Research projects in the Department
Our staff are engaged in a wide range of research projects, covering topics as diverse as prehistoric basketry and Medieval landscapes. Our research takes place around the world and the projects below are ordered by their geographic location. Each of these projects are related to the department's research themes.
The archaeology of Southwest England
Exeter provides an ideal base to study the archaeology of the southwest region. A number of research projects have focused on this region to gain a greater insight into our local history.
This project starts from the knowledge that climate change is probably the greatest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century.
A modern day boat builder is being challenged to recreate the oldest boat ever found in western Europe, dating to around 2000 BC.
This project was originally investigating the royal silver mines which were worked on the Devon bank of the Tamar between 1292 and the mid 16th century. However, geophysical survey revealed a previously unknown Roman fort which was subsequently studied.
This was a project to write up and disseminate the previously unpublished work (conducted by the M5 Research Committee in 1971) about the Romano-British port at Crandon Bridge, Somerset.
Detective work on a Grade II* listed country house and its gardens has begun as part of a two year research project between the University of Exeter and the Poltimore House Trust.
This project investigated the distinctive pottery wares of Devon and Cornwall in the prehistoric period and involved the analysis of fabrics and types.
A multi-period project that studied the pre-19th century exploitation of iron ore resources on Exmoor. Various sites were investigated using excavation, geochemical and geophysical surveys.
Exmoor has a distinctive pattern of settlement, significantly differing from other areas of England previously studied by researchers in this Department. This project investigated the reasons for the development of this characteristic pattern.
This project sought to reconstruct the medieval landscape and settlement of Meare, Somerset and the surrounding area in order to understand the importance of wetlands that are undervalued and drained in current times.
Using Devon as a case study, this project has assessed the extent of extractive industry in the medieval countryside, and its impact upon the historic landscape.
Survey, excavation and palaeoenvironmental analysis formed part of this research into the changing landscape of the North Somerset Levels, a large area of reclaimed wetland.
The rest of the UK
Focusing mostly on landscapes and wetland environments, our research projects around the United Kingdom contribute to our understanding of the prehistoric and historic use of these islands. These projects use a number of archaeological techniques such as excavation and survey and have included significant student involvement.
When facets on waterlogged wood from the Somerset Levels were identified as beaver gnaw-marks rather than the marks left by stone or metal blades, this project was started to study the effect that the beaver has on the landscape and the implications of this for past societies.
Medieval castles were not just military locations but were also the seats of powerful people who interacted with and influenced the landscapes in their local environs. This project studied the impact of castles and their lords on the landscapes and townscapes of England.
Professor Bradley took six Exeter students and eight American volunteers to participate in the excavation of the Bronze Age site of Ballyarnett, just north of L'Derry, Northern Ireland.
The ‘Fields of Britannia’ project uses a range of techniques to systematically explore for the first time how many British fieldscapes originated in the Roman period.
The investigation and publication of the medieval timber castle that stood at Hen Domen, Montgomery, Powys.
Sutton Common is an Iron Age double enclosure in South Yorkshire. This site was named a 'marsh fort' as it is similar to the classic Iron Age hill forts but situated in a low-lying, wetland location.
This project identified wetland sites at risk in the English landscape and provided guidance and training to those archaeologists and organisations that would be responsible for investigating and conserving them.
This project took a holistic approach to the study of the wetlands of the Humber River, including focuses on settlement, transportation, votive deposition and future conservation.
This project investigated the medieval defended town. These have generally has less attention from archaeologists than castles, but they can reveal much about the economic and social circumstances of urban populations.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has commissioned Stephen Rippon to study the landscape of the Stonebridge area where there are plans to enhance public access to the countryside.
This project investigates how England's wetlands have changed since 1950 and the state of the monuments endangered by modern exploitation of our wetlands.
This project explored the origins and development of rural settlements and the landscape in eleven parishes around Whittlewood, Northamptonshire.
This collaboration with Essex County Council Historic Environment Service and the RSPB was designed to inform the management of a new nature reserve in the South Essex Marshes and will hopefully provide a model for similar work elsewhere.
A little farther from home, our staff are involved in researching aspects of archaeology on the European continent from prehistory to the medieval period. The projects use a range of techniques such as aerial survey, experimental archaeology and excavation to uncover information about prehistoric and historic sites and regions.
This project uses a wealth of aerial reconnaissance data to investigate the social and landscape changes that occurred following the Roman conquest and colonisation of Dacia.
Doggerland, now a submerged landmass in the North Sea, was connected to the European continent before rising sea levels at the end of the Ice Age eventually flooded it. Archaeological finds by fishermen trawling the area revealed the archaeological potential for this area and this project was initated to reconstruct and interpret this former landscape.
This project was focused on the analysis of materials from the high-resolution excavations at the Solutrean site of Les Maitreaux, France. It involved experimental flintknapping workshops to test theories derived from the lithic analysis.
