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Postgraduate Archaeology Conference



10 May 2016


Conference - A01 Highfield House, University Park, Nottingham.

Wine reception - Humanities Building, Atrium

Keynote talk - A02, Humanities Building


10.30 - Conference
17.20 - Wine reception
18.00 - Keynote speaker 

Missed the live tweet? Find it on Storify.


Keynote Speaker

Steve Ashby (University of York)

ashby 10

Keynote talk: 'Combs, Chronology, Cuisine - reflections on 15 years as a Viking-Age Archaeologist'

Postgraduate Speakers

Tom Fowler

Neil Hall

Lucy Sheeran

Mila Andonova

Rick Cantryll-Stewart

Dave Hanks

Amy Jolliffe

Francesco Tropea

Michael Curtis

Anja Rohde

Solenn Troadec

Sian Webb 

Is this for you?

This conference will appeal to those with an interest in a wide range of archaeological topics including:

  • Bioarchaeology
  • Archaeometallurgy
  • The Mediterranean
  • Northwest Europe
  • Vikings

Conference essentials



Map and directions



What to do with a (dead) chicken - Tom Fowler

Evidence for domestic fowl in the modern world is bountiful – to the extent that chicken bones quite literally litter urban spaces. The reason for this is clear: chickens are products that exist either to be eaten or to supply eggs. This is a reflection of a worldview that not only betrays how little we care about animals but has also biased zooarchaeologists towards heavily ‘food-based’ interpretations of the archaeological record. If we are to understand the lives and beliefs of people in the past, we need to go beyond ‘what people ate’ accounts of animal bone evidence.

This is important to recognise because recent research shows that past societies had much closer relationships with domestic fowl than our own. In particular, chickens have appeared in human burials but researchers have tended to dismiss these finds as food offerings and investigate no further. This presentation re-examines this evidence by integrating zooarchaeology, iconography and stable isotopes. It will attempt to distinguish between food offerings and human-chicken co-burials and investigate how both may reflect past cultural and religious beliefs, worldviews and meaningful human-animal interactions.

The subjective tool: Colour and metallurgy - Neil Hall
Colour is a multi-purpose tool for the archaeometallurgist. This paper will demonstrate how it can be used in every stage of metal production from prospection to finished artefact. By drawing upon examples from cupric, ferrous and precious metal systems aspects of brass production, ironworking and the gold working will be discussed. These three very different areas will highlight the impact of colour, how it can be manipulated, what significance it has, and why it should not be forgotten or ignored by those studying metallurgical material. 
The Roman to Anglo-Saxon transition in Britain - Lucy Sheeran

The aim of my study is to further understand the transition period from Roman to Anglo-Saxon in Britain through the study of the faunal remains. Having already looked at the site of Caistor, St Edmunds for my undergraduate dissertation I hope to build on this work and compare other sites such as Portchester Castle, Portsmouth and Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland. 

The period of conversion from the Roman withdrawal of Britain to the Anglo-Saxon phase is a controversial subject. With people debating what date the late Roman period ends and the early Anglo-Saxon begins. Alternative theories also occur regarding the scale and type of transition, and whether it can be regarded as an invasion or a migration. This then links into the question of social stature, and how the new occupants would have interacted with the indigenous population. Through examining the animal remains from the Roman sites it could be possible to see the changes in how people interacted with the landscape and each other, subsequently giving an insight into what occurred in this transition phase within Britain.  

The Baskets and the Basket makers of Prehistoric South-east Europe: A Palaeoethnobotanical Approach - Mila Andonova

This paper endeavours to present a new approach to basket making in prehistoric south-east Europe, which will ultimately shed new light into one of the major prehistoric craft activities and its social implications. As the taphonomic conditions of the study area hardly support the preservation of basket remains, their recovery is both rare and challenging. However, indirect evidence of basketry production can be also useful and gleaned through numerous impressions on pottery, as well as pictorial art (wall-paintings, decorated objects, etc.). My project focuses on both indirect and direct (such as the unique actual baskets from Santorini, Greece) evidence of baskets, as well as on ethnographic work of targeted areas, known for their traditional basket-weaving communities. My first goal is the identification of the actual plants chosen for weaving baskets (and preserved in both the direct and indirect types of evidence), employing a variety of approaches borrowed from different sciences and combined in one particular proposed methodology. The identified plant taxa will be then integrated into their chronological, geographical and social context and interpreted as active agents in certain socio-cultural choices. 

The expected results of this research include a widely applicable novel methodology adapted to this special category of perishable material culture, the basketry remains, as well as insights into the cultural and economic implications involved into what used to be one of the most widely employed prehistoric craft material alongside pottery.

