Tom Fitton
Associate Lecturer in Archaeology

Profile

Biography

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

Having graduated with a BA Archaeology from the University of Southampton in 2007, he went on to study landscape archaeology at Durham University under Professor Tony Wilkinson, completing his MA 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.

Tom was appointed an Associate Lecturer in Archaeology in January 2017, and teaches on a range of first- and second-year undergraduate modules, as well as the MA Historical Archaeology.

 

Departmental roles

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

Research

Overview

Tom's research interests are 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 maritime landscapes of the Zanzibar Archipelago.

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.

Teaching

Undergraduate

Tom is the module director for the Year 1 History and Theory of Archaeology, covers the lecture component of geophysical survey as part of the Year 1 Field Archaeology course, and teaches GIS and database skills on the historical strand of the Year 2 Researching Archaeology. He also leads seminars on the Year 1 Accessing Archaeology, and Designing Research modules.

First Year

History and Theory of Archaeology

Geophysical Survey

Researching Archaeology

 

Postgraduate

He is 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

Publications

Selected publications

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  1. Fitton, T., S. Wynne-Jones. (2017). ‘Understanding the layout of early coastal settlement at Unguja Ukuu, Zanzibar’. Antiquity, 91:359, 1268–1284 http://dx.doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2017.141.

  2. Grillo, KM., ME. Prendergast, DA. Contreras, T. Fitton, AO. Gidna, ST. Goldstein, M. Knisley, MC. Langley, AZP. Mabulla. (2018). ‘Pastoral Neolithic Settlement at Luxmanda, Tanzania’. Journal of Field Archaeology, 43:2, 102-120 https://doi.org/10.1080/00934690.2018.1431476

 

Book Chapters:

  1. Fitton, T. (2018). ‘Zanzibar’ in S. Wynne-Jones and A. LaViolette (eds.) The Swahili World, London: Routledge

 

Invited Papers:

2017: Wynne-Jones, S., and Fitton, T. 'The Islamic Archaeology of the East African Coast', Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective Conference. Bahrain, April 2017

2016: Fitton, T. ‘A view from the middle of the edge: Trade and change in East Africa’, Trading Communities Conference: Merchants and trading communities in early Islam, Leverhulme-SOAS conference on Economic Integration and Social Change in the Islamic World System 800-1000. St Andrews, October 2016

2015: Fitton, T. ‘Seeking Harbour on the Swahili Coast’, Maritime Worlds Seminar Series, Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA). Oxford, November 2015

Tom Profile Pic

Contact details

Dr Tom Fitton
Department of Archaeology,
Kings Manor,
Exhibition Square,
York,
YO1 7EP

Tel: 01904 323273

@tafitton