The site of Velim Skalka in the Czech Republic has unusual deposition of both animal and human bones, including deliberate fracture and cutting of human bones that was thought to be possible evidence of cannibalism. This project carried out a detailed analysis and comparison of both the human and animal bones to address this hypothesis.
One of the Department's research themes is “the Archaeology of the Americas”, so we have a number of projects from North, Central and South America. These projects range in time between the first occupation of the Americas to the study of identity in contemporary indigenous populations.
This interdisciplinary international project brings together a team of archaeologists, paleoethnobotanists, soil scientists and biologists to investigate the development of late pre-Hispanic raised field agriculture in the seasonally flooded coastal savannas of French Guiana.
Gault is an extraordinary multi-period site in central Texas. Professor Bruce Bradley has been working closely with this project for many years, including taking students from Exeter to excavate the Archaic, Clovis and even pre-Clovis deposits.
This project developed an international research network to discuss the processes of indigenous re-emergence around cultural heritage that are currently underway in South America and other areas of the world.
The Mitchell Indian Village, South Dakota is an extensive settlement dating to around AD 1000.
Archaeological evidence from the Bolivian Amazon suggests that pre-Conquest Amazonia was not a pristine wilderness, as commonly thought, but was instead a densely populated and managed cultural landscape.
Sacred places and funerary rites: southern Jê monumental landscapes of the Southern Brazilian highlands and Argentina
This project is aimed at understanding settlement patterns and the architectural evolution of funerary ceremonial centres that developed during the first half of the second millennium AD that belong to southern Jê groups.
A social landscape without a centre: The circulation of artefacts, materials and skills in NW Argentina (first millennium AD)
This project aims at understanding the role of circulating artefacts in the construction and reproduction of social relationships at the onset of settled life in the area.
Our research in this region focuses on a range of time periods and topics, including a search for the earliest evidence of pastoralism on the steppes and investigating the floodwater farming in the arid areas of the Asian Mediterranean.
The early development of ferrous metallurgy, in particular high-carbon steel technologies, in South Asia is recognised as a significant milestone in the global history of science and technology. This is epitomised by popular and often romantic histories surrounding wootz or crucible steel, the raw material of edged weapons across Asia and the Islamic world.
This project focused on the Pabbi Hills and Riwat, Pakistan, where stone tools were found in sediments more than 1 million years old.
Professor Bruce Bradley was involved in the excavation of the Zhokhov Mesolithic site in Siberia and has published on the distinctive technology that was uncovered there.
This project investigated the earliest known evidence of horses being domesticated by humans, finding indications that horses were both ridden and milked in Eneolithic Kazahkstan.
This project investigated the domestication and exploitation of animals such as horses and cattle in Neolithic and Bronze Age Kazakhstan.
The Samanalawewa Archaeological Project investigated the iron smelting industry of Sri Lanka. It culminated in an experimental reconstruction of the unusual furnaces that had been uncovered by excavation and showed that high quality steel could be produced using these structures.
The landscape of the Wadi Faynan, Jordan was surveyed by an interdisciplinary team from multiple institutions. A complex field system was revealed, as well as many archaeological sites.
Mons Claudianus and Mons Porphyrites were Roman Imperial stone quarries in Egypt. This project involved the survey, excavation, analysis and publication of these two sites.
Theoretical and not location specific
The rest of our projects are independent of a location, being focused either on theoretical or broad topics. These can often be applied to a number of different contexts.
It is only relatively recently that fat, whether on people or in food, has become deeply unfashionable, but this was an extremely important food resource in past societies.
An experimental investigation of heat damage characteristics as a means of interpreting the cultural life and deposition of lithic artefacts.
This project studied the transformation of raw plant materials into material culture.
This project studied the ways in which modern society projects our current gender perceptions back into the past. This project culminated in a set of three volumes including papers written by authors from many disciplines.
The project studied the evidence of prehistoric basketry and cordage by looking at inorganic evidence that more frequently survives in the archaeological record.
Use-wear analysis of stone tools can reveal how they were used and enable interpretations about individuals' actions and cultural choice.
‘Rubbish and Archaeology’ was an outreach project for school children in the area around the archaeological site of Sutton Common. It taught children about the decomposition of modern waste and archaeological artefacts.
Archaeological textiles are extremely fragile and not usually suitable for handling in museum exhibits. New virtual reality technologies that can simulate the sense-of-touch are now being developed that may allow future museum visitors to manipulate virtual replicas of these delicate textiles.
Human hunters who take down prey too large to carry whole must decide which parts of the animal to take home. Their choices can reveal much about that societies exploitation of wild animals.
Wetland areas are very important archaeologically as they have good preservation of organic material and were often used in many diverse ways, however they and the sites they contain are often under threat from modern exploitation.