Steph is a specialist in the Mesolithic of Northern Europe, with a particular focus on hunter-gatherer mobility, and using lithic raw materials to trace the movement of communities. Steph completed her BA in Archaeology (2010), MA in Archaeology with Prehistory (2011), and AHRC funded PhD (2017) at Durham University where she developed an ever-increasing love for the Mesolithic of Scotland, and prehistoric occupation of coasts and islands.
Post-PhD, Steph worked as a commercial archaeologist for Archaeological Services Durham University as both a field archaeologist and palaeoenvionmental specialist, before joining Newcastle University as a Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology (2018-2019).
Steph joined York in 2019 as Associate Lecturer in Archaeology and was promoted to Lecturer in 2023. She maintains research interests in early prehistoric Northwest Europe with a particular focus on Scotland, as well as broader hunter-gatherer interactions in relation to changing climate. Steph is a stone tool specialist and has recently conducted analysis of Mesolithic assemblages from the UK and Denmark, as well as later prehistoric lithic material in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
In 2023, Steph was part of an interdisciplinary team from the departments of Archaeology, Health Sciences, and Environment & Geography awarded a York Environment Sustainability Institute Discipline Hopping Fellowship for the project Craftwell. The Discipline Hopping programme was delivered via NERC funding, and the project aimed to investigate the connection between outdoor heritage crafting and mental health and wellbeing in the student population. Steph delivered the outdoor workshop component of the project, working with participants to create replicas of archaeological objects inspired by Stone Age beads or Anglo-Saxon pottery.
Widening Participation & Outreach Officer
Director MA/MSc Funerary Archaeology (2023-present)
Director MA Mesolithic Archaeology (2019-2023)
Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes (2019-2020)
Steph’s PhD research focused on the analysis of lithics, and the variability of raw materials used from the first Mesolithic sites in the Western Isles of Scotland. Comparisons between these assemblages, and our current understanding of Mesolithic occupation of the islands and coasts of western Scotland, Ireland, and south-west Norway were used to place the hunter-gatherer adaptations to resource availability within the wider north Atlantic seaboard.
Steph maintains research interests in the prehistory of coastal north-west Scotland, having directed a coastal erosion assessment survey and excavation of a previously unidentified burnt mound in the Highlands of Scotland in 2019. She was also co-director of excavations to investigate early prehistoric coastal communities on the Small Isles, western Scotland. She is particularly interested in investigating the relationship between research biases and the impact of erosion in the North-West Highlands and Islands.
As a lithic analyst, Steph has worked both freelance and as a collaborator on a wide range of projects, including multi-period settlement at Skipsea, North Yorkshire; the Early Mesolithic site of No Name Hill, North Yorkshire; an Ertebølle shell midden at Visborg, Denmark; late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age tell sites at Koubba, Lebanon; and late Neolithic Saudi Arabia.
Steph and Dr Penny Bickle were recently awarded Decolonising and Diversifying Research funding by the Culture and Communication research theme for their project Decentring Colonial Legacies in the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition (2022). This work aimed to understand how the legacies of colonial-era language and attitudes have shaped academic research at the boundaries between hunting and gathering and farming and pastoralism. We now co-supervise the student intern employed in this project for their PhD on Animism as a Framework for the Decolonisation of the Scottish Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition.
Piper, S.F., (2023). Empty Edges? 10 Years of Searching for Prehistory on the Atlantic Coasts of Scotland. In Marchand, G., Stéphan, P., and Pailler, Y. (eds.) Investigate the Shore, Sound out the Past: Methods and Practices of Maritime Prehistory / Explorer la côte, sonder le passé : méthodes et pratiques de la préhistoire maritime. Actes de la Séance commune de la Société préhistorique française et de l'IRN PrehCOAST, Brest, 2 et 3 décembre 2020. Séances de la Société préhistorique française, Volume 19. Paris: Société préhistorique française. pp. 173-189.
Piper, S.F., (2022), A Little Mystery, Mythology and Romance. How the ‘Pigmy Flint’ Got its Name, Open Archaeology 8, 145-158. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2022-0100.
Piper, S., (2022), Searching for the Mesolithic in North-West Scotland, Archaeology Scotland 44, 18-19.
Martínez-Sevilla, F., Piper, S.F., Jiménez Cobos, F. Lozano Rodríguez, J.A. and Carrasco Rus, J., (2020), Shaping marble, shaping minds: apprenticeship in an Early Neolithic bracelet quarry, Lithic Technology 45(1), 1-18. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01977261.2019.1654700
Piper, S.F., Bishop, R.R., Rowley-Conwy, P.A., Elliott, L. and Church, M.J., (2018). Fire in the Moor: Mesolithic carbonised remains in riverine deposits at Gleann Mor Barabhais, Lewis, Western Isles of Scotland, Journal of the North Atlantic 35, 1-22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3721/037.006.3501
Rowley-Conwy, P.R., and Piper, S., (2016). Hunter-Gatherer Variability: Developing the Models for the Northern Coasts, Arctic 69(5). DOI: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic4623
Steph works extensively with primary and secondary schools to deliver workshops relating to KS2 History Curriculum topic Stone Age to Iron Age, as well as careers advice on Archaeology and University. Since 2019 she has reached over 1000 school pupils across the UK through school engagement activities.
