Institute of Archaeology


Iron Age and Roman Heritages

Iron Age and Roman Heritages project icon

This interdisciplinary project has been funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and will run for three years as a collaboration between Durham Archaeology, the UCL Institute of Archaeology and Durham Anthropology.

The team will assess how the Iron Age and Roman pasts of England, Scotland and Wales (c. 700BC to AD 400) are called upon today, situating this understanding in an international context. Through this case study, the wider values of interacting with the past for different individuals and groups will also be documented as well as providing a framework for an innovative debate that looks for ways to connect up the interests of stakeholders and outline directions for further coordinated research. Finally, during the course of the three years, research on heritages relating to the post-Roman period and up to AD 800 in Britain and selected areas of the Mediterranean will be piloted.

The potential of the chosen theme emerges from a powerful duality represented in particular ways across Europe. Kristiansen (1996, 138) defines two European myths of origin stemming from a classical dichotomy between ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’, and a variety of ‘dualities’ arise from the ways these oppositions have played out (Beard & Henderson 1999, 47). The interlinked nature of dualities reflects the extent and complexity of the territories that make up the British Isles, the histories of the people who live in these places and their relationships to those overseas (Hingley 2015).

The project will address 5 research directions for Iron Age and Roman Heritage (IA&RH):

  • To explore the diversity of heritages created by various stakeholders across Britain, as exemplified through interpreting, performing and researching.
  • To document the contrasting values inherent in these heritages and how these relate to sense of place.
  • To research the wider values of engaging with the past in Britain. These values are not necessarily specific to IA&RH, but will be identified by looking intensively at this case study.
  • To develop and apply a mixed and coordinated methodology for the study of heritage values that uses both qualitative and data-intensive methods of analysis, offline and online.
  • To build upon contact with academics and organizations working on related issues in the UK and elsewhere, to encourage a new focus of international research around the core aims of the project that we hope will help to spread this cross-disciplinary agenda.

The project is firmly grounded in earlier AHRC-funded research undertaken on Hadrian’s Wall by PI Richard Hingley, digital heritage and public archaeology by CI Chiara Bonacchi, and professional practices by CI Tom Yarrow. The approach being taken will allow access to significant new bodies of information online and offline. Particularly, the project will develop and apply a mixed and coordinated methodology for the study of heritage values that leverages both qualitative and data-intensive methods of analysis ranging from ethnography, to topic modelling, network analysis and crowdsourcing.