• julia.shaw@ucl.ac.uk
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  • UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY UK

Julia Shaw

Research Interests

  • Archaeology of South Asia
  • Early Indian religions
  • Archaeology of Religion and Ritual
  • Archaeology and Environmental Humanities
  • Archaeology and environmental ethics
  • Religion, Nature and Ecology
  • Environmental and climatic change
  • Urbanisation and state formation
  • Water management and irrigation
  • Archaeology of natural places
  • Archaeologies of well-being
  • Sectarianism, politics and archaeology
  • Landscape and survey archaeology
  • Geographical Information Systems
  • Satellite remote-sensing

Research Directory Records

Current and Recent Projects

  • British Academy Mid-Career Fellow 2014-15: Archaeologies of Environmental Ethics in Ancient India
  • Sanchi Survey Project: Multi-phase survey project around Sanchi, a major Buddhist hilltop complex in Madhya Pradesh. A recently declared UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of India's best preserved and most studied Buddhist sites with a continuous constructional sequence from c. 3rd century BCE to 12th century CE. The project, initiated in 1998, has sought to relate Sanchi to other aspects of the archaeological landscape including settlements (particularly the ancient city of Vidisha), ritual centres, rock-shelters, and aspects of land-use and water-management. The principal research question is ‘how did the spread of Buddhism from its cradle in the Gangetic valley relate to other key processes such as urbanisation, state-formation and innovations in agriculture during the late centuries BCE’?  The initial phase of exploration over an area of approximately 750 sq km, took place between 1998-2001, resulting in the systematic recording of about 35 Buddhist sites, 145 settlements, 17 irrigation works and numerous sculpture fragments. In subsequent years, the survey has been developed in several ways including the application of intensive site-mapping, satellite remote-sensing, and the collection of dam and reservoir sediments for geological dating and palaeo-ecological analysis. Endorsed by the British Association for South Asian Studies.
  • Sanchi Dams Project: Focuses on a group of ancient irrigation works in central India, documented during the Sanchi Survey Project described above. Using a range of methods including satellite remote-sensing, geological dating of buried dam and reservoir deposits, the study of surface remains, local present-day hydrology, and ancient pollen sequences, the project has been aimed at building a model for understanding dam chronology and function, associated crop usage, and the relationship between innovations in irrigation technology and the history of Buddhism, urbanisation and state-formation in central India.

Current and Previous Collaborations

  • Atman and psyche: cosmology and the self in ancient India and ancient Greece. Richard Fynes (De Montford) and Richard Seaford (Exeter).
  • Seshat-Global History Databank. Harvey Whitehouse (Oxford), Pieter Francois (Oxford), Peter Turchin (UConn), and Edward Slingerland (UBC).
  • Exultation and fear: the interactive dynamics of culture and ecology in changing human responses to large carnivores (project development stage). Aleks Pluskowski, Reading.
  • Relics and Relic Worship in the Early Buddhism of India and Burma (from 2003). Janice Stargardt (Cambridge)
  • Vidisha Research Group (2000-2007). Michael Willis (British Museum)

 Previous posts and educational background

  • 2002-5. British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Archaeology, Oxford ; Junior Research Fellow, Merton College, Oxford University.
  • 2002. Visiting Research Fellow and Lecturer, Archaeology Center and Center of Buddhist Studies, Stanford University, California.
  • 1998-2001. PhD in Archaeology, University of Cambridge. Thesis title: The Sacred Geography of Sanchi hill: the archaeological setting of Buddhist monasteries in Central India .
  • 1996-7. Mphil in World Archaeology, University of Cambridge. Dissertation title: India’s Sacred Landscape: the elements of archaeological continuity, ritual contestation, and the invention of antiquity at Ayodhya, north India.
  • 1990-1993. BA in Hindi and Religious Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dissertation title: The Tree and the Axial pillar in Indian Mythology, Art, and Architecture.

First Supervisor

  • Alessandro Ceccarelli From Harappa to Aryavarta: the Painted Grey Ware and the link between the Late Harappan and Proto-Historic cultures in North-Western India (Second Supervisor: Patrick Quinn)

Second Supervisor

  • Raminder Kaur Cultural and environmental variation in Neolithic of South Asia: A comparative perspective on the archaeobotany of the Southern Neolithic (principal supervisor Dorian Fuller)
  • Ellie Kingwell Banham Early rice agricultural systems in India (principal supervisor Dorian Fuller)

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