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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Mrs Martha Stewart

Contact Mrs Martha Stewart


MA Roman Archaeology, with Distinction, University of Durham 2016
M St Roman History, Christ Church, Oxford 1997
BA Classics Mods; Final Honours School Ancient & Modern History, Christ Church, Oxford 1995

Research Topic

The contribution of Professor Eric Birley (1906-95) to Roman frontier studies


This research builds on a growing recognition that a sense of disciplinary history both informs the way archaeology is practised today, and enhances our ability to communicate our work to a variety of audiences, reflecting the dynamic and changing nature of interpretations of the past. Inspired by recent approaches to historiography, it will also investigate whether there is a relationship between where, geographically, archaeological knowledge is created, the forms such knowledge takes, and how it is perceived (cf. Díaz-Andreu 2012).

To engage with Eric Birley’s career as an excavator, teacher and scholar, is to explore the history of the archaeological study of the northern frontier, from the 1920s to the 70s. This project will examine the interconnecting spheres of the local antiquarian societies based at either end of the Wall, the ‘school’ of Roman military archaeology which developed under Birley’s tutelage at Durham University, and the international network of scholars working on different frontiers of the Roman Empire, of which he was part. In this connection it aims to make a full account, using interview material and correspondence from the archives at Vindolanda as well as published work, of Eric Birley’s role in the International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, first held in Newcastle in 1949 to coincide with the Centenary Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage. 

DÍAZ-ANDREU, M. (2012) Archaeological Encounters: Building Networks of Spanish and British Archaeologists in the 20th Century. Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Conference Papers

2016: ‘Victorians on the Edge: An early excavation in context,’ Edge of Empire Conference, University of Durham, 2 September.


2017: ‘Margerie Venables Taylor, an unsung heroine of Romano-British Archaeology,’ Postgraduate Research Seminar, University of Durham, Easter term.

2016: ‘The Emperor’s New Pots: A late Victorian image of Roman Britain,’ Postgraduate Research Seminar, University of Durham, 20 May.

Public Outreach

2016: ‘Robert Blair’s scrapbook and the 1875 excavation at South Shields,’ Hadrian’s Wall Community Networking Day, Hexham, 26 November.

Conference Organisation

2017: Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference organising committee
2016: Hadrian’s Wall: 40 years of frontier research, Durham, 2-4 September, student helper.


  • Stewart, M.L. (2019) Margerie Venables Taylor (1881-1963): An Unsung Heroine of Roman Britain? In Moshenska, G. & Lewis, C. (eds.): Life Writing in the History of Archaeology. London, UCL Press (forthcoming).
  • Hingley, R. & Stewart, M.L. (2019) Review of 'Alan Sorrell: The Man Who Created Roman Britain' by Julia Sorrell and Mark Sorrell, Journal of Roman Archaeology (forthcoming).


2019: Filmed interview of Professor Rosemary Cramp, commissioned by Durham University Department of Archaeology as part of her 90th Birthday celebrations.


Journal Article

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