Institute of Archaeology

Dr Julia Shaw

Dr Julia Shaw

Associate Professor

Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square

Institute of Archaeology

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2005

Research summary

My current research focuses on the history and archaeology of environmental ethics and attitudes, and the deep-time mindsets towards 'nature' that sustain both healthy and unhealthy human-animal environmental interactions in the past-present-future, with particular interests in South Asian archaeology. 

Research interests:
  • Archaeology and art of South Asia: urbanisation, religious history, state-formation, agriculture, land-use and environmental control, historical water studies, ecological history; sectarianism, politics and archaeology; landscape and survey archaeology; archaeology of sacred geography and 'natural places'; rock-art. 

  • Archaeology of Asian religions especially Buddhism and Hinduism. 

  • Archaeology of medicine, healing and disability: interfaces between archaeology, the medical humanities and public ecological health discourse. 

  • Interfaces between archaeology, anthropocene studies, and the environmental humanities:  archaeologies of environmental ethics and intellectual responses to climate change;  cultural attitudes towards 'nature' and human:animal:environment interactions; archaeology, religion and the environment; archaeology and environmental / climate-change activism. 

Research projects and grants
  • 2014-  Religion, 'Nature' and Environmental Ethics in Ancient India (PI). Funding: British Academy / Leverhulme Small Grant (2016-17), British Academy Mid Career Fellowship (2014-15)

  • 1998- Sanchi Survey Project, and Sanchi Dams Project (PI). Funding: British Academy; British Association for South Asian Studies; INTACH UK; Merton College; Nehru Trust; Scottish Education Board; Society for South Asian Studies

  • 2006-8 Landscape, Water and Religion in Ancient India (PI). Funding: British Association  for South Asian Studies Grant

  • 2003-5 Mapping dams, settlements and monasteries in Central India (PI). Funding: British Academy Board for Academy-Sponsored Institutes and Societies (BASIS) Grant

  • 2019- Science, society and environmental change in the first millennium CE (PI: Helen Foxhall Forbes & Karen Milek, Durham University). https://www.dur.ac.uk/ias/1920projects/foxhallforbes/

  • 2016- One Health, Deep Time Research Network (PI: Naomi Sykes, Exeter University)

  • 2015- Tracking the Tiger: From Colonialism to Conservation (PI: Aleks Pluskowski, Reading)

  • 2013-18, Ritual, Community and Conflict (SESHAT Global History Databank Initiative) (PIs: Pieter Francois, Oxford; Edward Slingerland, UBC; Peter Turchin, UConn; Harvey Whitehouse, Oxford). https://evolution-institute.org/project/seshat/

  • 2003-7 Relics & relic worship in the early Buddhism of India & Burma (PI: Janice Stargardt, University of Cambridge) 

  • 2000-7 Vidisha Research Group (PI: Michael Willis, British Museum)

Teaching summary

My undergraduate  teaching covers art and archaeology of South Asia, with an emphasis on complex society, religion and environment.  I also contribute to the Institute's MA in Archaeology and Heritage of Asia, including the Archaeology of Buddhism module which acts as a cultural bridge between the diverse regional and chronological foci of the degree. 
  • Degree Coordinator (2019/20) and Contributor to MA Archaeology and Heritage of Asia Degree Programme
  • Course Co-ordinator: ARCL0050 Archaeology of Early South Asia

  • Course Co-ordinator: ARCL0052 Archaeology and Art of Historic South Asia: approaches to ancient states, empires, and religions in the Indian Subcontinent

  • Course Co-ordinator: ARCLG276 Cities, States and Religions of Ancient India

  • Course Co-ordinator: ARCL0154 Archaeology of Buddhism

  • Contributor: ARCL0152 Archaeologies of Asia
  • Contributor: ARCL0210 Archaeology of the Silk Roads
PhD Supervision
I am happy to supervise topics on South Asian, and comparative Asian archaeology, and more broadly, on landscape and survey archaeology; water and irrigation; archaeology of ritual and religion; historical ecology;  archaeology and the medico-environmental humanities; archaeology and anthropocene studies; religious and intellectual responses to climate and environmental change.

First Supervisor
  • From 2018 - Bratatee Barman (external: Freie Universität Berlin), Archaeological Landscape of Brahmaputra River Valley, India: AD 600-1000 (Joint First Supervisor: Elke Kaiser, Freie Universität Berlin)

  • From 2016- Ken Ishikawa (external: Oxford University), Geographical and Chronological Contextualisation of Buddhist Rock-Cut Caves in Gujarat during the Western Ksatrapa Period (mid' first-to-early fifth century AD) (Joint First Supervisor: Anke Hein, Oxford University) 

  • 2015-2016. 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
  • From 2018 - Mitzy Quinto Cortes, Destroyed but not lost: How to overcome an earthquake? Engaging key stakeholders in the conservation decision-making process of their own Cultural Heritage (First Supervisor: Renata Peters; Joint Second Supervisor: Caitlin O'Grady)
  •  Ellie Kingwell Banham, Early rice agricultural systems in India (First Supervisor: Dorian Fuller)


University of Cambridge
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2002
University of Cambridge
Other higher degree, Master of Philosophy | 1997
School of Oriental and African Studies
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1993


  • BA, MPhil, PhD
  • Associate Professor in South Asian Archaeology
  • Departmental Academic Writing Tutor
  • Chair of Departmental Sub-Committee for Academic Writing
  • Chair of Departmental Ethics Committee
  • Departmental Equal Opportunity Liaison Officer (DEOLO)

Affiliated positions

  • Since 2015, Member, UCL Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World 
  • Since 2015, Research Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge
  • 2012-15, Visiting Scholar, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

Editorial Board Membership

  • Since 2019, Material Religion in Antiquity. Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, Florence /Oxbow Book Series
  • Since 2016, Studies in Asian Art and Culture Series, University of Bonn / EB-Verlag Berlin 
  • Since 2015, South Asian Studies(Taylor & Francis) 
  • Since 2014, Bloomsbury Studies in Religion, Space and Place 
  • Since 2012, Routledge (India) Archaeology and Religion Book Series 
  • 2005-2019, World Archaeology (Taylor & Francis)