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Ian studied for both his undergraduate degree and PhD in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. After helping establish the Centre for Field Archaeology (now CFA Archaeology Ltd) at the University of Edinburgh, he left to join Historic Scotland as an Inspector of Ancient Monuments. Returning to academia, he took up a Senior Lectureship at Queen’s University Belfast in 1999 before moving to the University of Bradford as Professor of Archaeology in 2006, and subsequently to the University Leicester in 2018. He took up his current post of Chair in Archaeology at the University of York in 2019.
Ian’s research centres on the cultural archaeology of the European Later Bronze and Iron Ages, the role of conflict and violence in non-state societies, and the demographic and genetic prehistory of European populations. He has directed fieldwork projects in Scotland, France and Sicily and has also worked extensively in south-east Europe. He currently runs the ERC-funded COMMIOS Project.
Ian’s research mainly focuses on the communities of Late Bronze and Iron Age Europe. His PhD dealt with the landscape archaeology of the Western Isles of Scotland, and especially with the amazing brochs and related buildings found in north-west Scotland (explored in his book Towers in the North: the Brochs of Scotland). Subsequent projects have taken him to many other parts of Europe, including Ireland, southern France, Sicily, Slovenia and Croatia.
One of Ian’s main interests is the nature and role of conflict and violence in non-state societies; a subject explored in his recent book Headhunting and the Body in Iron Age Europe. He has also become increasingly interested in prehistoric demography and population change (the subject of his ERC-funded COMMIOS project) and the ways in which anarchistic and heterarchical principles structured life in prehistoric communities. Ian remains interested in all aspects of Scottish archaeology and has written several books on the subject including Celtic Scotland, the Archaeology of Skye and the Western Isles and Scotland’s Hidden History.
In 2019, Ian was part of the international team that won the Current Archaeology Research Project of the Year Award for their work on the population movements associated with the Beaker period (Olalde et al 2018: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature25738).
COMMIOS: Funded by an ERC Advanced Grant, and in collaboration with the Reich Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, COMMIOS uses aDNA, isotope and osteological analyses to investigate the demography of Iron Age Britain in its European context. The project combines these methods to examine the structure and social dynamics of Iron Age societies in Britain, including household and kin-group composition, the identification of familial relationships, gender-specific mobility, and the development of social inequalities.
The Covesea Caves Project: This project, funded by Historic Environment Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, examines the ritual and funerary use of a group of sea-caves on the Moray coast. It includes a major post-excavation and publication programme on the unpublished 1970s excavations from the Sculptor’s Cave; a Bronze/Iron Age/Pictish ritual site, and is continuing with fieldwork on neighbouring caves containing Bronze Age human remains and evidence of multi-period activity. The project is co-directed by Dr Lindsey Büster, University of Edinburgh.
The Wetwang/Garton Slack Project: A large-scale project, funded by Historic England, is ongoing on the analysis and publication of the landscape-scale excavations at Wetwang/Garton Slack, East Yorkshire, carried out from the 1960s to ‘80s. The site contains inter alia Britain’s largest Iron Age cemetery.
Iron Age Lives in Britain and Ireland
Ian is currently working on a book, to be published by Routledge, based on a new analysis of the later prehistoric period in Britain and Ireland.
Recently completed projects
ENTRANS: Encounters and Transformations in Iron Age Europe
Ian was PI on this recently completed HERA-funded collaborative project with colleagues from the Universities of Ljubljana and Zagreb (along with several other partners), investigating the nature of Iron Age cultural identities in the East Alpine region, between the social worlds of Mediterranean and temperate Europe. Some initial results were published in the edited volume Cultural Encounters in Iron Age Europe, and work is continuing on other publications from the project.
Broxmouth hillfort and the Scottish Iron Age: This project involved the post-excavation analysis and monograph publication of the major 1970s excavations at Broxmouth hillfort, East Lothian. It was funded by Historic Scotland and AHRC and resulted in the publication of a major monograph: An Inherited Place: Broxmouth Hillfort and the south-east Scottish Iron Age by Ian Armit and Jo McKenzie.
Megara Hyblaea: colonial encounters and emerging urbanism in Iron Age Sicily:This collaboration with CNRS involved geophysical survey at the Archaic Greek colony of Megara Hyblaea in Sicily. Three seasons of fieldwork were funded by CNRS and the École Française de Rome.
Ian can supervise projects in the following research areas:
Several recent PhD graduates are now undertaking post-doctoral work including:
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) since 2019
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) since 1998
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (FSA Scot) since 1992
Member of the Prehistoric Society since 1998 (Member of Council 1998-2001)
Member of the European Association of Archaeologists since 2003
Member of AFEAF (Association Française pour l’Étude de l’Âge du Fer) since 2006
Visiting Lecturer, Nordic Graduate School, PhD Course, Rome (2019)
Visiting Professor, L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès (2017)
Erasmus Exchange Lecturer, Université Bordeaux Montaigne (2013)
External Assessor of Academic Programmes (Archaeology and Heritage Management), University of York (2012)
External Examiner (UG/PGT Archaeology), University of Exeter (2009-13)
External Examiner (UG Archaeology), University of Newcastle (2004-6),
External Examiner (UG Archaeology), University of Bradford (2000-4)
External examiner (PhD): University of Bordeaux-Montaigne, Universidad de Madrid, Bradford, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Oxford, Reading and UCL
Reviewing grant applications
Expert evaluator, Marie Sklodowska Curie Action Individual Fellowships (2017-present)
Member of AHRC Peer Review College (2007-2017)
Member of AHRC Peer Review Panels (Standard Research Grants, 2009 & 2015; Fellowships, 2011; Collaborative Doctoral Awards, 2010; Postgraduate Awards, 2007-8)
Chair of AHRC Peer Review Panel (Fellowships) in 2011
Member of the International Assessment Board for the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme and Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme (2009-15)
Referee for research applications for organisations including Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), National Science Foundation (USA), National Geographic (USA), the British Academy, and the British Council.
Editorial Board for Brepols monograph series Archaeology of Northern Europe, 2018-present
Board of Editors for Journal of the North Atlantic, 2010-2018
Advisory and Review boards for E-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies, 2002-present
Editorial board for Emania, 2004-present
Editorial board for the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, 2004-2018
Recent conference organisation
Member of the Scientific Committee, EAA Annual Meeting, Glasgow, UK (2015)
Society of American Archaeology Annual Conference, Session Organiser, Biographies of enclosure in global context, San Francisco, USA (2015)
Member of the Scientific Committee, Rethinking Warfare Conference, University of Porto, Portugal (2012)
Organiser of sessions at European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) Annual Meetings in Oslo, Norway (2011); Helsinki, Finland (2012); Pilsen, Czech Republic (2013); Istanbul, Turkey (2014), Vilnius, Lithuania (2016); Barcelona, Spain (2018)
Some recent coverage of work on Beaker migration:
research on the demography of Iron Age Ireland:
the Broxmouth Project:
the Covesea Caves project:
and a completed project on a Scottish Neolithic cemetery: