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Julian originally intended to study History at University but claims that swtiching to Archaeology and Anthropology (which he studied at Cambridge) was one of the best decisions he ever made. He first came to York to take part in the Coppergate Viking excavations, but after a brief spell at the University of Leeds he returned to York in 1986 to lecture on Anglo-Saxon and Viking archaeology. The Department has grown tremendously from when he first joined, when he was only one of 5 staff members with around a dozen students. It now has over 60 staff, with over 300 undergraduates and 100 graduate students. Nonetheless it has managed to retain a small community feel.
Julian's involvement in archaeological computing began in 1980 when he started his PhD research studying pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon burial ritual using the computing power of an ICL mainframe and an early Z80 micro-computer. In 1985 he co-authored the first textbook in archaeological computing for Cambridge University Press, and has subsequently written numerous papers and edited a number of books on the applications of information technology in archaeology, as well as on Anglo-Saxon and Viking archaeology.
Julian is also Director of York's Centre for Digital Heritage, and since October 2013 he has been the founding Director of The White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH).
Julian specialises in the archaeology of Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age England, especially mortuary behaviour and settlement evolution. He has directed excavations of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian settlements at Cottam, Cowlam, Burdale, and Wharram Percy. He has also excavated the only Viking cremation cemetery in the British Isles at Heath Wood, Ingleby. He recently directed an AHRC-funded research project investigating the Viking and Anglo-Saxon Landscape and Economy of England, and he has recently embarked on a collaboration with the British Museum and the University of Sheffied to investigate the winter camp of the Viking Great Army at Torksey.
Julian is also a leading expert on computer applications in archaeology and has authored and edited numerous books and papers on computer applications. He is Co-Director of Internet Archaeology, an electronic journal developed in York, and Director of the Archaeology Data Service, the national digital data archive for archaeological research.