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I was born and brought up as a Londoner in Ilford, a featureless suburb which lies on the Essex border of the great metropolis, constantly beckoned towards a more exciting world beyond the immediate horizon, and was later renamed as the Borough of Redbridge, a fact of which I am reminded whenever I use the London Underground in the course of my more recent travels and look at the map of the Central Line heading East.
When I was 10, my family moved to Bristol, and I spent my teenage years at Bristol Grammar School and came to know a very different part of England, with some of the finest and most varied countryside on all sides of a great city with a colourful maritime history, and a very fine combination of green spaces, Georgian architecture and Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge gracefully suspended over the Avon Gorge.
As I prepared to go to University, my family returned to the London area, and I went on a year of travels before going up to Cambridge, where I had been offered a College Scholarship largely on the strength of my ability to translate Latin prose and convert the second leader of the Times editorial into Greek iambic pentameters.
My archaeological interests have a mixed genealogy, an early enthusiasm for completing complex jigsaw puzzles and making clay models of dinosaurs almost before I could read and write, regular cycling trips during my Bristol years into the surrounding countryside in search of fossils, most memorably at Aust Cliff on the River Severn before it was largely destroyed by the construction of the first Severn Bridge, a sixth-form specialisation in Ancient History and Classical languages, which I saw as a first step into a different universe beyond the rather claustrophobic confines of the modern world, and a youthful interest in human evolution and the writings of Charles Darwin.
In 1967, before going up to University, I invited myself onto a Palaeolithic excavation in Greece with Eric Higgs, after seeing a television programme 'The Springs of St. George' about his work. This, I thought, would be a good way of hitching a ride to see some of the places I had learned about in my classical education, and also of discovering if archaeology involved anything more than the study of rather dull and dusty objects and holes in the ground – social anthropology was then my University subject of choice. That experience opened up a new vista of different ideas, peoples, times and places, which has informed my world view, interests and career ever since.
In Cambridge, I stayed for 29 years, as Undergraduate, Research Student, Research Fellow, University Lecturer, College Fellow and Senior Tutor, except for spells of overseas fieldwork including a year in Australia during my PhD research, until I decided it was time to leave the cloistered calm at the centre of the archaeological universe and face a new challenge, moving to the vacant Chair of Archaeology at the University of Newcastle in 1996.
Newcastle is another distinctive English city with its own proud traditions and identity, reminding me of my Bristol days with its unique city-scape and Town Moor, its bridges marking a famous history of engineering invention associated with the names of Stephenson and Armstrong, and its magnificent countryside on every hand including the hidden gem of the Northumberland coastline.
In 2004 I moved to take up my present position at the University of York as the holder of a new Anniversary Chair created to mark the University's 40th anniversary, but Newcastle continues to be my home base.
2004 Anniversary Chair of Archaeology, University of York
1996 Chair of Archaeology and Head of Department, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
1990 Senior Tutor, Clare Hall, Cambridge
1981 Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, Cambridge
1976 Assistant Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, Cambridge
1974 British Academy Research Fellow (Early History of Agriculture Project)
2014 Academia Europaea
2010 Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Römisch-Germanische Kommission (Corresponding Member)
1997 Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne
1989 Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge (Life Member 1996)
1987 Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
1986 Member of the Institute for Archaeologists
Research Awards and Fellowships
2003 British Academy Exchange with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
2001 Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship
1992 Sir Robert Menzies Trust Australian Bicentennial Fellowship
1971 Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Studentship in Overseas Research, University of Sydney, Australia
1970 Major State Studentship for Postgraduate Research, University of Cambridge
1967 Open Scholarship in Classics, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
2009 ERC Advanced Grant Panel SH6 ‘The study of the human past: archaeology, history and memory’
2006 AHRC Convening Panel: Landscape and Environment Strategic Programme
2004 AHRC Peer Review College
2000 AHRB Postgraduate Studentships Panel for Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
1985 SERC Science Based Archaeology Committee (SBAC)
Major Research Projects
2015 EU Marie-Curie: INTERACT (with S. Holdaway, M. Meredith-Williams)
2011 ERC Advanced Grant: DISPERSE (with G.C.P. King)
2009 EU Trans-Domain COST Action: SPLASHCOS (Elected Chairman)
2008 British Academy: The Southern Red Sea Project (with A. Alsharekh, G. Momber)
2007 Leverhulme Trust: Submerged Landscape Archaeology of the Continental Shelf (with P.Spikins, G. Momber)
2007 AHRC: Underwater Cave Excavation in Gibraltar (with C. Finlayson, J. Rodriguez-Vidal, J. Carrion, G. Momber)
2003 NERC: Africa-Arabia Connections, Coastal Environments, Tectonics and Human Dispersals (with N. Flemming, G.C.P. King, K. Lambeck, C. Vita-Finzi, A. Alsharekh)
