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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Material and Visual Culture


Artefacts, monuments and images form essential materials for the study of the past. Through analysis of their manufacture/creation, trade, distribution, uses and understandings we can gain insights into social norms and behaviours, identities, rituals, and beliefs in the past, and consider how this intersects with perceptions, identities and behaviours today.

At Durham, research in this area has a distinctive spectrum of periods, places and materials, from Palaeolithic cave art and hand axe creation through later prehistoric and ancient Egyptian imagery, Chinese and Roman ceramics, and Classical, Medieval and Islamic monuments, to early modern commodities. Methods and approaches are equally wide-ranging, from cutting-edge archaeo-materials science in specialist laboratories to critical theorisation of frameworks through which we derive meanings from material and visual remains.

The Material and Visual Culture Research Group (MaVis) provides a connecting structure for this work, and informs and enhances our scholarship through activities that aid critical comparison of approaches and interdisciplinary synergies.