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Institute of Archaeology

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Research Excellence

The Institute of Archaeology is a long-established international leader in the discipline, unique in the scale and diversity of its research and the global scope of its expertise and collaborative links.

The Institute's key strategic research aims are:

  • to be internationally pre-eminent in the study, and comparative analysis, of world archaeology.
  • to maintain and enhance its reputation for the quality and breadth of its multi-disciplinary and thematic approach to the study of the human past.
  • to develop theory, method and practice in the study and management of cultural heritage in its social, political and economic contexts.
  • to be at the forefront of international research in archaeological sciences.

The Institute’s research covers fieldwork, laboratory analysis and conservation, artefact studies, and theoretical, synthetic, and analytical work across a range of perspectives. It has more than 60 research active staff, projects on five continents and in the Pacific, and wins regular and substantial research funding from a wide range of national and international sources.

Research Quality

In REF 2014 the Institute of Archaeology received the top score of 100% 4* for the excellence of our research environment. Two thirds (66%) of our research outputs were rated in the 4* or 3* categories (world leading and internationally excellent) while nearly 50% of our research impact was deemed to be of 4* quality.  The Institute was the largest submitting unit within UK academic archaeology and we submitted the largest volume of research that was deemed to be world-leading.

In the 2008 UK Universities Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), 90% of the Institute’s research activity was rated as internationally recognised by the assessment panel, with 30% considered world-leading. The panel also noted that, ‘UCL's Institute of Archaeology is one of the very few places in the world that is actively pursuing research on a truly global scale‘; that it has ‘a generally outstanding research environment in which all [its] research groups participate, [contributing] to an increasingly cohesive research environment‘; and that its staff and their work have ‘generally excellent impact and recognition‘.

Research grants

In the last few years the Institute has won significant European funding and UK Research Council and charity grants.

Outstanding European research grant success

  • Rhiannon Stevens has been successful in obtaining a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant for her research project 'UP-NORTH: Colonisation and cultural diversification in northern Europe during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition' (2014-2019).
  • Dorian Fuller was successful in obtaining a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grant for his research project 'COMPAG: Comparative Pathways to Agriculture' (2013-18).
  • Marc Vander Linden was successful in obtaining a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for his research project 'EUROFARM: Transmission of innovations: comparison and modelling of early farming and associated technologies in Europe' (2012-2017).
  • Ignacio de la Torre was also successful in obtaining a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for his research project 'ORACEAF: The Origins of the Acheulean in East Africa' (2012-2016).
  • Stephen Shennan was successful in obtaining a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grant for his research project ‘EUROEVOL: Cultural Evolution of Neolithic Europe’ (2010-2014).

Major UK research grant awards

  • Rodney Harrison, with UK and international colleagues, has been awarded an AHRC Large Grant under the 'Care for the Future: Thinking forward through the past' theme, for the research programme ‘Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage’ (2015-19).
  • Chiara Bonacchi, in collaboration with Durham University, was awarded AHRC funding for the project ‘Iron Age and Roman Heritages: Exploring ancient identities in modern Britain’ (2016-19).
  • Andrew Bevan, and colleagues at the British Museum, were awarded AHRC funding for an innovative project on Crowd- and Community-fuelled Archaeological Research (2013-15).
  • Thilo Rehren was awarded an AHRC Research Project Grant for collaborative research with Serbian and German partners on the Origins of Metallurgy in Eurasia (2012-2015). 
  • Sue Hamilton was also awarded an AHRC Research Project Grant for the collaborative project 'Rapa Nui: Landscapes of Construction' (2011-2015).
  • Kris Lockyear was awarded an AHRC Community Heritage Development Award for his project on the late Iron Age and Roman past of Hertfordshire (2013-14).
  • Stephen Shennan and Mike Parker Pearson have received a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant for a 3-year project on 'Economics of Neolithic mining in NW Europe' (2015-2018).
  • Christopher Scull was awarded Leverhulme Trust funding for a Research Project entitled 'Lordship and Landscape in East Anglia AD 400-800' (2017-20).
  • Stephen Shennan and Andrew Bevan have been on a 3-year Leverhulme Research Project (led by Plymouth University) entitled 'Changing the face of the Mediterranean: land cover and population since the advent of farming' (2015-18).
  • Jose Oliver was awarded funding from the Leverhulme Trust for a 4-year archaeological project entitled 'Reflexive Archaeology in Cotua Island, Orinoco, Venezuela' (2015-2019).
  • Andrew Reynolds was also awarded funding from the Leverhulme Trust for a 3-year research project (2014-17) on 'Travel and communication in Anglo-Saxon England'.
  • Elizabeth Graham was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant for a 3-year project exploring the role of past human activity in structuring modern landscapes and soils (2013-16).
  • Louise Martin, Andrew Garrard and Andrew Bevan were also awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant for a 3-year project on Prehistoric hunting strategies in Jordan: reconstructing prey behaviour and ecology (2013-16).
  • James Steele (Director of the AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity) was successful, in collaboration with the University of Exeter, in obtaining funding from the Leverhulme Trust for their project on ‘Learning to be Human: Skill acquisition and the development of the human brain’ (2010-2013).
  • Dorian Fuller obtained a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) research project grant for research on 'The impact of intensification and deintensification of Asian rice production: transitions between wet and dry ecologies' (2016-19).
  • Dorian previously obtained major NERC funding for research on 'The evolution of rice systems from China to Southeast Asia' (2013-16) as well for research on ‘The Identification of Rice in Prehistory’ (2009-12).

Postdoctoral research has been significantly developed through external research funding while the Institute has continued to be successful in attracting both UK/EU and international PhD students.