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Tom Fitton
Leverhulme Postdoctoral Research Associate



Tom is an landscape archaeologist, with a particular interest in the survey and investigation of early medieval coastal settlements and maritime activity of the Swahili Coast of East Africa. 

He is currently employed as a Postdoctoral Research Associate on Dr Stephanie Wynne-Jones Leverhulme-funded Urban Ecology and Transitions in the Zanzibar Archipelago Project

Having graduated with a BA Archaeology from the University of Southampton in 2007, he went on to study Near Eastern landscape archaeology at Durham University under Professor Tony Wilkinson, completing his MA dissertation on the early Islamic ports of the Persian Gulf in 2009. Between 2009-2011 he worked as a self-employed archaeological researcher and GIS specialist with projects at Durham University and The British Museum; as a part-time geophysical surveyor for Archaeological Services Durham University; and on various fieldwork projects in the UK, France, and Kuwait. Tom came to York in 2011 and spent two years as the Archaeology Department's Computing Officer, before he was awarded an AHRC Doctoral Studentship in January 2014. His PhD thesis, Pushing the Boat Out, on the nature of the early Swahili harbours of the Zanzibar Archipelago, was supervised by Dr Stephanie Wynne-Jones and was completed in 2017. Following his PhD, Tom was appointed an Associate Lecturer in Archaeology in January 2017, teaching on a range of first- and second-year undergraduate modules, as well as the MA Historical Archaeology until taking up a position as postdoctoral research associate in April 2019.







Departmental roles

  • Undergraduate Admissions Assistant to Dr Penny Bickle
  • Member of the External Relations Committee.



Tom's research interests lie in the maritime activity and maritime cultural landscapes of East Africa, with a research methodology based on his background in landscape archaeology, remote sensing and survey, and targetted excavation. 

His PhD thesis focused on the geophysical survey and investigation of early coastal settlements in the Zanzibar Archipelago. The aim of this thesis was to identify maritime activity and patterns of spatial organisation at first millennium coastal settlements, in order to explore the nature of proto-Swahili harbours and evaluate the role of maritime activity as a component of proto-Swahili settlement in the region. The work was focused on the geophysical survey, GIS analysis, and evaluation of the maritime areas of three contemporary sites; Unguja Ukuu (c. 600-1100 CE) and Fukuchani (c. 550-800 CE) on Zanzibar, and Tumbe (c. 600-950 CE) on Pemba. The comparison of the three sites indicates a pattern of maritime activity and settlement organisation in the Zanzibar Archipelago based on knowledgeable exploitation of the maritime cultural landscape, and has revealed a previously archaeologically unknown shoreline mosque at Unguja Ukuu (Fitton and Wynne Jones, 2017).

Tom is currently working on publishing the results of his PhD, and developing new research on the coastal and urban landscapes of the Zanzibar Archipelago through the Leverhulme-funded Urban Ecology and Transitions of the Zanzibar Archipelago Project under PI Stephanie Wynne-Jones.

He is also involved in and working on articles related to geophysical survey work he conducted at the Pastoral Neolithic site of Luxmanda, Tanzania for colleagues Dr Katherine Grillo, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, and Dr Mary Prendergast, Saint Louis University; and to remote sensing survey work on the archaeological settlements of the Caucasus for the recently completed Persia Project at Durham University.



Until April 2019 Tom was the module director for the Year 1 History and Theory of Archaeology, covered the lecture component of geophysical survey as part of the Year 1 Field Archaeology course, and taught GIS and database skills on the historical strand of the Year 2 Researching Archaeology. He also lead seminars on the Year 1 Accessing Archaeology, and Designing Research modules.

First Year

History and Theory of Archaeology

Geophysical Survey

Researching Archaeology



Until April 2019 he was also the module leader for the postgraduate module 'Empire of Improvement', examining the growth of trans-Atlantic colonial networks; the conceptualisation of 'colonial' and 'indigenous' archaeologies in the Atlantic and African diaspora; and post-colonial and decolonising trends in archaeological theory and methods.

MA Historical Archaeology:

Empire of Improvement: Issues in Historical Archaeology II

Tom Profile Pic

Contact details

Dr Tom Fitton
Department of Archaeology,
Kings Manor,
Exhibition Square,

Tel: 01904 323273