Roberta Gilchrist

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Medieval Archaeology, edited by Roberta Gilchrist (Research Dean) and Gemma Watson from the Department of Archaeology, is a new publication in Routledge’s Critical Concepts in Archaeology series.

The four-volume publication reprints 77 influential papers carefully selected to highlight the key issues and debates in the development and contemporary practice of later medieval archaeology in Europe (c. 1000–1550 AD).  The four volumes are designed thematically: ‘Defining Medieval Archaeology’, ‘the Medieval Landscape’, ‘Medieval Life’ and ‘Medieval Social Archaeology’. The publication includes papers by Reading archaeologists Roberta Gilchrist, Grenville Astill, Mary Lewis, Gundula Mueldner and Aleks Pluskowski.

The set is aimed at an international audience and is intended as a one-stop research tool to complement degrees in Medieval Studies and provide a background in medieval archaeology and material culture.

For more about the book, visit the publisher’s website: https://www.routledge.com/Medieval-Archaeology/Gilchrist/p/book/9780415718165

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RobertaGilchrist_3283-e (1)Professor Roberta Gilchrist has been nominated for ‘Archaeologist of the Year’ in the 8th Annual Current Archaeology Awards.

Roberta’s nomination recognises her work as a pioneer of social approaches to medieval archaeology, a champion of equal opportunities, and her work with Norwich Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey. The full nomination reads:

“Roberta Gilchrist is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading.  She has pioneered social approaches to medieval archaeology, opening up new questions on gender and age and publishing important studies on medieval nunneries, hospitals, castles, and burials. Roberta has been a champion for equal opportunities, promoting women in archaeology and leading initiatives to integrate disability into the teaching of archaeological fieldwork. She was archaeologist to Norwich Cathedral and published a major study of Norwich Cathedral Close. Her monograph on the excavations at Glastonbury Abbey (1904–79) has just been published, making the results of 36 seasons of antiquarian excavations available for the first time. She is currently working with the Abbey on digital reconstructions and educational resources to make this work accessible to visitors.”

 

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Dr Hella Eckardt’s book ‘Objects and Identities: Roman Britain and the North-Western Provinces’ has been nominated for ‘Book of the Year’!

“Every object, however humble, has a tale to tell, and in this fascinating book carefully-chosen case studies tease out the ways that artefacts reflect their owners’ values and aspirations. From utilitarian kit to imported luxury goods, the items examined paint a vivid picture of regional variation, and approaches to consumption and display.”

 

You can cast your vote for both nominees here.

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We are publishing an open letter in response to a Guardian Comment is Free blog by Simon Jenkins (former Chairman of The National Trust and Editor of The Times) – which critiques the research project Professor Roberta Gilchrist has been leading at Glastonbury Abbey, in Somerset.

Roberta has had widespread national press and broadcast coverage this week for the work – including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, Daily Mail Online, Daily Telegraph Online, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 4, BBC 5Live – as well as international interest and regional and local outlets.

The project reassesses and reinterprets unpublished records from excavations at the Abbey between 1904 and 1979, which show that the site’s best known archaeological ‘facts’ are themselves myths – many of these perpetuated by excavators influenced by legends that the Abbey was the reputed burial place of the legendary King Arthur and earliest Church in Britain, thought to have been founded by Joseph of Arimathea.

The project, conducted with partners Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, involved a team of 31 specialists.

 

“Dear Simon

We are responding to your opinion piece yesterday, which mentioned the four-year project on the archaeology of Glastonbury Abbey.

The news headlines this week have focused on how the monks spun the Glastonbury legends, something that historians have understood for many decades, but has clearly come as news to journalists.  The research project was actually focused on the archaeological excavations that have taken place at Glastonbury.  It challenged some of the archaeological ‘myths’ spun by 20th-century excavators, as the full story on our website highlights.

We understand that you used the research to make a broader point about religious ‘mythmaking’ in the Middle Ages right up to modern-day extremist beliefs; however, the tone in relation to the project was disappointing.

