Meet your tutors
Congratulations on getting an offer to study with us. We hope we'll get to meet you soon! In the meantime, we wanted to give you a chance to learn more about Nicky Milner.
I'd always been interested in archaeology, since I was a Brownie
I remember going to the Jorvik Viking Centre when I was around eight years old, and being really excited about the fact that you were allowed to touch a real piece of pottery from the past. Being able to touch the past like that made me really keen to learn more about those ancient objects.
I went on a dig when I was 16 as part of a Duke of Edinburgh residential project. I went for three days, and ended up staying six weeks because I loved it that much. I decided that's what I wanted to do and, although my school and parents didn't really 'get' archaeology, I stuck to my guns and went on to study archaeology at university. And of course, when my parents realised that archaeology opened up all kinds of doors, they were happy with my choice, and have supported me all the way.
If you've got passion, you can go all sorts of places
I didn't get the A levels I needed for university, but I was so determined I wanted to do archaeology that I didn't give up. The fact I had digging experience helped me get a university place in the end.
I know a lot of archaeologists who weren't shining at school, but I think it's about doing something you really love. Because we love archaeology so much, those of us who got the chance to pursue it shone later in life. For me, archaeology is one of those subjects that can bring out the best in people.
It's about discovery and creating new knowledge
My research is focused on the Mesolithic period - the Middle Stone Age. I love studying it because there’s very little known about the period. It really is about discovery and creating new knowledge. Whenever we do a dig, we're making new discoveries all the time that change our understanding of how people were living in the past.
My main love is doing field work. My first dig was Anglo-Saxon; my undergraduate dissertation was on a Norman church. I’ve dug on Roman sites, historical sites – you name it, I’ve dug it.
For me, it’s about that moment when you dig something out of the ground, and you think, “Wow, no one has seen this for thousands of years”. You immediately begin to try to understand who that person was, and what they were doing. So, it’s the excavation, the discovery, which is really my passion.
It’s not about me, it’s about having a whole team working together
My proudest achievement was probably leading the Star Carr project. The site was about 11,000 years old, and we worked on it for 15 years. It’s produced all sorts of discoveries, which have changed our understanding of how our ancestors were living at that time. There have been lots of challenges associated with that site. It’s not been an easy project to manage, and it’s been a lot of hard work trying to get funding for it, but we ended up getting about €1.5m in the end. That’s probably my greatest achievement – it was a phenomenal success.
We had three years of excavation with over 400 volunteers and some 70 specialists on the site. So, it’s not about me, it’s about having that whole team working together to create something really amazing. I am really proud of what we’ve achieved.
Excitingly, we won Current Archaeology's Research Project of the Year 2020 award for our work at Star Carr!
Trying to get the best out of everyone
For me, the most important thing about my job is making sure everybody’s happy, and creating the best experience we can for students and staff. In this way, we can do the best archaeology we can, and teach in the best way we can.
All our staff are incredibly passionate about what they do. We’ve got over 25 Vice-Chancellor's teaching awards within Archaeology - which is absolutely incredible - a large number of 'supervisor of the year' awards, and several nominations and wins for national awards, demonstrating just how brilliant our lecturers are.
There’s something for everybody
Archaeology is really interdisciplinary, so we link up with lots of different subjects. We have ongoing projects with just about every area of the University! We also have a lot of people who’ve come from different backgrounds - historians, art historians, scientists - and that makes for a really creative and interesting mix. So, whatever background you’re coming from, you can channel your interest.
We're really keen on pushing forward the frontiers of science and digital archaeology. We have some amazing teams in those two areas, and we’re doing projects which really are at the forefront of those sub-disciplines.
We’re also opening up more into artefact studies. We have the York Experimental Archaeological Research (YEAR) Centre, which gives you the opportunity to work on experimental projects in the woods, and learn how people made things in the past. All of this is helping to further our research. It was particularly exciting when Ray Mears came and opened the Centre – that was a big thing for us!
Archaeology opens the door to all sorts of different careers
Employers are often interested in someone who’s done an archaeology degree because it’s something a little different. It gives you a massive range of transferable skills. You have to work in teams, but you also have to work independently on research projects. You'll learn computing, numeracy, writing and oral communication skills. All of these things are really good selling points when you go into a career.
We have people who go into everything, from the heritage industry, museums and the media, right through to accountancy, law and the police. Whatever your interests, it's an excellent foundation for a lot of jobs, and we embed careers guidance into our curriculum to help you along the way.
If you have any questions about archaeology at York, then please feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to discuss your course, our research, or anything else you want to know about.