Medieval and Historical Archaeology

Medieval burials excavated at San Severo, Classe, N Italy
Medieval burials excavated at San Severo, Classe, N Italy
While the discovery of the body of Richard III has been a very prominent indicator of the role that Leicester and archaeology can play in adding to our knowledge of the Middle Ages, the School of Archaeology and Ancient History can identify a strength in research and teaching archaeology across the whole Middle Ages, from Late Antiquity to the Reformation, and with interests extending from Britain and Ireland across the Mediterranean and into Africa. Studies are of the landscape, urbanism, religion, and material culture, and of both built and buried archaeology. Academic links are forged with departments in Historical Studies, such as History, English Local History and Urban Studies, and staff contribute to the University’s Medieval Research Centre and we also link with the archaeological unit, ULAS, whose work has transformed our understanding of the city of Leicester from Roman to early modern times.

The University of Leicester has a long and distinguished record of teaching and researching Historical Archaeology. The School has one of the largest concentrations of expertise in the archaeology of historical periods in the UK. We take the view that Historical Archaeology is an approach to the past that combines different kinds of evidence, including material culture, landscape, texts, documents, art, architecture, maps, oral histories, environmental evidence and whatever other sources of evidence may be available. A particular feature of the School is the high level of integration between historical and archaeological approaches, particularly evident in our interdisciplinary research projects, the Centre for Historical Archaeology, and our innovative MA programme. In 2013 the School and University hosted the Society for Historical Archaeology's annual conference.

Core Staff

Penelope Allison, Neil Christie, Craig Cipolla, Dave Edwards, Deirdre O'Sullivan, Sarah TarlowRichard Thomas, Ruth Young

Staff interests range in location from Australasia and South Asia through Europe and the Americas. Our historical archaeologists run the popular MA in Historical Archaeology (by distance learning or campus-based).

Key Research Projects

In 2008 the School of Archaeology and Ancient History announced the launch of its Centre for Historical Archaeology

Publication Highlights

Christie, N.  and Creighton, O. (with M. Edgeworth, H. Hamerow and other contributors) (2013). Transforming Townscapes. From Burh to Borough: The Archaeology of Wallingford, AD 800–1400. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 35. London.

Christie, N & Augenti, A. (eds.) (2011).  Urbes Extinctae. Approaches to Abandoned Classical Cities. Ashgate.

Christie, N. & Stamper, P (eds) (2010). Medieval Rural Settlement, Briatin and Ireland, AD 800-1600. Oxbow, Oxford.

Cipolla, C. (2013). Becoming Brothertown: Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World. Tucson, University of Arizona Press.

Cipolla, C. (2013). Native American Historical Archaeology and the Trope of Authenticity. Historical Archaeology 47(3):12-22.

Edwards, D. (2013). ‘Medieval and post-medieval states of the Nile Valley’, in P. Mitchell and P. Lane (eds.) Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.789-798

Edwards, D.  (ed.) (2012). The Archaeology of a Nubian Frontier. Survey on the Nile Third Cataract, Sudan, Leicester, Mauhaus Publishing.

O'Sullivan, D. (2013). In the Company of the Preachers.The Archaeology of Medieval Friaries in England and Wales. Leicester, Leicester Archaeology Monograph 23

O'Sullivan, D. (2012). "Becoming Ancient Ruins. Monastic Remains as ‘Facts on the Ground’" in Dudley, S. and Petrov, J. (eds.) Material Worlds Routledge: London and New York, 103-118.

Tarlow, S. and L.N. Stutz (eds.) (2013). The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tarlow, S. (2011). Ritual, belief and the dead in early modern Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cherryson, A.,  Crossland, Z. and Tarlow, S. (2011). The archaeology of death and  burial in post-medieval Britain and Ireland. Leicester: Leicester Archaeological Monographs.

Fisher, A. and Thomas, R. (2012). Isotopic and zooarchaeological investigation of later medieval and post-medieval cattle husbandry at Dudley Castle, West Midlands. Environmental Archaeology 17 (2): 151-167.

Fothergill, B., Thomas, R., and Morris, J. (2012). Avian tibial dyschondroplasia in 19th-century turkey (Meleagris gallopavo L. 1758) remains from the Royal London Hospital. International Journal of Paleopathology 2 (4): 240-245.

Exploring Medieval and Historical Archaeology at Postgraduate Level at Leicester

In terms of Historical Archaeological approaches, data and theory are embedded strongly in our dedicated MA programme, while Medieval Archaeology can be studied as a 'strand' within the MA in Archaeology.  Our expertise also makes the School an ideal venue at which to pursue doctoral research in these fields.  Recently completed PhD theses include Chantal Bielmann on Christianisation of Switzerland across AD 300 -800; Gavin Speed on urbanism in British Towns from AD 300-700; Claire Strachan on workers' housing in the south-west of England; Delight Stone on gender relations among the employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. Current students are exploring topics such as placenames in early medieval Mercia; relationships between the British and Portuguese in the Newfoundland cod fisheries; early archaeologicsts in northern Sicily; urban housing and ideas of modernity; Quaker beliefs and the object biographies of Jamestown. For further details see our list of postgraduate research students and their topics.

We welcome applications from UK, EU and International students for doctoral research with the School. PhDs on Medieval Archaeology and Historical Archaeology are undertaken by both campus-based study and Distance Learning, whether full or part time. See also further information on our Postgraduate Study programmes.

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