The research was a detailed, comprehensive analysis, assessment and interpretation of all known archaeological records from 36 separate excavations at the Abbey between 1904 and 1979, none of which have ever been published. We brought modern scientific approaches to bear on antiquarian excavations.  We revealed important new evidence – including ‘Dark Age’ occupation, Saxon churches and glass-working and the extensive rebuilding of the abbey in the middle ages.  Highlights can be found on the project website.

The work is part of a 10-year partnership between Glastonbury Abbey and the University of Reading, involving colleagues from numerous universities, museums and archaeological units.   We are continuing to work together to bring our new findings to visitors to Glastonbury Abbey and to enrich their experience through digital reconstructions, a new guidebook and education packs.

We are happy to send you a copy of the 500 page monograph, which was published last month.

We would also be delighted to host you at the Abbey itself. Given your former role as Chair of The National Trust, we have a shared interest in understanding and enhancing the nation’s heritage.

 

Professor Roberta Gilchrist FBA, University of Reading

Janet Bell, Director of Glastonbury Abbey”

 

 

 

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Congratulations to Professor Roberta Gilchrist on the publication of her new book, Glastonbury Abbey Archaeological Excavations 1904 – 1979!

 

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This volume, co-authored with Dr Cheryl Green (an alumni of our department 1992-95), reports on the results of the Glastonbury Abbey Archaeological Archive Project, a collaboration between the University of Reading and the Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey. The project has reassessed and reinterpreted all known archaeological records from the 1908–79 excavations and made the complete dataset available to the public through a digital archive hosted by the Archaeology Data Service.

The scope of the project has included the full analysis of the archaeological collections of Glastonbury Abbey by thirty-one leading specialists, including chemical and compositional analysis of glass and metal and petrological analysis of pottery and tile, and a comprehensive geophysical survey conducted by GSB Prospection Ltd. For the first time, it has been possible to achieve a framework of independent dating based on reassessment of the finds and radiocarbon dating of surviving organic material from the 1950s excavations.

The principal aim of the Glastonbury Abbey Archaeological Project was to set aside previous assumptions based on the historical and legendary traditions and to provide a rigorous reassessment of the archive of antiquarian excavations. This research has revealed that some of the best known archaeological ‘facts’ about Glastonbury are themselves myths perpetuated by the abbey’s excavators.

Reassessment of the archive of excavations has identified a number of new questions for future research. The presence of LRA1 pottery confirms occupation at Glastonbury in the fifth or sixth century, but there is no evidence yet to suggest whether this was a religious community or a high status secular settlement engaged in long-distance trade.  The relationship of the monastery to earlier settlement patterns deserves further consideration; for example, it is possible that the monastic vallum incorporates a defensive bank and ditch pre-dating the monastery. A striking feature of the finds assemblage is the lack of evidence for metal objects dating to the Middle and Late Saxon periods.  The paucity of evidence dating from the seventh to the ninth centuries prompts the question of whether the early monastic core has actually been located.  It is feasible that the main domestic buildings of the Middle Saxon monastery were situated to the north of the church, in an area yet to be examined.  Fresh excavations will be required to fully understand the character, form and dating of the Ango-Saxon monastery at Glastonbury.

 

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Tune in to BBC Radio 3 tonight at 10:45pm to hear Professor Roberta Gilchrist feature as part of ‘The Essay: The Fall and Rise of the British Castle’ series.

Roberta will explore how women played a significant role in the history of British castles alongside the men who inhabited these spaces. Very often the visitor to a medieval castle in Britain is confronted with a mass of information and interpretation about the military activities of the men who inhabited these spaces, but very little about the women. Roberta argues that traditional interpretations of castles ignore the gendered spaces – the gardens, the apartments, the kitchens where female servants cooked, or indeed the adjoining parklands where aristocratic women occasionally hunted.

More details on the programme here: http://bbc.in/1uxmBkyRobertaGilchrist_3283-e (1)

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Professor Roberta Gilchrist has published a new article on ‘Monastic and Church Archaeology’, commissioned for Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 43: 235-250.
“This article calls for a more holistic approach to the archaeology of medieval Christian belief, one which moves beyond the focus on institutions and monuments that has characterized monastic and church archaeology and extends archaeological study to include the performative rituals of Christian life and death in the Middle Ages.”
Click here to read the article.

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