

In 2015/16, IoA PhD students worked as Student Engagers on a new exhibition Stress: Approaches to the First World War which was open to the public and ran in UCL’s North Lodge on Gower Street from Oct–Nov 2015. The exhibition brought together a diverse collection of objects from UCL Collections to explore the theme of stress in the First World War.

In May 2016, an experiment led by IoA research student Barney Harris, was organized as part of the UCL Festival of Culture. The experiment focused on how prehistoric Britons managed to transport the huge bluestones of Stonehenge over one hundred miles from the Preseli Mountains in Wales to their final home on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. Barney, with a team of volunteers, found that mounting a large stone on a sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected (Fig. 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4

The stone dragging experiment in Gordon Square garden (Photo Adam Stanford/Aerial-Cam).

I would like to mention particularly IoA undergraduate student Janie Gammans, who received a 2015 Malcolm Grant UCL Scholarship. Janie gave an excellent speech at an event to start UCL Philanthropy Month on 1 February 2016, when UCL held its annual Scholarships and Bursaries Reception. This was a vibrant event during which over 500 people were invited to UCL to celebrate the generosity of its donors and the importance of philanthropy. Janie, has experienced more misfortune than most but has channelled this into her IoA studies with the help of her scholarship. As she put it eloquently: ‘Students should be students, they should be resolute in their studies without financial difficulty impeding what they aim for.

Deaths of alumni and former staff

Another year unfortunately and inevitably also brings its sadnesses. Institute staff, students, friends and colleagues were saddened to hear of deaths of several IoA alumni: Beatrice de Cardi, Juliet Clutton Brock, Nancy Sandars and Charles Thomas; and of two former members of staff: Don Brothwell and Sheppard Frere. Further details are given in the Obituaries item in this issue.

In addition, we must sadly report the death of Christine Wilson, IoA alumna and one of the authors/illustrators of ‘Drawing Archaeological Finds’ (Archetype Publications, 1990 and reprinted many times since), a staple textbook for many archaeological students in the UK and beyond.

It is also with great sadness that we report the death of one of our PhD students, Alice Berger who came to the IoA from the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University. Her Masters thesis on “Plant Economy and Ecology in Early Bronze Age Tel Bet Yerah” won the prestigious John Evans Postgraduate Prize, awarded by the Association for Environmental Archaeology, and her achievements were recognized by the further award of a UCL Overseas Research Scholarship and a Graduate Research Scholarship to support her PhD research. Alice’s supervisors collectively describe her as ‘a fiercely independent researcher of extraordinary capacity, breadth, and originality’.

The vital role of our professional support staff

The IoA is extremely fortunate in its highly committed Professional Support Staff, who have variously and collectively worked flat out through 2015/16 on financial and grant administration, HR, recruitment and academic administration, lab administration, buildings work, and hosting IoA events. Our retiring Departmental Manager, Barbara Brown, has been persuaded to take on the Financial Administration of the Centre of Applied Archaeology/Archaeology South East through this year, and we have a new Departmental Manager, David Bone, who I would particularly like to welcome to our department.

Concluding remarks: into the future

The 2015/16 academic year ended dramatically with the ‘Brexit’ result of the European Referendum. So, I want to finish by stating strongly that our EU and international staff and students are hugely valued by the IoA. They are a significant and integral part of what we are and of our academic standing. We consider them to be a very important part of our future, and the IoA and UCL intends to keep it that way.

The Institute has had many challenges, loss of friends and colleagues, new staff and student cohorts and enormous successes over the past year. Its building, custom built for us, and opened in 1957, has also had its changes. In 2015/16 we have had newly decorated stairwells and a refreshed foyer, and large poster cabinets in the stairwell advertising each of our Sections: Archaeological Sciences, Heritage Studies, World Archaeology, and the IoA UCL Centre for Applied Archaeology. We have a new Zooarchaeology Laboratory (led by Louise Martin) and a new Isotope Analysis Laboratory (for the UpNorth Team lead by Rhiannon Stevens). UCL’s campus in Bloomsbury is also undergoing major transformation and refurbishment all around us resulting in the IoA frontage being covered in protective hoardings that boldly advertise our academic profile. Now we have the construction (over the next 18 months) of a new UCL Student Centre directly opposite the IoA, in Gordon Street, which will provide another important facility for IoA students and UCL students as a whole, including 1000 extra study spaces, social spaces and a roof terrace.

We are a unique archaeology department in the UK, in terms of our size (e.g. c. 600 students), international breadth and global research, our London Bloomsbury location, our laboratories, and our Centre of Applied Archaeology (including its commercial arm, Archaeology South-East, with premises in Sussex and Essex). Our student profile is continuously developing, with a strong cohort of international students attracted to our rapidly growing Masters degrees, for example, in Heritage and Museums studies, Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology, and, unique in the UK, in the Archaeology and Heritage of Asia. Indeed, we currently offer some 28 different Masters programmes in addition to our undergraduate programmes, and we have a large cohort of PhD students.

I have no doubt that the years to follow will be exciting for all of us at the IoA.


  1. Further details of the news mentioned here can be found by searching the Institute’s web-site at