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Kirsty High



Kirsty High is a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow in the Chemistry Department at the University of York. She is based in the analytical research group and has an interest in the application of analytical chemistry to archaeological research questions.

After completing an MChem degree at the University of Bath in 2010, Kirsty joined the Chemistry Department at the University of York to pursue a PhD in the research group of Professor Kirsty Penkman. A CASE studentship funded by NERC and York Archaeological Trust, the subject of her PhD was to investigate the deterioration of organic archaeological artefacts at the Mesolithic site of Star Carr (North Yorkshire). Her focus was on understanding how the chemistry of the burial environment influences decay processes using a range of analytical techniques, including: HPLC, GC, FTIR, p-XRD and SEM. By using a combination of lab-based experiments (High et al., 2015) and burial experiments combined with the analysis of archaeological material (High et al., in press), this study provided insight into the rapidity at which organic materials deteriorate in acidic environments.

Following her PhD, Kirsty worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York, applying high accuracy mass spectrometry techniques to investigate earth - plant - soil interactions, before returning to the Chemistry Department as a KE Fellow in September 2016.

Current research

Fading Star - Shining light: Integrating an evidence-based decision support system for in situ preservation of waterlogged archaeological remains. As a KE Fellow, Kirsty is currently collaborating with Historic England and York Archaeological Trust to expand the outcomes of her PhD research to influence the wider management of waterlogged archaeological sites. By applying the techniques developed during her PhD, the aim of the project is to ensure assessments of the potential environmental threats and associated degradation pathways of organic archaeological materials in wetland sites are better informed. By standardising the decisions made, the project aims to ensure that sites are managed appropriately, thus preserving our valuable cultural heritage.

Other interests and activities

While Kirsty’s research interests centre on the application of analytical chemistry to the analysis of archaeological material, she is also interested in wetland environments and threats from environmental changes, specifically on the archaeology contained within them.

As demonstrated by her current role as KE Fellow, Kirsty is keen to promote the outcomes of her research to end users, and ensure that it is focussed on real world applications. Her Knowledge Exchange activities involve promoting the impact that science-based research can have on heritage management and conservation processes.

Kirsty is also a committee member of the Analytical Bioscience Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and has been involved in several public outreach projects. 

BBC Radio 4 Inside Science interview on degradation at Star Carr

Planet Earth podcast on degradation of organic artefacts at Star Carr



High, K., Milner, N., Panter, I., Demarchi, B. & Penkman, K.E.H. ‘Lessons from Star Carr on the vulnerability of organic archaeological remains to environmental change’, in press. PNAS

High, K., Milner, N., Panter, I., Knight, B. and Penkman, K.E.H. ‘An assessment of post-excavation changes observed in bone and wood artefacts from Star Carr’  in press. Proceedings of the 13th ICOM-WOAM conference, Florence

High, K., Penkman, K., Milner, N and Panter, I: ‘Fading Star: Towards understanding the effects of acidification on the preservation of organic remains (wood) at Star Carr’ 2016. Proceedings of the 12th ICOM-WOAM conference, Istanbul

High, K., Penkman, K., Milner, N and Panter, I: ‘Apatite for destruction: bone degradation due to high acidity at Star Carr’, 2015. Journal of Archaeological Science, 59, 159-168

Matthaia, I., Androutsou, M., Pantelia, A., Friligou, I., Crisp, M., High, K., Penkman, K., Gatos, D. and Tselios, T. ‘Use of the 2‐chlorotrityl chloride resin for microwave‐assisted solid phase peptide synthesis.’ 2015 Peptide Science, 104, 506-514


Orcid: 0000-0003-3192-4540

ResearchGate: Kirsty High

York Research Database: Kirsty High