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Dr Steve Ashby



Steve Ashby is a medieval archaeologist with specialism in the archaeology of portable material culture and technology. He is trained in geology, zooarchaeology, and artefact studies, and is particularly interested in the relationship between the various regions of Britain and Scandinavia before, during, and just after the Viking Age. His 'USP' is the application of leading-edge scientific techniques to familiar materials, in the context of novel anthropological theory, with a view to using oft-overlooked objects to answer the big questions in Viking studies.  

Before starting up at York, Steve was employed by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as Finds Liaison Officer for Northamptonshire, a role that involved working closely with local communities, amateur archaeologists, and metal detectorists in order to preserve by record the vast numbers of chance finds recovered by members of the public. Steve continues his association with the PAS, and is interested in exploiting the potential of the data it produces, particularly regarding early medieval craft, trade, and identity, and battlefield archaeology.

Steve teaches in a range of medieval subjects, as well as in the practical aspects of artefact studies. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (London) and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He is Awards Officer (formerly editor) for the Finds Research Group, and a member of the editorial board (formerly council member) of the Royal Archaeological Institute. He is a founding editor of the Viking World series of publications (Liverpool University Press), and currently chair of the WRoCAH Heritage and Material Culture cluster.

Within the university, Steve co-founded the interdisciplinary Viking Studies Research Group, and has been a PGCAP supervisor and examiner (training new academics and lecturers across the university).

He is regularly seen in the media on matters Viking, his favourite work includes two series of documentaries in support of the History Channel's popular 'Vikings' drama. Here's one: Secrets of the Vikings . 


You can follow his occasionally active personal Twitter feed here: @grungeviking, and see some of his media work here: Living with Vikings





1998 BSc (Hons) Geology (Birmingham)

2001 MSc Zooarchaeology (York)

2006 PhD Archaeology (York)

2006-8 Finds Liaison Officer for Nothamptonshire, Portable Antiquities Scheme (British Museum)

2008- Lecturer, University of York

2015- Senior Lecturer, York

2016- SFHEA

Departmental roles

  • Publicity Officer (Oct 2020-)
  • Acting Chair of Board of Studies, Centre for Medieval Studies (Oct 2017-)
  • Director of Postgraduate Research (Oct 2017-)
  • Director of Studies, MA Medieval Archaeology (Oct 2017- Dec 2018)
  • Previously Chair of the Board of Studies (2011-15). Also variously Acting Chair of Teaching Committee, Chair of Graduate Schools Board,
  • Previously Acting Higher Degrees Officer, and Acting Director of MA Medieval Archaeology
  • Previously (2011-12) Chair of the Archaeology and History Combined Honours Executive Committee
  • Previously (2008-10) Chair of the Board of Examiners, Centre for Medieval Studies

University roles

  • PGCAP (Staff Training) Supervisor (2012-)
  • York Award Panel (2013-)
  • Various University-level committees



In general terms, Steve is interested in the integration of scientific techniques with contemporary theory, in order to ask questions about society, trade, and identity. He is passionate about the promotion of artefact studies in medieval research (to which end he set up and oversees the Geoff Egan Prize for Finds Research and the Finds Research Fund

Steve's PhD thesis and early work focused on bone and antler hair combs in Britain and Scandinavia between c.AD 800 and 1400.  He used novel archaeological and scientific techniques to examine the manufacture, exchange, and use of these often overlooked items, and considered their role as dress accessories in politics and the construction of identity. This work opened up a number of bigger questions, and Steve has used combs and related evidence to answer big questions about what the Viking Age was, when and how it started.


Steve has directed and Co-I'd on a number of funded research projects:

CNVT: Crafting Networks in Viking Towns (with Soren Sindbaek, Aarhus; multi-craft, British Academy)

Melting Pot: Food and Identity in the Age of Vikings (focused on ceramics, AHRC)

Culture and Communication in the Long Viking Age (focused on metal-detected finds from a round the North Sea littoral, University of York).