2002 AHRB: Northumberland Rock Art, the Beckensall Archive (with C. Waddington, H. Ayestaran, G. Goodrick, A. Mazel)
2002 AHRB: Coastal Shell Middens and Agricultural Origins in Atlantic Europe (with N. Milner and O. Craig)
2000 HLF and English Heritage: Howick Coastal Archaeological Project (with C. Waddington and N. Milner).
1999 Leverhulme Trust: Late Stone Age Hunter-Gatherer Exploitation of Riverine Resources in the Lesotho Highlands (with P. Mitchell).
1995 NERC: Palaeopathology and the Origins and Consequences of Horse Domestication (with L. Jeffcot, M. Levine, K. Whitwell)
1995 Leverhulme Trust: Aquatic Ecosystems and Complex Societies, the Nile and its Floodplain (with R. Luff)
1983 British Academy: the Klithi Project, Greece (with C. Gamble, P. Carter, H. Higgs and others)
1983 SERC: Oxygen Isotope Analysis of Coastal Palaeoconomies (with N.J. Shackleton, R. Switsur and M. Deith)
1979 British Academy: Palaeolithic field investigations in northern Greece (with C. Gamble, P. Carter and H. Higgs)
1979 SERC: Carbon and Oxygen Isotope Analysis of Molluscs (with N.J. Shackleton and M. Deith)
1976 PhD (Cantab.) 'The Role of Shell Middens in Prehistoric Economies'
1974 MA (Cantab.)
1970 BA (Cantab.) in Archaeology (1st Class)
I have world-wide interests in all aspects of coastal prehistory, in shell middens as the most durable archaeological expression of past coastal settlement, and in the ways in which coastal environments, marine resources and geologically unstable landscapes more generally have shaped human lives, livelihoods and long-term evolutionary trajectories.
This theme has led me on an intellectual and fieldwork Odyssey from the Mesolithic shell mounds of Europe to those of subtropical Australia, to excavations of Palaeolithic caves in the mountains of northern Greece, to an interest in the role of active tectonics in shaping human landscapes at tectonic plate boundaries in the Mediterranean and the Near East and in the African Rift, and most recently to explorations of Palaeolithic archaeology and shell mounds in SW Arabia and the submerged landscapes of the southern Red Sea.
I have coordinated major field projects on these themes, in particular the Klithi Project on the Paleolithic landscapes of NW Greece; the Africa-Arabia Connections Project and the Southern Red Sea Project. I have also engaged in many smaller projects across the world on these and related themes, notably the Howick and Northumberland Rock Art Projects in Northumberland during my time at Newcastle, renewed work on the Weipa shell mounds of the Cape York Peninsula, and laboratory-based projects on the development of stable-isotope and biomolecular methods of analysis.
I have gained considerable experience and insight into the problems of integrating long-term archaeological, geological, palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic records within a spatial and geographical framework, and the challenges of mounting large-scale research programmes that facilitate international and interdisciplinary collaboration, especially across the science-humanities boundary.
This in its turn has led me into a deeper interest in archaeological theories of time and the influence of time scale, time resolution and time perspective on archaeological data, observations and interpretation, and the relationship between archaeology and other disciplines.
I am currently PI of the ERC DISPERSE Project, and Chairman of a European network (COST Action TD0902 SPLASHCOS), which has brought together archaeologists, marine geoscientists, heritage managers and industrial interests from across Europe to promote research and training on the submerged landscapes of the continental shelf, their importance in the larger picture of world prehistory, their potential for providing new information about sea-level change and its past and future human impact, and the need to better manage the underwater cultural heritage in the face of rapidly expanding natural and man-made threats to its survival.
For up-to-date details on my recent research projects, publications and activities, click on 'View my profile in the York Research Database' at the top of this page
The DISPERSE team is a seven-strong group located in York and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, with a wider membership of external specialists and advisors. See the DISPERSE website for full details
The SPLASHCOS network comprises a Management Committee of 58 archaeologists, marine geoscientists and heritage specialists from 25 European States, and a wider participating membership
Abdullah Alsharekh, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia
Patricia Fanning, Macquarie University, Australia
Nicholas Flemming, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
Simon Holdaway, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Geoffrey C.P. King, Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris
Kurt Lambeck, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra
Garry Momber, Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology
Eelco Rohling, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra
Anthony Sinclair, University of Liverpool
Claudio Vita-Finzi, Natural History Museum, London
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