Research interests

My broad research interests are in GIS, Landscape, Archaeological-theory & Prehistoric Monumentality. Within these themes are a number of current research initiatives:

Prehistoric Monumentality and the AHRC-funded Living with Monuments Project (2016 - 2021)

NEW: Report on recent Geophysical surveys around the Avebury Obelisk - Squaring the Circle?

Location of 2017 survey area (Google Earth Format)

Location of the newly detected standing stones (Google Earth Format)

The great ceremonial and funerary monuments of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (EBA) have attracted considerable academic and public attention, but the wider social worlds of routine, subsistence and settlement within which they were created remain poorly understood and often elusive. The scale and permanence of constructions like the Avebury henge, Stonehenge and Silbury Hill contrast markedly with the ephemeral character of everyday activity during the Neolithic and EBA (c.3800-1500BC), and for this reason archaeological narratives of social life during these periods have often been crafted around 'goings on' at highly visible monuments. The Living with Monuments Project is addressing this imbalance by examining the record of settlement and related activities within the Avebury landscape. The project aims to identify the extent, scale, density, character and tempo of human settlement in the core of the region during the Neolithic and EBA; the relationship between everyday life in the landscape and its progressive monumentalisation in terms of how monument building may have structured settlement (e.g. drawing people into the region) and the way that settlement imparted a history to places that could lead to their subsequent conversion into monumental spaces; and to better define the environment within which such activity took place. A subsidiary concern is to understand how life within this landscape was lived in relation to certain natural features which we know received especial attention, such as the distinctive spreads of sarsen stone. The project is co-directed by researchers from the Universities of Southampton and Leicester, supported by colleagues from the National Trust, Ghent University, Cambridge University and Allen Environmental Archaeology.

Miniliths of Exmoor Project (2005 - present):

The earliest archaeological monuments to be identified on Exmoor are settings of local sandstone and slate, taking the form of circles, rows, solitary/paired stones and geometric and semi-geometric arrangements. The latter, of which over 50 examples are known, appear unique to Exmoor. They take a variety of forms, from rectangular settings and quincunxes, to apparently random arrangements of stones. Many are concentrated around the headwaters of valleys, in areas of moorland which lie beyond the limits of medieval and later cultivation.

Two features of these settings are worthy of note: their diminutive size, with individual stones rarely exceeding 0.5m, leading to their being termed ‘minilithic’; and the lack of basic archaeological knowledge beyond suggested morphology and general distribution. Their assumed late Neolithic/early Bronze Age date is based on loose analogy (i.e. that they are comparable to features such as stone circles and rows), and their physical proximity to round barrows and cairns. Poorly dated and without immediate analogy, it is not surprising that their function remains unknown.

GIS, Landscapes and Archaeological Theory (1990 - present)

Much of my GIS-based research has focused upon the relationship between archaeological applications of GIS and developments in archaeological theory. This has involved a number of critical studies of GIS-based Viewshed and Visibility studies in archaeological landscape research that have explored themes as diverse as perceptual catchments and the study of visibility as an active affordance of animal-landscape relationships.Recent GIS-based research has focused upon the mapping of profoundly relational capacities - such as concealment, hiding and liminality - in the context of an explicitly assemblage-based approach to the application of GIS.  I am currently working to consolidate my research into landscape theory and GIS through the development of what might be termed a 'Geosophical-Information-System'.

CODA: Virtual Avebury

In the 1990s and 2000s I carried out a series of studies into the theoretical (and methodological) basis of VR applications in archaeology with my colleague Glyn Goodrick that resulted in a suite of research publications. For those interested in the history of VR applications in archaeology, one of the earliest outputs of the project (a virtual sarsen stone surveyed and constructed in 1998 using what might be thought of as an early incarnation of structure-from-motion (SFM) has recently been rediscovered in a dark corner of the digital aether and can be accessed below:

Virtual stone 4

Share this page: