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Pioneering archaeology wins Royal award for University of York

Posted on 24 February 2012

The Queen has recognised an academic department at the University of York that has played an influential role in broadening the scope of archaeology.

Her Majesty, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, presented a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education to the University in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Archaeology at York has an international reputation for its ground-breaking work across a broad spectrum of archaeological endeavour.

Professor Brian Cantor

The award recognises the work of the Department of Archaeology at York which has built on its reputation as the UK’s leading centre for medieval archaeology to acquire international standing in the study of prehistoric and later historical archaeology, archaeological computing, bioarchaeology, architectural conservation, heritage management and landscape research.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Cantor, the Head of Archaeology, Professor Julian Richards, and the Chair of the University Council, Sir Christopher O’Donnell, received the award from the Queen.

The Royal accolade is the fifth to be conferred on the University in 15 years. Queen's Anniversary Prizes were awarded to the University in 1996 for the excellence of its work in Computer Science, in 2005 for the pioneering work of CNAP (Centre for Novel Agricultural Products) in Biology, in 2008 for the contribution made by the Centre for Health Economics for the way it has helped to shape public health care and again in 2009 for the Social Policy Research Unit’s role in developing policies to support vulnerable people in society.

Introduced following the 40th Anniversary of the Queen's reign in 1992, the prizes rank alongside the Queen's Awards for Industry. They are given biennially for "work of exceptional quality and of broad benefit either nationally or internationally."

As one of the most diverse archaeology departments in the UK, the Department of Archaeology at York is among the largest undergraduate recruiters in the discipline. Students regularly rate it the top archaeology department in the country.

The Department pioneered the Archaeology Data Service and is involved in groundbreaking work in digital archaeology. Its research spans from the origins of mankind to ‘the archaeology of the contemporary past’ - landscape shaped over time to the present day by human lives and experiences. Its bioarchaeology has achieved innovations in DNA and biomolecular dating while the Department has also promoted British archaeological methods abroad, investigating early farmers and first towns in East Africa, and recovering evidence for early settlements on the coastal shelf of the Red Sea.

The University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Cantor, said: “Archaeology at York has an international reputation for its ground-breaking work across a broad spectrum of archaeological endeavour. From its role in the investigations at Sutton Hoo and the unique Mesolithic settlement at Star Carr in North Yorkshire to its cutting edge developments in bioarchaeology and establishment of the national Archaeology Data Service, it has been in the forefront of significant advances in the discipline.

“The Department plays a seminal role in the wider community, working with national organisations, museums, galleries, and sites to encourage public awareness of the human heritage. It is, in every sense, a centre of excellence.”

Professor Richards said: “This award is a wonderful tribute to the hard work and level of excellence achieved by all staff and students in the Department, in teaching and research. Successive graduate cohorts have placed us at the top of the polls in the National Student Survey. Colleagues have won record levels of research grants and we have brought substantial European research funding to York. The work of the Archaeology Data Service has had a major impact on archaeology nationally, and is now being emulated overseas. ”

Notes to editors:

  • More about the Department of Archaeology at the University of York at
  • The Royal Anniversary Trust is an independent charity - registered number 1,000,000 - concerned with the advancement of education for public benefit.  It was set up in 1990 with the object of carrying out a programme of events and activities during 1992, funded and supported from private sources with official endorsement, to mark the 40th anniversary of The Queen’s accession and her years of service as Head of State.  The Trust currently works to promote world class excellence in UK universities and colleges through The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education.
  • The Prizes are a biennial award scheme which is within the UK’s national honours system.  As such they are the UK’s most prestigious form of national recognition open to a UK academic or vocational institution.  The honour is distinctive in recognising the institution rather than an individual or team. The scheme was established in 1993 with the approval of The Queen and all-party support in Parliament.
  • All eligible universities and colleges in the UK are invited to enter the biennial rounds of the scheme. The assessment process is overseen by the Awards Council of the Trust which makes the final recommendations which are submitted to the Prime Minister for advice to The Queen.

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David Garner
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Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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