Out now! Roberta Gilchrist’s new book on Glastonbury Abbey

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


Glasto cover 2a

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.


New Archaeology videos are up on our Youtube channel!

Announcing the launch of our new videos, depicting life inside and outside of our Archaeology department!

Studying Archaeology at the University of Reading

Student Life – Archaeology

Huge thanks go to the enthusiastic and professional presentations by the students and recent graduates who star in the videos, and in particular to 2013 graduate James Archer, who did most of the filming and Storyboarding. Do we have some future TV presenters in our midst?

AHRC PhD studentships and Doctoral Training Programme – Open day registration deadline is NOON today!

TODAY at 12 noon (Monday 13 January) is the last day for registering to attend the Open Day for the new AHRC PhD studentships and Doctoral Training Programme on 22 January!!!
Click here to register!

Attendance at this Open Day will be of great benefit in applying for the studentships (deadline for submission of written applications is 21 February).

Contact Dr Wendy Matthews, Director of Postgraduate Research Studies in Archaeology for more info. (w.matthews@reading.ac.uk)

Details of the application processes are outlined below:


AHRC Doctoral Training Programme

University of Reading in the South West and Wales Consortium

  • 50 Fully-funded PhD studentships for entry in October 2014 across the Consortium (UK Fees and maintenance £13,726; EU fees only)
  • Supervision at Reading and within network of 8 Universities (Aberystwyth, Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Reading and Southampton)
  • Placements and supervision with external Partner Organisations including the National Trust, English Heritage, BBC, Getty Research Institute LA, Universities in Germany, Japan, USA, China
  • Professional Arts and Humanities Researcher training, including ‘Public Humanities’
  • Research Theme and Cluster meetings and conference each year
  • Funds for attendance at meetings and sharing of resources across the consortium


  • Register your Expression of interest and to attend the Open Day by 13 January 2014 12 noon
  • Attend the Open Day on 22 January in Arnolfi Gallery, Bristol
  • Contact the Subject leader by 24 January (with 500 word proposal and CV) and apply for a place at the university
  • Prepare and submit your application by 21 February 2014 (Form available from SWWC DTP)

–      1500 word proposal

–      500 word personal statement

  • Interviews are 17-28 March
  • Awards will be announced on 17 April
  • Acceptance must be made by 1 May 2014

Celebrating the work of Professor Richard Bradley!


Last Friday afternoon in the Meadow Suite on campus, colleagues, former students and friends enjoyed a retirement party for Professor Richard Bradley, one of the founding fathers of our Archaeology department, and a very well respected and world renowned Prehistorian. There were speeches from Professors Roberta Gilchrist, Mike Fulford, Chris Gosden from the University of Oxford, and our Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell, followed by a jolly speech by Professor Richard Bradley himself. As well as a photography exhibition displaying amusing images from Richard’s career, to mark Richard’s love of avant-garde classical music a university string quartet played a suite by Finzi, and Richard was presented with a sculpture by one of his favourite artists, the potter, Antonia Salmon, who started her career as a circuit digger in the 1970s.


Richard has been with the department for over 40 years, starting as an Assistant Lecturer at the age of 25, but did his undergraduate degree in Law at Oxford University. Fortunately for us and for the world of Prehistory, he switched his allegiance to Archaeology, where he found that there was much more enjoyment to be had. Despite his official retirement, Richard assures us that he will not disappear from Reading, or from Archaeology, and that he’ll continue to be around for all the fun events in the department!


Commercial Archaeology and Romano-British Towns

In collaboration with Cotswold Archaeology and support from English Heritage, the Dept of Archaeology UoR hosted a one-day conference on 30th November 2013 to explore the contribution that commercial archaeology has made to our knowledge of Roman towns in Britain since the implementation of Planning Policy Guidance 16 in 1990. Guest speakers included colleagues from the Universities of Bournemouth, Cambridge, KCL, Oxford and UCL as well as from Cotswold Archaeology, English Heritage and South Shields.developer archaeology conf speakers2

PhD Success for Helen, Chris and Wei!

Congratulations to:  Helen McGauran, Chris Beckman and Wei Chu  on the recent successful defence of their PhD theses!

Helen McGauran

Thesis title:  ‘Contextual analysis of economic and social networks: the circulation of Bronze Age soft-stone artefacts in Bahrain and Cyprus’.

Supervisors:   Wendy Matthews, Stuart Black and Bob Chapman.

Christopher Beckman

Thesis title: ‘The Bearded man and the Pig-tailed women:  Hierarchy-enacting practices in Late Chalcolithic Mesopotamia.

Supervisors:  Roger Matthews and Bob Chapman. 

Wei Chu

Thesis title:  ‘No stone left unturned: fluvial processes in the Pleistocene of northern Europe’.

Supervisors:  Rob Hosfield and Martin Bell.

We celebrate the important contributions they have made to the School’s research output and wish them every success for the future.

A rare Anglo-Saxon gaming piece makes the national news for the Lyminge Archaeological Project!

Yes, our department is in the news again…Read all about it on the main University of Reading website: Backgammon in the 7th century? Anglo-Saxon royal entertainment uncovered in Kent

and some other takes on the story:

The Lyminge Archaeological Project is run by Dr Gabor Thomas and is also featured in the November edition of Current Archaeology Magazine.



Dr Jim Leary vs Dr Who


If you’re not watching Dr Who this Saturday 23rd November, tune in to Channel 4 at 8pm, as our very own time travelling Dr, Jim Leary will be Walking Through History with Tony Robinson!

Rosie, Alexandra and Emma talk about their research at Royal Archaeological Institute at the Society of Antiquaries

RAI_2On Wednesday 13th November three of our PhD and post-doctoral students presented papers at the invitation of the Royal Archaeological Institute at the Society of Antiquaries, Piccadilly in London. Dr Emma Durham, Dr Alexandra Knox and Rosie Weetch spoke about research they had undertaken at the University of Reading as students and early career researchers. It was another important opportunity to bring the department’s distinctive work to a wider audience. Under the session title of ‘Rethinking Material Culture’, the three contributions gave us new insights into what objects meant, and what importance they had for those in past societies. These insights gave us a deeper archaeological understanding of how individuals and communities interacted – in this case during the Roman and medieval periods.

Dr Emma Durham offered an important reinterpretation of the Silchester Roman Eagle that was unearthed during the nineteenth-century excavations at the Roman city (and currently the site of our Departmental Field School), putting it in context of the representation of eagles in Roman Britain and Europe.

Dr Alexandra Knox showed the importance of reinterpreting even the most ordinary of finds from excavated sites in light of how Anglo-Saxon villagers viewed and experienced their local and regional worlds in the seventh to ninth centuries AD.

Rosie Weetch is researching the brooches that people wore during the eight to eleventh centuries and she showed how this plentiful evidence could tell us much about the attitudes and beliefs of those living in medieval East Anglia, with particular reference to gender and identity.

The session was well attended and there were many questions and in their answers the speakers made it very clear how their work was changing the Roman and medieval worlds. Thanks to Emma, Alex and Rosie for spreading the message that Reading has an important and leading place on the archaeological map!