Pest, prey or domesticate: White-tail deer (Ododcoileus virginianus) in the Maya World - Rick Cantryll-Stewart

In 1982, Pohl and Feldman questioned whether the ancient Maya had been in the process of domesticating White-tail deer. The possibility that the Maya actively managed deer populations in proximity to human settlements deserves detailed consideration; although abundant in zooarchaeological assemblages, comprehensive analysis of White-tail deer are rare, and few demographic studies have been undertaken to establish which motives inspired efforts toward herd management. 

This presentation reports the results of a metric analysis of modern white-tailed deer of known age and sex collected in the state of Florida during the 1970’s-80’s, as well as previously unreported morphological variation between two of the three deer species present in Mayan archaeological collections. 

Sex in the City: Prostitutes and Problems - Dave Hanks
Whether through voyeurism, pathos or ghoulish prurience, archaeologists have continually studied and explored sexual relations in antiquity. Perhaps of most fame, the erotica at Pompeii has captivated academics and stimulated continual discussions on the subtle nuances between modern and ancient sexuality. Amongst this, prostitution has received over the last 30 years, significant interest. Suppressed by modern perceptions of sexuality, this field of research has, however, unfortunately fallen victim to the creation and falsification of data. This paper will analyse the archaeological evidence from across Pompeii, critically engaging with the with leading publications, approaching debates on the function of Cella Meretricia and asses the role tabernae and baths played in the facilitation of prostitution. To do this, structural remains will be assessed, drawing on graffiti and erotic frescos from across the site. While we should be hesitant when associating legal documentation and ancient literature with a particular site, we may perhaps be able to support, with some restraint, the archaeological evidence. In a culture where sexualised erotica was commonplace, this manifestation in the archaeological record is to be expected. However, academics have long sought to bring structure to an industry that is not limited, by its nature, to fixed establishments.
This is Achaia! The warrior burials of the North-West Peloponnese, Greece - Amy Jolliffe

During the session, I will be exploring the character and socio-political implications of the warrior burials found in Achaia during post-palatial times (12-11th Century BC). 

After the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces many areas in the Aegean experienced decline. The region of Achaia in the north-west Peloponnese, however, does not seem to have experienced this same change in fortune. 

In Late Helladic III C Achaia, new settlements began to emerge - alongside fortified citadels and the revival of some trade routes. There was also an increased focus on war and warlike aspects in society, as evidenced by the warrior burials and iconography from the time. These burials provide evidence of the weapons in use at the time; show us what was deemed important enough to deposit; and may also be able to give us information on who was actually in charge following the decline of the palaces.

It seems that power was in the hands of local military leaders rather than within a centralised administrative structure as before. This kind of military power had perhaps not previously contributed so heavily to the hierarchy of society, or possibly had rarely been required in the time before the collapse of the collapse of the palaces. The warrior burials of this time provide an interesting case study for these changes in society, the movement of peoples and refugees, and the finds can tell us about what was important to the people living (and dying) within this changing world.

Contextualising and Conceptualising the Phenomenon of Miniaturisation in Late Bronze Age Aegean (16th-11th c. BC) - Francesco Tropea

Through recent research, miniatures have begun to renew their role as holders of hidden knowledge and symbolisms. The proposed thesis will focus on investigating, defining, contextualising and conceptualising the meanings and the beliefs which lie behind the phenomenon of miniaturisation in LBA Aegean society (16th-11th BC). By taking a fresh interpretative approach, I will investigate all categories of Mycenaean diminutive objects (including vessels, tools, models, figurines) in order to shed light on whether Mycenaean people intentionally imbued miniatures with ideological powers and messages and if so, on which ways and through which contexts this might have been achieved. 

Thence, by adopting an anthropological approach, I will infer the symbolisms and the ideological meanings which lie behind the miniatures, attempting to shed light on the different ways in which Mycenaean people expressed their perceptions of themselves, of sacred, of life and death. 

The aims will be achieved by:

  • Wider contextual study on current approaches and understanding of the phenomenon of miniaturisation in past and modern cultures;
  • Creation of a theoretical framework for the examination, interpretation and presentation of miniatures;
  • Literature review of previous research on Aegean miniatures; study and evaluation of excavation reports; record of LBA miniatures according to type, material and context; interpretation of Mycenaean findings by comparison to other cultures;
  • Investigation for preserved fingerprints on BA clay miniatures, and re-creation of clay miniatures replicas via experimental archaeology to determine possible levels of specialisation and issues of gender and/or age associated with the LBA makers of miniatures; visits to archaeological museums and libraries in the UK and Greece.  

The study of miniaturization in LBA Aegean culture covers a considerable gap in Mycenaean and Mediterranean Archaeology and opens new avenues in the study of downsized art in past and modern cultures in a global context.

