Julia Shaw

Research Interests

  • The archaeology of early-historic South Asia
  • Early Indian religions
  • Urbanisation and state formation
  • Water management and irrigation
  • Theories of religious, social and economic change
  • Archaeology of sacred places and pilgrimage
  • Archaeology of natural places
  • Archaeologies of well-being
  • Archaeology and environmental ethics
  • Sectarianism, politics and archaeology
  • Theory and method of landscape and survey archaeology
  • Geographical Information Systems.
  • Satellite remote-sensing

Research Directory Records

Current research projects

  • The 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. The project is endorsed by the British Association for South Asian Studies.
  • The Sanchi Dams Project: Focuses on a group of ancient irrigation works in central India, documented between 1998 and 2001 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 collaborations

 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.


  • Shaw, J. (Ed.) (2013). Archaeology of Religious Change. World Archaeology 45.1  (Routledge). [online]
  • Madella, M., R. Osborne, and J. Shaw (Eds.) (2009). The Archaeology of Water. World Archaeology 41.1 (Routledge). [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2007). Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi hill and archaeologies of religious and social change, c. 3rd century BC to 5th century AD. London: British Association for South Asian Studies, The British Academy; Leftcoast Press [online]

Journal articles:

  • Shaw, J. (2013). 'Archaeologies of Buddhist propagation in ancient India: 'ritual' and 'practical' models of religious change',  in, J. Shaw (Ed.) Archaeology of Religious Change. World Archaeology 45.1, 83-108 (Routledge). [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2013). 'Archaeology of Religious Change: Introduction', in, J. Shaw (Ed.) Archaeology of Religious Change. World Archaeology 45.1: 1-11 (Routledge). [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2011). 'Monasteries, monasticism, and patronage in ancient India: Mawasa, a recently documented hilltop Buddhist complex in the Sanchi area of Madhya Pradesh', South Asian Studies 27 (2): 111-130. [online]
  • Sutcliffe, J., J. Shaw, and E. Brown (2011). 'Historical water resources in South Asia: the hydrological background', Hydrological Sciences Journal 56 (5): 775-788. [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2007). ‘Landscape, Water and Religion in Ancient India’, Archaeology International 2006-2007, 43-52. [online]
  • Shaw, J., J. V. Sutcliffe, L. Lloyd-Smith, J-L. Schwenninger, and M.S. Chauhan, with contributions by E. Harvey and O.P. Misra (2007), ‘Ancient Irrigation and Buddhist history in Central India: Optically Stimulated Luminescence and pollen sequences from the Sanchi dams’, Asian Perspectives 46(1): 166-201. [online]
  • Beck, A., J. Shaw, and D. Stott (2007). 'Best practice approaches for applying satellite imagery for landscape archaeological applications: a case study from the world heritage site of Sanchi, India', Proc. SPIE 6749, Remote Sensing for Environmental Monitoring, GIS Applications, and Geology VII, 674905 (October 29, 2007). [online]
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2005). ‘Ancient Dams and Buddhist Landscapes in the Sanchi area: New evidence on Irrigation, Land use and Monasticism in Central India’, South Asian Studies 21, 1-24. [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2004). ‘Naga sculptures in Sanchi’s archaeological landscape: Buddhism, Vaisnavism and local agricultural cults in central India, first century BCE to fifth century CE’, Artibus Asiae LXIV(1), 5-59. [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2004). ‘Early historic landscapes in central India: recent archaeological investigations in districts Raisen and Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, 2003-4’, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in History and Archaeology 1, 143-150.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2003). ‘Ancient dams, settlement archaeology and Buddhist propagation in central India: the hydrological background’, Hydrological Sciences Journal 48 (2), 277-291. [online]
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2003). ‘Water management, patronage networks and religious change: new evidence from the Sanchi dam complex and counterparts in Gujarat and Sri Lanka’, South Asian Studies 19, 73-104. [online-a][online-b (open access)]
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2001). ‘Ancient irrigation works in the Sanchi area: an archaeological and hydrological investigation’, South Asian Studies 17, 55-75. [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2000). ‘Ayodhya’s sacred landscape: ritual memory, politics and archaeological “fact”‘, Antiquity 74, 693-700. [online]
  • Shaw, J. (2000). ‘Sanchi and its archaeological landscape: Buddhist monasteries, settlements and irrigation works in central India’, Antiquity 74, 775-776. [online]

Chapters in books:

  • Shaw, J.  (2013). 'Sanchi as an archaeological area', in, D.K. Chakrabarti and M. Lal (Eds.), History of Ancient India, vol. 4. New Delhi: Vivekananda International Foundation and Aryan Books.
  • Shaw, J. (In Press). 'Archaeologies of Buddhism and its landscape setting in central India: the Sanchi Survey Project', in, S. Garg (Ed.), Archaeology of Buddhism: recent discoveries in South Asia. Colombo and New Delhi: SAARC Cultural Centre / Manohar Publishers.
  • Shaw, J. (Under Review). 'Buddhist mortuary traditions in ancient India: stūpas, relics and the Buddhist landscape', in, C. Renfrew, M. Boyd, and I. Morely (Eds.), Death Shall Have No Dominion. Proceedings from McDonald Institute seminar, Cambridge, April 2011. Cambridge University Press.
  • Shaw, J. (2009). ‘Stūpas, monasteries and relics in the landscape: typological, spatial, and temporal patterns in the Sanchi area', in A. Shimada and J. Hawkes, eds., Buddhist Stūpas in South Asia: Recent Archaeological, Art-Historical, and Historical Perspectives. New Delhi : Oxford University Press.
  • Shaw, J. (2005). 'The archaeological setting of Buddhist monasteries in central India: a summary of a multi-phase survey in the Sanchi area, 1998-2000', in C. Jarrige and V. Lefèvre (eds.), South Asian Archaeology 2001: proceedings of the 16th international conference of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, ADPF, Vol. 2, 665-676.
  • Shaw, J. (2000). ‘The sacred landscape’, in M. Willis, with contributions by J. Cribb and J. Shaw, Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India, London: British Museum Press, 27-38.
  • Shaw, J. (1999). ‘Buddhist landscapes and monastic planning in eastern Malwa: the elements of intervisibility, surveillance and the protection of relics’, in T. Insoll, (ed.), Case Studies in Archaeology and World Religion: the proceedings of the Cambridge conference, Oxford: Archaeopress, 5-17.

Encyclopedia / Dictionary articles:

  • Shaw, J. (In Press). 'Region of the Vindhyas’; ‘Sanchi’; and ‘Satdhara'. Entries in Archaeology of South Asia: Mondo dell'Archeologia, Enciclopedia Italiana , Rome. 5.
  • Shaw, J. (2013). 'Raymond Allchin (1923-2010)', in L. Goldman (ed.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2013. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [online]

Publications Forthcoming:

  • Shaw, J., and A. Beck, In Preparation. ‘The archaeological application of satellite remote-sensing in Central India'. 
  • Shaw, J. In preparation. An archaeology of well-being: environmental ethics and Buddhist economics in ancient India.
  • Shaw, J.  In preparation. 'Hinduism and the Sungas', in A. Hiltebeitel (ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Hinduism. Oxford: Oxford University Press

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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