Professor Naomi Sykes
Head of department, The Lawrence Professor of Archaeology
Naomi researches and teaches on human-animal-environment interactions over the last 10,000 years, exploring how they inform on the structure, ideology and impact of societies, past and present. She is particularly interested in reconstructing the bio-cultural histories of introduced and locally extinct / endangered species (e.g. fallow deer, chickens, rabbits, hares, cats, dogs and wolves).
Her approach, which is set out in her 2014 book Beastly Questions: Animal Answers to Archaeological Issues, is to work across the Arts-Science spectrum. She integrates archaeological evidence with data from biomolecular analyses (especially DNA and isotopes) and discussions from anthropology, cultural geography, (art) history and linguistics. Together these sources of information represent a powerful tool not only for understanding ancient cultures but also for contextualizing modern problems facing humanity.
Naomi’s work always seeks to demonstrate the value of Arts/Humanities-led research, particularly for communicating important, and often difficult, issues in a creative, palatable format. To this end, she collaborates closely with a range of non-academic organizations worldwide.
Naomi was trained as an animal bones specialist and began her research career studying the Norman Conquest of Britain from a zooarchaeological perspective. She subsequently expanded the temporal and geographical range of her research and now explores global human-animal-environment inteactions over the last 10,000 years.
She co-directs the Centre for Human-Animal-Environment (HumAnE) Bioarchaeology and is currently leading a Wellcome Trust-funded Collaborative Award project - From 'Feed the Birds' to 'Do Not Feed the Animals' and linked Research Enrichment Project.
Previous projects include:
- Exploring the Easter E.g. – Shifting Baselines and Changing Perceptions of Cultural and Biological ‘Aliens’
- Causing a Flap: using chicken-based research to transform education, poultry production and human well-being