The Classical and Hellenistic Port of Phalasarna, Crete - Michael Curtis

Lying on the far western coast of Crete in the bay of Livadi, the Classical and Hellenistic port of Phalasarna is the best preserved harbour complex of this period on the island. Excavations have revealed a well-built harbour frontage, two harbour basins and a series of surrounding defensive walls and towers. Today the port lies inland, as it did in Classical and Hellenistic times as the port seems to have been a type of “closed port” that was concealed, defended and accessible to the sea only through a specially cut and maintained channel. The discovery of structural masonry at the bottom of the channel to sea during work on the site in 1986 and 1987 led to much speculation that the port had been a pirate port and was intentionally blocked by the Romans. However more recent work has focused on the impact of earthquakes and tsunamis along this stretch of the coastline and the part that these played in the final stages of the port’s life.

This paper will present a brief overview of the port and the excavated structures and look at the evidence for a natural end of life scenario as opposed to a human one.

The Norman Conquest and the Moneyers of the  English Coinage - Anja Rohde

The English coinage of the mid-11th century holds a wealth of information about society, economy and power in this period of extreme political unrest. The coin inscriptions include details of the town where they were minted and the particular mint official, or moneyer, with responsibility for their manufacture. These moneyers were men of high regional status, who can often be identified as part of the urban elite. It is also interesting to note that after the Norman Conquest, when most people in positions of power in England were ousted and replaced with Norman incomers, the holders of the role of moneyer show a great degree of continuity from the late Saxon state. The coins therefore provide fascinating data about this group of Saxon men holding official power at the mid-level of early Anglo-Norman society, and these data can be closely located to particular regions and towns within the kingdom.

This paper will introduce my ongoing research into the English coinages of the first two Norman kings. My work uses archaeological and numismatic techniques to interrogate the coins in order to reassess the established historical and economic narratives of the period. I will here present some preliminary observations on what the coins can tell us about the exercise of power in the role of the moneyers, and how the Norman Conquest was embedded across society at the regional level.

Burial practices in Southern Britain and West Francia (c. AD 650-1050): aims and context of a comparative study - Solenn Troadec

The relations between Southern Britain and its facing continental regions (Northern France, Belgium and Flanders) in the Early Middle Ages have been the subject of archaeological studies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mostly using culture-historical approaches. Since the early 1980s, however, and a massive expansion of excavated cemeteries and associated features on both sides of the Channel/southern North Sea, there has been no detailed comparative study of the treatment of the dead and the social identities they reflect, in these closely connected regions. My research aims to fill this lacuna, and this paper presents its principal aims and the importance of Cross-Channel comparative analysis.

From the seventh century, the relationships between the dead and the living underwent an important number of changes, for example reflected in the location of the graves in relation to the inhabited areas, but also in more specific aspects, like the layout of the burial grounds or the treatment and commemoration of the individuals. These mutations of funerary rites are observed on either side of the Channel, accompanying the transformation of the social order and the progressive establishment of a new religion, Christianity, both due in part to the high mobility of early medieval people creating a favourable context of exchange between different cultures and influencing interactions between the living and the dead.

‘The Right Thing to be is a Virtuous Girl’: Women in Medieval Wales - Sian Webb

The Mabinogi is a collection of traditional Welsh tales complied around the fourteenth century.  In Branwen’s branch, or section, Bendigeidfran, the king of Wales and the brother to the titular character, had agreed to the king of Ireland’s request to marry Branwen.  This union would create a bond between the two kingdoms, and ideally ensure a sense of loyalty and amity.   The union, however, is ultimately futile.  Due to mistrust, Branwen’s husband consents to his people’s desire to abuse and alienate the Welshwoman from direct contact with her husband, resulting in a war between her kin and the Irish people.  The strong prospects that had prompted the marriage fail to provide any fruits beside the deaths of both of Branwen’s brothers, her husband and their son.  

Literary works such as the Mabinogi recount social norms and expectations.  Branwen’s position in this tale allows the reader to examine the social role of women in marriage and the behaviours expected from them.  It also opens a window on the position of a married woman between her natal kin and the kin group she married into, the responsibilities that her natal kin held in relation to women and how the behaviour and welfare of a wife could affect these two groups. This literary view, needs to be supplemented by additional evidence, which has inspired me to delve deeper and gain a better understanding of legal sources.  By looking at this text and the ‘Law of Women’ in the Welsh Law of Hywel Dda I am able to put forth an explanation of the worldview that these authors were drawing from.  The law texts inform readers how legal professionals and their lords thought marriages ought to work, and how women were supposed to act both in preparation for marriage and in their roles as wives.  The ideals of this portrayal of the network of relation placed women in ultimately untenable positions between the two kin groups they were tied to through blood and marriage.  This paper will end by looking at folk poems and other literary works to examine how female poets seemed to view marriage and their roles as wives, and to glean some hints as to how they may have managed to reconcile ideal and reality.



The University of Nottingham
University Park

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