Research interests

SJexcavatingboltsatDurasm.jpgResearch Themes

My work is centred on the Roman world and societies with which it interacted, including northern ‘barbarians’ (especially Iron Age societies in the British Isles, and whether they can usefully be seen as ‘Celtic’) and the peoples of the ancient Middle East (Syria/Mesopotamia). Much of my work has been on issues of identity and conflict. In particular, I have examined ‘the Celts’ ancient and modern, and the nature of 'Romanization'.

I have also studied Roman soldierly identity, and its construction through material culture. This was part of a long-standing interest in the archaeology of the Roman military, notably through publication of a major monograph on the arms and armour from Dura-Europos, Syria. It further evolved into wider work on the role of martial violence in ancient societies, and particularly in the development of the Roman world.

I have been a member of the Franco-Syrian-led expedition to Dura-Europos, working on Roman military aspects of the site, including the siege in which the city was destroyed. Re-analysis of dramatic excavated evidence from siege-mines at the site suggested use of early 'chemical warfare'. Work on the imperial military base in the city included a complete magnetometry survey in 2007 and additional photographic and Total Station survey in 2008. The main phase of fieldwork was completed in 2010. the tragic descent of Syria into violence prevented a planned study season at Dura in 2012, but research and writing up for publication continues, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust and now the Gerda Henkel Stiftung.

Another dimension has been my work on modern representations, understandings and appropriations of the past, ranging from studies of theory and practice in archaeological illustration (especially ‘reconstructions’) to the creation of histories and modern myths (such as the factoid of the Roman galley slave, and notions of 'Ancient Celts' mentioned above). Recently I was a member of the Visualisation in Archaeology project team, looking at how archaeological knowledge is created, expressed and disseminated through visual media.

From 2011-2016 my continuing research activity in the the archaeology and history of identities in Britain was through team membership of the University of Leicester-based Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain research programme, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Since 2012 I have been involved with (since 2016, the UK Ministry of Defence's) Operation Nightingale, which engages injured service personnel in archaeological fieldwork to help them in their recovery. From 2013 my engagement extended to that of academic advisor for the new Defence Archaeology Group, a tri-Service archaeological society embracing both Operation Nightingale and wider archaeological activities undertaken by military personnel on MOD land in collaboration with the MOD's Defence Infrastucture Organisation's Historic Environment Team, and now also otuside the Defence Estate with other professional partners.


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