An Escape to the Country? Perceptions of Hunter-Gatherer Responses to Climate Change in Education and Outreach, Groundcheck – Climate, Crisis, Archaeology, German Foreign Office and the German Archaeological Institute, Auswärtiges Amt Berlin, Germany, 2nd June 2022.
A Missing Mesolithic? Investigating the 'Empty' Atlantic Edges of Scotland, Palaeolithic and Quaternary Research Seminar, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford, 2nd December 2021.
Piper, S.F., (2023) The Intention Craft: Paddles and Propulsion in Post-Glacial Europe, European Association of Archaeologists Annual Meeting 2023, Queen’s University Belfast.
Piper, S.F., Coventry, P., Little, A., Shoesmith, E., Darcy, T., Needham, A., Perry, G., White, P. (2023) CraftWell: Investigating Connections Between Heritage Crafting, the Outdoors, and Wellbeing.
Arts and Humanities Mental Health Research Showcase, Humanities Research Centre/Institute for Mental Health Research at York, University of York.
Bickle, P., Piper, S.F. (2023) Decentring colonial legacies in the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition: teaching terminology. Decolonising and Diversifying the Curriculum: Sharing Practice & Next Steps, University of York.
Little, A., Needham, A., Piper, S.F., Perry, G. (2023) Experimental Archaeology at York: Bridging Research, Teaching and Learning, Outreach, Health & Wellbeing, Stavanger Museum, Norway,
Searle, A., Piper, S.F. (2023) All Wrapped Up? A revaluation of Neanderthal clothing requirements through predictive modelling of Female BMR, and its Implication for Children, Unravelling the Palaeolithic, University of Southampton.
Tang, A., Piper, S.F. Flavours of the Mesolithic, Unravelling the Palaeolithic, University of Southampton. Poster prize winner.
Piper, S.F., Coventry, P., Little, A., Shoesmith, E., Darcy, T., Needham, A., Perry, G., White, P. (2023) Craftwell: Investigating Connections Between Heritage Crafting, the Outdoors, and Wellbeing, Living History and Experimental Archaeology Conference, Kamianets-Podilskyi State Historical Museum-Reserve, Chorna Galych, EXARC, Ukraine (online).
Piper, S.F., Bradtmöller, M., Cobb, H., Croucher, K., Palmero Fernández, M., Patton, K., (2022) Climate Archaeology & Higher Education: An Integrated Approach, TAG, University of Edinburgh.
Piper, S.F., Bickle, P., Mills, E., (2022) Down with the Revolution? Colonial Connotations in Researching Mesolithic-Neolithic Material Culture, TAG, University of Edinburgh.
Piper, S.F., Bickle, P., Mills, E., (2022) Down with the Revolution? Colonial Connotations in Researching Mesolithic-Neolithic Material Culture, Conference of Hunting and Gathering Societies, University College Dublin.
Piper, S.F. (2022) …Without a Paddle: The Social Significance of Propulsion Technology in Early. Conference of Hunting and Gathering Societies, University College Dublin.
Piper, S.F. (2021) Paddling in (Hermeneutic) Circles? Challenges in Identifying Prehistoric Coastal Occupation of North-West Scotland, HOMER 2021: Archaeology of Coastal Settlements and Human/Environment Interactions in the North Atlantic Equator, UMR 6566 CReAAH (Centre for Research in Archaeology, Archaeosciences and History) and Regional Service of Archaeology, Poitiers (DRAC Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Le Château d'Oléron, France.
Piper, S.F., Bates, J., and Bell, T., (2021) From Perception to Pedagogy: Teaching the Relevance of Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherer Responses to Climate Change, European Association of Archaeologists Annual Meeting 2021, Kiel, Germany (online).
Conference organisation and chairing
2024: Unravelling the Palaeolithic Conference organising committee
2023: European Archaeologist’s Association Annual Meeting, Queen’s University Belfast. Session chair with Dr Katherine Patton: Archaeology and the Climate Crisis: Resilience, Activism, and Pedagogy
2022: Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) 43, University of Edinburgh.
2022: Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS), University College Dublin. Session chair with Dr Penny Bickle: Influencers or Innovators? Challenging Colonial Legacies in Researching Hunter-Gatherer/Agriculturalist-Pastoralist Interactions.
From Prehistory to the Present: Surveying the Coastal Archaeology of Wester Ross, 3D Archaeological Society, Harrogate, 19th May 2022
An Evening with Archaeologists, Highland Archaeology Festival, hosted by Dr Tom Gardner and Gairloch Museum, Gairloch (online), 14th October 2021
From Prehistory to the Present: Surveying the Coastal Archaeology of Wester Ross, Gairloch Museum, Gairloch (online), 31st March 2021
Searching High and Low: Stories of Archaeological Survey in Scotland and Spain
Antioch House Archaeology Group, Durham, 15th October 2019
Excavating the Mesolithic in the Western Isles of Scotland, Archaeological and Architectural Society of Durham and Northumberland public lecture, Durham University, 9th June 2018