Press Releases

The only academic department in Britain to boast five Fellows of the British Academy - Archaeology – University of Reading

Release Date : 17 July 2009

With the election last night of Professor Martin Bell as a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the University of Reading's Department of Archaeology

is celebrating as the only academic department in Britain to boast five FBAs.

Academics are elected Fellows of the British Academy in recognition of excellence in scholarly research activity and publication in the areas of humanities and the social sciences. Only one or two scholars a year are elected in most fields.

Professor Gordon Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said: "The Department of Archaeology at Reading has an outstanding reputation, not only for the quality of its teaching and research, but also through its enterprise and public engagement functions. With his election yesterday, Martin Bell now joins four colleagues in the Department as Fellows of the British Academy in what is not only the finest archaeology department in the country, but arguably one of the strongest in Europe. We send our hearty congratulations to both Martin and his colleagues for what is an exceptional achievement."

Professor Martin Bell's research concerns the contribution which archaeology makes to an understanding of environmental change on a wide range of timescales. He is an acknowledged expert on coastal environments with particular interest in the Severn Estuary.

Professor Bell FBA said: "I am delighted to get recognition for the developing, and very muddy, field of coastal archaeological research. This is currently a hot topic with increasing involvement nationally and internationally from the heritage agencies. Coastal sites are under threat from sea level rise and growing development pressures. Archaeology helps us understand the origins and history of coastal environments, which are of nature conservation importance, as well as the role of episodic environmental change and the effect of people on their history."

The Department's six core areas of research cover the entirety of human history in Europe and the Near and Middle East from the last glaciation to AD1600. The world-leading research areas have a direct relevance for contemporary environmental and climatic change and in which the five FBAs play a major role. They include: the development of the first complex societies in the Near and Middle East since the last glaciation (Prof Steve Mithen FBA); coastal and wetland archaeology and the relationship between humans and the environment in prehistory (Prof Martin Bell FBA); later prehistoric societies in north-west Europe (Prof Richard Bradley FBA); urbanisation in the Roman World (Prof Michael Fulford FBA); Digital Data Capture in the Field, Database Development and Digital Dissemination World (Prof Michael Fulford FBA) and the archaeology of medieval gender, religion and belief (Prof Roberta Gilchrist FBA).

The multi-disciplinary character of much of this research integrates humanities- and science based approaches to produce innovatory methodologies and original results. The Department's emphasis on vocational training is unique in the UK, integrating field-based practice into all undergraduate degrees through the Silchester Field School. Industry and government also benefit from the Department's expertise through the provision of advice and specialist services, especially in the areas of forensic and environmental reconstruction.

In the latest Research Assessment Exercise (2008), Reading was the UK's archaeology department with the highest proportion of world-leading research (40% at 4*). In total, 90% of its research was assessed as being of international standing. In the most recent National Student Survey, the department was ranked the highest UK archaeology department for student satisfaction with a 100% rating and the highest score for an intellectually stimulating degree (97%)

Members of the University's Department of Archaeology who are also Fellows of the British Academy are:- Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Professor Michael Fulford, Professor Steven Mithen and Professor Richard Bradley. All five members of the department have progressed in their careers at Reading, having initially being appointed to more junior positions.

Read about the latest research project atSilchester


Further information from Alex Brannen, Media Relations Manager at the University of Reading, on 0118 378 7388

Notes to editors:

An image of Professor Bell as well as individual images of the other four FBAs are available from the University press office on 0118 378 7115/7388

More information about archaeology at the University of Reading at

The British Academy

The British Academy elected 38 outstanding scholars into the Fellowship, with the expertise to contribute to the Academy's objectives, including policy engagement. Each year, the British Academy elects outstanding UK-based scholars who have achieved distinction in any branch of the humanities and social sciences.

The British Academy, established by Royal Charter in 1902, champions and supports the humanities and social sciences. It aims to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement across the UK and internationally. For more information, please visit

Press enquiries – British Academy - Kate Turnbull, Press and PR Manager: 0207 969 5263 /


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