This year to mark International Women’s Day we asked Echo Rew, a recent graduate, and Laura Hampden, who graduated in 2013, to reflect on women in archaeology – how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.

Echo Rew (BA Ancient History and Archaeology)

“I am a Post-Excavation Officer at Thames Valley Archaeological Services (TVAS).

The improvement for women in archaeology over time is undeniable. Although there are still challenges that unfortunately some women (and men) have to face consistently throughout their career, the progress cannot be disputed. I think one of the main reasons for this is the increased communication on the subject. During my time at university this topic, although somewhat difficult to address, was never shied away from in the archaeology department. Instead, it was embraced in an open discussion approaching the matter without a rose-tinted view. It gave us not only a realistic insight into life after university but also the ability to deal with these situations should we come across them during our careers.

A definite change in perspective is becoming more prominent and, most importantly, we now have role models. Every day we would go into our lectures and see women spearheading research projects, winning awards or writing papers, thus creating a culture of respect and encouragement within the department regardless of gender; giving us the confidence in our ability and the fact that I am a woman means absolutely nothing to my ability to do my job. I am lucky enough to have graduated university and moved into a commercial archaeology firm in which this perspective is very much at the forefront and I am given the daily support, encouragement and opportunities to progress in the field with my gender being completely irrelevant.

It would be impossible to say that everything is perfect for women in archaeology – the challenges and imbalance is still there however to say that there has been no progression in regards to the issues that female archaeologists face would be untrue. Nevertheless it is difficult to distinguish whether the issues facing women in archaeology specific to the field or just representative of wider societal perception.”


Laura Hampden (BSc Archaeological Science)

“I studied for an Archaeology BSc degree at University of Reading graduating in 2013. I really enjoyed my time at Reading. I loved that there was a broad range of modules on offer that gave me a chance to develop my own interests and gave me a solid foundation and understanding of Archaeology and archaeological practice here in the UK.

I started work as a Historic Environment Records (HER) Assistant at West Berkshire Council within a few weeks of graduation. I had learned about HER’s and Planning Archaeology within a Professional Practice module at Reading, and used HER data within my dissertation. I’m now a Historic Environment Record Project Officer at Historic England within the Greater London Archaeological Advisory Service.

Over the years there has been some change for women in archaeology. Having spoken to women who have been working in the sector for 20-30years it was much harder to get by, and gender dynamics were very hard to navigate.

I graduated in 2013, and thinking back on it it now I was really spoiled to have been able to learn from leaders in the field, who were also women at Reading Uni. And to have had a great female manager and mentor at West Berkshire within my first professional role.  I thought this was common place but in reality while there are more women who study archaeology at university than men, and more women within the profession than men, there is still an imbalance favouring men at a higher career levels.

So, there are still a few challenges to overcome. I’ve noticed there is a tendency for women, people of colour, and people from more working class backgrounds to carry with them a sense of ‘imposter syndrome’. Which is basically a feeling of inadequacy, or feeling the need to constantly prove that we deserve to be here; working in an environment or space that was not traditionally designed for us to occupy.

That said recently there has been a real energy and desire within the profession to change this. I have found that women really support each other within this profession. There are now far more opportunities for mentorship and support from other women who are well established within the profession. And there are some great people and groups within the sector working together to challenge inequality, and create a more diverse and representative environment. Joining these groups, sharing stories, hearing about and celebrating the success of women within the sector is the key to change. We need to encourage each other and support women to go for those top positions.”

Professor Mike Fulford wins ‘Archaeologist of the Year’

Mike accepts the 2015 Current Archaeology Award for Archaeologist of the Year (sponsored by Andante Travels). It was presented by Julian Richards of Meet the Ancestors (L) Credit to: Current Archaeology/Mark Edwards

Mike accepts the 2015 Current Archaeology Award for Archaeologist of the Year. It was presented by Julian Richards of Meet the Ancestors (L)
Credit to: Current Archaeology/Mark Edwards

Professor Mike Fulford was honoured at Current Archaeology Live! 2015 last week, winning ‘Archaeologist of the Year’ by popular vote.

The awards pay tribute to archaeology’s star projects and publications that made the pages of CA this year, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology.  They are voted for entirely by the public, and there are no panels of judges.

Accepting the award, Mike says “I’m really delighted to receive the ‘Archaeologist of the Year Award’ for 2015.  It’s a great honour and  a particular pleasure to have received the award from a former University of Reading student, Julian Richards.”

Mike poses with Amanda Clarke, site director of the Silchester Town Life project, and Julian Richards.  Credit to: Current Archaeology/Mark Edwards

Mike poses with Amanda Clarke, site director of the Silchester Town Life project, and Julian Richards.
Credit to: Current Archaeology/Mark Edwards

Mike has directed excavations at Silchester, a major Roman and Iron Age site in Hampshire, for almost 20 years. The Reading Archaeology Field School was based at the excavations until the project ended last year. However, the work continues with the new Silchester Environs Iron Age project, and there will continue to be opportunities for our students to take part in further archaeological work both inside and outside the Roman town over the next 3 years.

About Mike

Michael Fulford is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1994 (currently serving as its Treasurer), and was appointed CBE in the 2011 New Years Honours for Services to Scholarship. He was appointed a Commissioner of English Heritage last May and in that role chairs the English Heritage Advisory Committee. For the past 18 years he has directed the recently-concluded Silchester Town Life Project, and is also director of a five-year Leverhulme Trust-funded project on the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain. Check out his staff profile for more.


Mesolithic Fieldwork and Filming at Goldcliff, Wales

kirstenFrom November 21st -25th 2014 a small team from the University of Reading Archaeology Department took advantage of a low tide to investigate Mesolithic sites in the intertidal zone at Goldcliff, South Wales where many archaeological discoveries have been made over the last 24 years. We found human, bird and deer footprints, Mesolithic flints and charred hazel nuts. The fieldwork was in conjunction with a team from the BBC Horizon Science Series for a programme on the Mesolithic which will be screened in early 2015.

This was the start of a 3 year PhD project by Kirsten Barr who will be looking at Mesolithic, human, animal and bird footprints in the Severn Estuary and elsewhere in order to develop new techniques for the rapid and accurate recording and interpretation of this footprint evidence which is increasingly being found particularly in coastal locations.

Kirsten graduated with a First Class degree in Archaeology from the University of Reading. She started off with a mainly arts focus but discovered an aptitude for science during her kirsten2undergraduate degree. After this she did a MSc in Forensic Archaeology at University College, London and her current PhD project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Fieldwork with the BBC team provided an early opportunity in the second month of her project to get information about the project out to the public.

Severn Estuary Prehistoric research is led by Professor Martin Bell, who has published 3 monographs on the subject in the last 14 years. The most recent is The Bronze Age in the Severn Estuary published by the Council for British Archaeology in 2013. This monograph includes contributions by several Reading University students including Kirsten who did her undergraduate dissertation on the footprints of animals in Bronze Age sites.

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?