Who am I?

One of the things I find exciting about archaeology is the diverse ways that you can participate in it. Since completing my undergraduate, I was involved in working in professional field archaeology, continuing when possible throughout my PhD. I took part in many field projects with more specific research orientation, and on one such I had the fortune of working at the site of Keros in the Cycladic Islands of Greece. This led to my first professional appointment as a Research Associate with the director of the site, Colin Renfrew, at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge, immediately after completing my PhD in 2006. In 2007 I began a collaboration with Barbara Hayden excavating the site of Priniatikos Pyrgos in East Crete, which was to continue until 2010. After the 2007 field seasons at both projects, I was appointed to an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at the UCD School of Archaeology until 2009. I had the good fortune to continue contributing lectures and being involved in research there until 2011, while also undertaking a research fellowship at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. In 2011 I was presented with the enviable choice of taking a two-year Marie Curie Fellowship at the University of Sheffield or a three-year CARA fellowship between Sheffield and UCD Dublin, though chose the former opportunity. Hot on the completion of this, I was invited to be a visiting lecturer at the Masaryk University of Brno, completing a very busy 2013. Since then, I had a quiet 2014, followed by a very busy 2015 beginning with developing a module on Bronze Age Europe and the Mediterranean with Alan Peatfield in UCD, a planned new excavation at Idjos in Serbia, and the beginning of a new fellowship at University College Dublin working on bronze age smithing in Europe. 

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I never liked to define myself narrowly within the field, and have active research interests across Europe, from the Atlantic coasts to the vibrant riverine networks of the Balkan peninsula or the beautiful island of Crete. At first, my major interest was the archaeology of warfare, and within this I developed a specific strand called “combat archaeology”, a very much multi-disciplinary approach aimed at accessing the uniquely human face of war – the actions and experiences of those people who faced violence in their lives. I was particularly intrigued by the weapons of the Bronze Age, and went on to use these as media to explore a wide range of social activities, from the long-distance networks required to get access to tin and copper, through the technology of producing metalwork using casting and smithing, and on to other aspects of the life-cycle of artefacts looking at use and deposition patterns. It is quite amazing how the “social life” of weaponry links into so many other aspects of social organisation when you examine it and all of its relationships in their totality in this way. Experimental archaeology has also proven a big interest, not only in testing how things work, but also for accessing why they were made in the way they were and gaining insights into the decisions and choices of the ancient people who interacted with the very same objects. It was obvious that my interests would expand beyond weaponry with the range of stories that can be told looking at metalwork, and this is the juncture I find myself at now when writing about the past.

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My current project is looking at the way that bronze artefacts were made in Europe from around 1500 to 750 BC. More precisely, I am interested in the organisation of craft activities and the ways in which people participated in the production of tools, weapons and ornaments of the later Bronze Age. It is widely argued that the increasing use of bronze had a transformative effect on society, from the lifestyle of the commoner to the poltiical economies serving the leaders in society. Archaeology is often concerned with origins, endings, or dramatic shifts or changes, yet it is the gradual development of bronze from a novelty to a staple that underwrites the transformative capacity of the material for societies. The signatures for these changes are neither sharp nor striking, yet understanding the transformation of the social world of the bronze age requires a far better understanding of the systemic changes that bronze catalysed, enabled and perhaps even came to embody. This project is entitled "Breaking the Mould" and my exploration of the social world of bronze producers and users begins in late 2015!

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Priniatikos Pyrgos team 2010

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Apart from metalwork, weapons and warfare, I have worked on many exciting excavations in Ireland, Greece, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. I have studied museum collections in these countries along with Albania, Austria, Croatia, FYRO Macedonia, Germany, Hungary, Serbia and Switzerland. Working at Priniatikos Pyrgos in Crete, we uncovered a dense sequence of archaeology dating from the Neolithic right through to the Second World War, providing a very rare opportunity to see the development of a specific point in the landscape throughout major environmental and social transformations. My fieldwork has very much enriched my research interests, and I have been invited to speak and write papers on diverse topics, including the tsunami that may have decimated the Minoan Civilisation, the life-cycles of prehistoric houses, fragmentation of space and place, the creation of the oldest pan-regional religious sanctuary in Greece, the manufacture of a Byzantine pewter chalice, changing patterns in obsidian procurement and use, the changing use of a landscape over time. Alongside these, I have also published on mobility and migration in prehistory, the psychology of interpersonal violence, and the ancient metal trade.

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