Staff Profile:Professor Roberta Gilchrist

Professor Roberta Gilchrist
Job Title:
Research Dean
  • Head of School
Areas of Interest:
  • Medieval and Historical Archaeology
  • Gender and Social Archaeology
  • Medieval Material Culture
  • Burial Archaeology
  • Monastic and Church Archaeology
  • Buildings Archaeology
Research groups / Centres:

Social Archaeology Research Group

Key Facts:

My research addresses medieval and social archaeology, with particular focus on gender and belief. I have published widely on the archaeology medieval burial and religious communities (nunneries, monasteries, hospitals, cathedrals), -and I am particularly intrigued by the relationship between Christianity and medieval magic. I held a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2007-10), to consider archaeological approaches to ageing and the life course in medieval England. The resulting book was published in 2012 by Boydell : 'Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course'. Read an interview with Roberta about her book 'Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course' (PDF 374KB).

I recently featured in an episode of the BBC Radio 3 series 'The Rise and Fall of the British Castle', speaking on 'The British Castle: A Woman's Place'. To download the podcast or listen online, please click here.

Glastonbury Abbey:
I am currently undertaking a major project on Glastonbury Abbey with Dr Cheryl Green, in partnership with the Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2009-13). The aim is to fully analyse and publish the archive of antiquarian excavations that took place between 1904 and 1979 (36 seasons). This project builds on the one-year pilot that was funded by the British Academy (2007-8) to assess the quality of the archive and to develop a methodology for its analysis. The post-excavation work included the development of an Integrated Archaeological Database and specialist study of all excavated finds and materials. A new geophysical survey of the full precinct wasundertaken by GSB Prospection. arch-glastonbury-revealedA film featuring this research and funded by the AHRC was launched at the end of February 2014. This film examines the new evidence unearthed by the project and how researchers have worked with the Abbey Museum, conservators and the public to explore the history of this rich and extraordinary site. To watch the film please click on the image. The results of the project will be published as a monograph by the Society of Antiquaries in 2014. Interim results were presented at a symposium at the Antiquaries and can be viewed online.

A complementary project on the presentation of the Abbey ruins was funded by the AHRC as a collaborative doctoral studentship (in partnership with the Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey) undertaken by Dr Rhi Smith. This project worked with the curator of Glastonbury Abbey to develop an Interpretation Strategy to improve public understanding of the archaeological remains and to offer a multi-vocal approach to interpreting Glastonbury's legends.

Throughout my career, I have been engaged outside academia in archaeological conservation and the presentation of archaeology to the public. I was Archaeologist to Norwich Cathedral from 1993 to 2005 and have worked closely with Museum of London Archaeology for the past 20 years, as academic advisor on post-excavation projects on several monasteries. I have been a Trustee of Glastonbury Abbey since 2009.

I presented two series of archaeology programmes on Channel Four (‘Down to Earth’), wrote and presented a series of videos for English Heritage, and have appeared on television and radio programmes including with Eddie Izzard, in ‘Speed Archaeology’ (no archaeology was harmed in the making of this programme!) View Speed Archaeology with Eddie Izzard on YouTube.

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise doctoral students engaged in a broad range of research in historical archaeology. Completed theses include: multi-vocality and Glastonbury Abbey (Smith); the medieval buildings of Cordoba (Lenton); Anglo-Saxon settlements and belief systems (Knox); masculinity and the palaces of Henry VIII (Goulding); gender and ethnicity in the convents of early modern Ecuador (Nimmo); Native American burial practices in 17th-century New England (Vitelli); isotopic analysis of medieval diet (Lakin); medieval and early modern households in Norwich (King); phenomenological approaches to medieval rural settlement (Altenberg); the medieval Quarr stone industry (Bishop new Green); Hampton Court Palace (Foyle).

My former PhD students have found employment in universities (King: Nottingham; Smith: Reading, Lenton: Australian National University; Vitelli: Ashmolean, Oxford; Knox: Reading) xommercial archaeology (Green: Context One) and and as heritage managers (Foyle: World Monuments Fund; Goulding: National Trust; Altenberg: Swedish Heritage Board).


I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2008 and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2002. I previously served as President of the Society for Medieval Archaeology (2004-7), a member of the Council and Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a member of the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee for English Heritage.

I am on the editorial board of the journals 'Social Archaeology' and ‘Current Swedish Archaeology'. I was on the Archaeology sub-panel for RAE 2008 and have been reappointed for REF 2014. I was fellow at Wadham College, Oxford (2009), and St Cross College, Oxford (2010), and the Dalrymple Lecturer at the University of Glasgow (2011).

My major publications include:

  • 'Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course’ (2012)
  • "Magic for the dead? The archaeology of magic in later medieval burials" in 'Medieval Archaeology' 52 (2008), which was winner of the Martyn Jope Prize;
  • 'Requiem: the Medieval Monastic Cemetery in Britain' (with B. Sloane, 2005), which won the British Archaeological Award for Best Scholarly Publication (2004-6);
  •  'Norwich Cathedral Close: the Evolution of the English Cathedral Landscape' (2005), which was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice USA,
  • 'Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past' (1999), 'Gender and Material Culture: the archaeology of religious women' (1994), and
  • 'Contemplation and Action: the other monasticism' (1995).
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This list was generated on Wed Oct 7 12:16:06 2015 BST.
BA, D Phil (York); FBA, FSA

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