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Aleksandra McClain
Senior Lecturer



Aleksandra McClain BA (Yale), MA, PhD (York) is a medieval archaeologist who specialises in the study of churches, commemoration, and the Anglo-Norman period. She teaches in the archaeology department and in the Centre for Medieval Studies on British medieval and historical archaeology, buildings archaeology, landscape archaeology, and the archaeology of religion.

After completing her PhD research on church building and commemorative patronage in late-Saxon and Anglo-Norman North Yorkshire at York in 2006, Aleks worked for the department for a year as a fixed-term lecturer.  She then went on to work for two years in the School of History at the University of East Anglia, as a post-doctoral research assistant on the AHRC-funded project 'A GIS-aided study of agriculture and the landscape in Midland England,' which examined the historic landscape of Northamptonshire up to the time of enclosure. Aleks came back to York as a lecturer at the end of 2008, and since that time has been Director of Studies of the MA in Medieval Archaeology.

Departmental roles

  • Director of Studies, MA in Medieval Archaeology
  • Research Degrees Admissions Officer



Aleks' research is focused on examinations of spatial and chronological patterns of church building, funerary commemoration, and elite patronage in northern England in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. Her wider research interests include transition periods and cultural contact, the material culture of the Anglo-Scandinavian and Anglo-Norman periods, social and cultural identity, the nature and material expression of medieval lordship, the development of the medieval rural landscape, the material and ideological relationship between religious and secular authority, and patronage of ecclesiastical material culture.  She also has a particular interest in the north of England, and the development of northern local and regional identities in the Middle Ages.


  • Cross slabs in northern England, 1000-1600, in collaboration with Peter Ryder (funded by the Marc Fitch Fund).  This project is undertaking the systematic recording of medieval non-effigial commemoration in the northern counties of England.  The project will produce a full printed catalogue of Yorkshire cross slab monuments, and an online, interactive database of the northern corpus. The project utilizes GIS to map these monuments, in order to aid the spatial and chronological analysis of patterns of production, distribution, style, and their relationships to elements of topography, political and ecclesiastical divisions, manorial structures, settlement and landscape, and the secular and religious built environment. In addition, the project explores significance of cross slabs to medieval concepts of social identity, memory, and competitive expenditure and display.
  • Torpel Manor Archaeological Research Project, in collaboration with Steve Ashby and the Langdyke Countryside Trust. Torpel Manor is a scheduled ancient monument near Peterborough and the likely site of a 11th/12th century ringwork fortification and settlement. The project is a joint University of York/community archaeology endeavour carrying out landscape and geophysical survey, fieldwalking, artefact analysis, and historical archive research to better understand the development of Torpel in its local, regional and national landscape contexts. The site has the potential to inform debates about agricultural regimes and economy, castles and fortified sites, open field and settlement development, and politics, land and tenure in the 11th and 12th centuries and into the later Middle Ages.
  • Aleks is also pursuing collaborative research examining the negotiation of transition in the Anglo-Norman period, particularly focusing on recasting, through material culture, long-standing assumptions about the Norman Conquest.  The Anglo-Norman period will be considered via a range of sources of evidence, including material culture, the built environment, the tenurial landscape, and human, animal, and environmental remains.
  • Future work will include: expanding the study of the cultural, social, and landscape contexts of churches and monuments to other regions of medieval England; exploring contemporary commemorative culture in Normandy and northern France; developing interdisciplinary dialogue and new methodological approaches to the theorisation and analysis of the role of material culture in periods of political and cultural transition in the European Middle Ages.


Marc Fitch Fund special project award (2010) for 'Cross slab grave monuments in northern England, 1000-1600'


  • Jane-Heloise Nancarrow (CMS): The appropriation of Roman material culture and ideology in Anglo-Norman towns (2009-2013)



1st year


2nd year

3rd year

The Anglo-Norman World

















Medieval Settlement and Communities

Using Archaeology (Centre for Medieval Studies)

The Gosforth Cross (Centre for Medieval Studies)

The Vikings in Northumbria, c. 793-1200: Actors and Identities (Centre for Medieval Studies)

Medieval Cities (Centre for Medieval Studies)

External activities


Editorial duties

Staff member Aleks McClain

Contact details

Dr Aleksandra McClain
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 323929

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