He is currently co-investigator on the AHRC Network grant  The York-Dublin Axis Reconsidered - An Interdisciplinary Approach to Viking Towns (with Stephen Harrison, Glasgow)

His wider research interests include dress and identity, medieval craft and industry, and the articulation of human and animal worlds in the Middle Ages. Steve's work also intersects with the archaeologies of appearance and self-representation, and of the social role of technologies.

 He would be interested in supervising research students working in any of these areas.


Current projects

Archived projects

Research group(s)




Available PhD research projects

I am interested in supervising PhDs on any area of study in the fields of Viking-Age craft, trade, identity, or material culture.


I currently supervise the following Research Students

  • Vanessa Castagnino (with Aleks McClain)
  • Carl Savage (with Aleks McClain)
  • Chris Wakefield (with Colleen Morgan)
  • Gwendoline Pepper (with Aimee Little)
  • Jim Glazzard (with Aimee Little)
  • Hanna Dahlstrom (with Dawn Hadley)


External activities


  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of London
  • Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
  • Steering Committee Member, 'Researching Ivory' AHRC/EPSRC Research Cluster
  • Member, ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group
  • Member, Committee for Finds Research Group 
    • 2013-present Awards Officer
  • Member, Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • Member, Viking Society for Northern Research


Editorial duties

Invited talks and conferences

  • 2017 Session Chair, EAA Maastricht
  • 2017 Invited delegate, Viking Congress, Denmark
  • 2017 Invited Speaker, Finds Research Group, Orkney.
  • 2017 Invited Speaker, Inverness Vikings Exhibition
  • 2016 Invited Speaker, University of Aberdeen
  • 2016 Invited Speaker, University of Newcastle
  • 2016 Invited Speaker, Northern Research Network
  • 2016 Invited Speaker, UNPAC, Nottingham
  • 2016 Invited Speaker, Barnsley Museum Vikings Exhibition
  • 2015 Invited Speaker, Society for American Archaeology
  • 2015 Invited Speaker, University College Cork, Student Lecture and Research Seminar Series
  • 2013 Invited Delegate, Viking Congress, Shetland
  • 2010 Invited Speaker, Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 2010
  • 2010 Invited Speaker, Early Medieval Finds from the British Isles conference, University of Oxford, 2010
  • 2009 Session Chair, Early Medieval Archaeological Students Symposium, 2009
  • 2009 Invited Speaker, Viking Summer School, University of Aarhus
  • 2009 Session Chair and Invited Speaker, Researching Ivories workshops.

Media coverage

Radio: Appearances on BBC Radio Orkney, BBC Radio Northamptonshire.

Web: Indiana Jones and 21st Century Archaeology


As soon as publicly available, I collate my media work, together with my own videos on this site.



First year
  • Occasional guest slots
Second year
  • Themes in Historical Archaeology - Lecturer
  • Practical Option (artefacts) - Lecturer
  • Team Project (artefacts) - Lecturer
  • Research Skills- Module leader
Third year
  • Special Topic: Viking-Age Scandinavia- Module leader
  • Assessed Seminar: Viking-Age Britain and Ireland/ The Viking World- Module leader

Past Teaching


First year
  • Introduction to Y1 Introduction to Archaeology
  • Field Archaeology
  • Prehistory to the Present
Second year
  • Introduction to Y2
  • Research Skills- Module leader
Third year
  • Introduction to Y3
  • Dissertation and Assessed Lecture - Module leader



  • The Vikings: People, Place and Things - Module leader  
Previous Teaching
  • The Vikings - Module leader
  • Collection of Field Archaeology Data - Lecturer (Artefacts)
  • Collection of Field Archaeology Data - Lecturer (Artefacts)
  • Material Culture Theory in Practice -Lecturer 
  • Artefacts Skills - Lecturer 
  • Photography -Lecturer 
  • Generic Skills - Lecturer (Assessed Lecture) - Lecturer 

Other teaching

Postgraduate, in Centre for Medieval Studies
  • Using Archaeology - Lecturer (Artefacts)
  • Core Course  - Lecturer (Viking-Age Sculpture and Literature)
  • Viking-Age Northumbria - Lecturer (Artefacts)

Dr Steve Ashby

Contact details

Dr Steven Ashby
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 323952