Graduating from University of Birmingham in 1960, I continued studying for my PhD there and at the University of Lund, Sweden, where I also took part in medieval urban excavations in the centre of the city. On returning to UK I became Director of Excavations in King's Lynn, Norfolk (1963-1967), subsequently a Research Fellow in the School of History, University of Birmingham and then Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology at Glasgow. Knowledge of Swedish medieval archaeology gained during my time as a doctoral student enabled me to take up consultancies with Swedish Board of Antiquities and many other Scandinavian archaeological bodies. From 1976 to 1990 I was Lecturer, later Senior Lecturer, in Medieval Archaeology in UCL and since then I have been an independent consultant specializing in the archaeology of medieval Europe, particularly contacts between Britain and Scandinavia. During the 1990s I acted as Visiting Professor in the Universities of Århus, Kiel and Lund, from whom I received an Honorary Doctorate in 1991.
I have published on both early and late medieval topics and also translated and edited many archaeological works, in particular many published by The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. In recognition of this, in 2012 The Academy presented me with a Silver Medal for services to Swedish archaeology.
Interest in urban archaeology had continued throughout my career, most recently in a project supported by English Heritage on the development of the medieval port of Sandwich, Kent. The results were published in 2010.
English urban archaeology: investigations into medieval Sandwich continue in collaboration with Keith Parfitt of Canterbury Archaeological Trust and the Dover Archaeological Group. Current research concentrates on interpreting the development of Sandwich's medieval Carmelite friary from the scrappy field notes of unpublished excavations. This is supported by the Sandwich Heritage Group.
In Sweden: A Swedish colleague and I have been reinterpreting the early medieval settlement site of Helgö, west of Stockholm, which was excavated from 1954 to 1978 and published in eighteen volumes. New scrutiny of the field records and published data is confirming that Helgö was a Central Place, highly significant in state formation in the middle of the 1st millennium AD when the Svea realm (the forerunner of modern Sweden) emerged. This work was published in 2017.
My main link is with Andrew Reynolds and his project staff, for whom I have given classes on Anglo-Saxon and Viking subjects as part of MA courses in Early Medieval Archaeology. I attend the Early Medieval seminar series.
Selected recent publications
- Helen Clarke & Kristina Lamm, Helgӧ Revisited, a new look at the excavated evidence for Helgӧ, central Sweden, 134 pp., Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen Schloss Gottorf 2017
- Keith Parfitt & Helen Clarke, 'Scouring the conduit head at Woodnesborough: investigations into Convent Well, near Sandwich', Archaeologia Cantiana 137, 2016, 127-47
- Helen Clarke, Discover Medieval Sandwich, 104 pp., Oxbow 2012
- Helen Clarke, Sarah Pearson, Mavis Mate & Keith Parfitt, Sandwich, The 'completest medieval town in England': a study of the town and port from its origins to 1600, 326 pp., Oxbow 2012
- Helen Clarke & Björn Ambrosiani, Towns in the Viking Age, 210 pp., Leicester UP 1991 (& 1995)
- Helen Clarke, The Archaeology of Medieval England, 224 pp., British Museum Publications 1984 & Blackwells 1986
- Helen Clarke & Alan Carter, Excavations in King's Lynn 1963-1970, 482 pp., Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series 7, 1977
- Helen Clarke, Regional Archaeologies: East Anglia, 92 pp., Heinemann 1971