Accessibility statement

Helen R S Williams

PhD Research Project

The Micromorphology of Prehistoric and Roman Burials

Soil micromorphology and its application to archaeological deposits has always been an area of interest within my academic career, as has the development of new and innovative techniques, to widen our understanding of past environments and people. My PhD, which is part of the wider InterArChive project, focuses specifically on these two elements in relation to Prehistoric and Roman human burials. InterArChive is a multidisciplinary project which spans both the Archaeology and Chemistry departments of York University and also the Environmental Sciences department as Stirling University. The broad aim of the InterArChive project is to investigate human inhumations unlocking the archaeological record which is hidden within the microscale of the soil surrounding bodies. My role within the InterArChive project is to develop the micromorphological and inorganic geochemical methodology, and where possible, relate the findings back to the Prehistoric and Roman archaeological data. The sites within my study have been sampled by members of InterArChive (including me!) and my research will also inform the organic chemical analysis which is being conducted by other members of the project.

Research Interests

Micromorphology has always been a passion of mine and I am activly developing my skills in micromorphological analysis and interpretation.

I am also fascinated with the interaction between people and their use of space in both the macro and micro scale. I am particularly interested in the use of space, materials and resources within both buildings and funerary contexts.

I have an active interest in experimental archaeology and I am conducting an experimental aspect to my current research in conjunction with the InterArChive team.

Previous Research

Investigation of Mineralogical and Micromorphological Evidence for Spatial and Environmental change from Level Five, the Later occupation of Catalhoyuk: My undergraduate dissertation looked at the evidence for changes in the use of space and materiality of structures within a building at Catalhoyuk. This investigation employed both micromorphology and XRD analysis of environment sediments and plasters layers from within the building to identify changes in the morphology and composition of floor plaster layers and relate them to the wider environment.

An Investigation into the Archaeological Application of Carbon Isotope Analysis used to Establish Crop Water Availability: Solutions and ways Forward: My MSc dissertation explored the use of carbon isotope signatures as a proxy analysis for the estimation of ancient crop water availability as part of the wider WLC project. This research centred on the isotopic analysis of carbon from modern crops in order to establish the precision of the technique and to look for ways to improve its application and archaeological interpretation.

Personal Profile

I have always had a keen interest in archaeology and history which was fed by countless holidays around the UK visiting historic sites, particularly castles. I then continued my interest in history on to A-levels and then into an archaeology degree. I have also had a keen interest in art and the creative side of archaeology including experimental archaeology and presenting archaeology to the public. Over the course of my archaeological career I have been luck enough to work with some amazing people on very challenging archaeological projects such as those in the Severn Estuary and further afield in Qatar and Cyprus. I am now happy to have moved to the University of York and am enjoying developing my micromorphological and archaeological skill base. 


  • 2010-Present: PhD in Archaeology, University of York.
  • 2007-2008: MSc in Geoarchaeology (Distinction), University of Reading.
  • 2004-2007: BSc in Archaeological Science (1st Class Hons), University of Reading.
  • 2003-2004: Foundation art degree. Westwood collage, Scarborough.


2009-2010: Central Zagros Archaeological Project (CZAP) post excavation technical assistant.

2009: Experimental Archaeology Project technical assistant.

Conference papers.

Williams, H. R. S. (2012) Micromorphological Investigation of Roman and Prehistoric Burials. Arch Fest 2012 Post graduate conference. York University. York.

Williams, H.R.S., 2012. What use can be made of technology (VLE etc) to support innovation and excellence in university teaching?, The Annual Preparing Future Academics Symposium University of York.

Stokes, H. R. and Flohr, P. (2009). Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of cereals for reconstructing the ancient environment: problems and possible solutions Pre-Modern Climate Change: Causes and Human Responses, Stine Rossel Memorial Conference. Copenhagen.


2012: Experimental Archaeology Conference co-organised with Lisa-Marie Shillito and Eva Fairnell.


Stokes, H. R., Müldner, G. and Jenkins, E. (2011). An investigation into the archaeological application of carbon stable isotope analysis used to establish crop water availability; ways forward. In (eds) S. Mithen and E. Black. Water, Life and Civilisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and UNESCO.


Williams, H.R.S., 2011. The Micromorphology of Human Burials, 3D Archaeology Society.


I am currently completing the Preparing Future Academics (PFA) program at the University of York. This is an accredited introductory program for researcher to give them the necessary skills to facilitate student learning.

Teaching I have undertaken at York University

  • Introduction to the Biosphere: Centre for Life Long Learning course (three, two hour lectures).
  • Accessing Archaeology: First year undergraduate course (three, two hour seminars and essay and exam marking).
  • Introduction to Archaeological Science: Marking both formative and summative essays for first year undergraduates.
  • Themes in the Neolithic and Bronze age: Second year undergraduate (eight, one hour seminars with essay and presentation marking).
  • 'The pitch' practice presentation: Second year undergraduate (three, two hour seminars).


My PhD research is funded by the ERC and covers the fees and a maintince grant for three years.

Other successful funding applications include:

  • Prehistoric society funding for fieldwork in Turkey
  • HRC Postgraduate grant for fieldwork at Teffont Roman Shrine, jointly awarded with David Roberts and Kirsty High.   


Contact details

Helen Williams
PhD researcher
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor