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Department of Archaeology


Dr Chris Caple, BSc, PhD, ACR, FIIC, FSA

Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology

(email at


Dr Chris Caple, currently a Senior Lecturer at Durham University, has been director of the postgraduate programme in artefact conservation at Durham since 1988.  He is active teaching, researching and publishing in conservation, analysing and researching ancient artefacts and has been directing and publishing archaeological excavations since 1982.

Chris graduated from University of Wales, College of Cardiff in 1979 with a BSc in Archaeological Conservation.  He carried out his doctoral research on the composition and manufacturing technology of medieval copper alloy pins at the University of Bradford and awarded a PhD in 1986.  Between 1984 and 1988 he was the artefacts conservator at the York Castle Museum.   In 1988 he became lecturer in Archaeological Conservation and Archaeological Science at the Dept. of Archaeology, University of Durham, becoming a senior lecturer in 1996. He is an Accredited Conservator Restorer (ACR) and Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation (FIIC).   His books Conservation Skills: Judgement, Method and Decision Making (pub 2000) and Preventive Conservation in Museums (pub 2011) are widely used as textbooks on conservation and museum studies courses.  He has given workshops and invited lectures throughout Europe and North America, from Gothenburg in 2001 and Delaware University (Winterthur Programme) in 2005 to his most recent in New York (ANAGPIC Conference) in 2012.

The postgraduate conservation courses at Durham; Diploma in Archaeological Conservation (1988-1991), MA in Conservation of Historic Objects (Archaeology) (1990-2004) and MA in Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects (2009-present), which were all taught and directed by Chris, have had international reputations, and have produced many of the conservators who are active leaders in the field such as Gordon Turner Walker – Professor in Museum Studies, National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, Jeremy Hutchings – Associate Professor of Conservation at Oslo University, Samantha Sporton- Head of Conservation Manchester Museum, Christine Murray – National Trust Conservator of the North of England and Emily Williams – Archaeological Conservator Colonial Williamsburg Virginia USA.  In addition to the course, an active conservation research programme has produced PhD students, such as Dr Ticca Ogilvie – now Head of Artefacts Conservation, National Museums of Scotland.  There have been a series of key publications, particularly in areas such as preservation in situ and teaching and learning conservation and Chris was briefly an associate editor of Studies in Conservation 2009 – 2010.

 Chris has been actively involved in excavating archaeological sites since the age of 14!  He has a long term research interest in Welsh castles and between 1984 and 1995 he directed the archaeological excavations at Dryslwyn Castle in Dyfed.  These Cadw funded excavations produced one of the most detailed excavations of a Welsh castle ever undertaken producing a wealth of environmental remains and evidence of the 1287 siege; they were published as a Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph in 2007.  He subsequently started excavations at Nevern Castle in 2008, revealing a well preserved 12th century castle built of stone mortared with clay and unearthing a threshold containing hidden apotropaic symbols.  These excavations will continue until 2018.  He has He has been a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) since 2002.

Chris has been actively researching ancient artefacts and analysing the materials of which they are composed, since his PhD on medieval pins (1979-1986).  Work has ranged from Durham Cathedral doors to Anglo Saxon pendants and brooches.  This work led him to write Objects: Reluctant Witnesses to the Past, a textbook to aid museum studies and archaeology students studying archaeological artefacts.  He has supervised students researching artefacts at undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels such as his PhD student (1991-1995) Dr David  Dungworth who is now Head of Conservation and Technology for English Heritage.  Research continues with his current PhD student Jocelyn Baker actively researching the colour and composition of Anglo-Saxon copper alloys.

In addition to being the Chairman of the Board of Examiners in the Dept of Archaeology at Durham (2005-2009) Chris has been external examiner at a number of universities, London Guildhall University (1993-1996), Bradford University (1997-2000), Leicester University (2003-2007), Derby University (2007-2010) and most recently University College London (2010-present).  He was a member of English Heritage’s Science and Conservation Advisory Panel 1997 - 2003 and a member of the Board of Studies of the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) (Courtauld Institute 1996-1999, University of Southampton 1999-2001) 1996 – 2001.

Chris and his students are actively engaged in excavating sites and artefacts, analysing and researching artefacts and conserving artefacts.  He sees and practices archaeology as a holistic process, from the initial site survey to monitoring the environment of the museum store, he does it all.


Research Interests

  • Ancient Materials and Object Analysis: analysis work done on pins, Saxon brooches, Durham Cathedral doors and many other objects
  • Burial Environments: the preservation of artefacts and materials in burial environments, monitoring burial environments and reburial
  • Conservation: All aspects of conservation work, especially teaching conservation and conservation ethics and practice.
  • Welsh Castles: excavateor Dryslwyn Castle 1984-1995, Nevern Castle 2008-present

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2013: External examiner PhD thesis Bangor University:
  • 2012: Keynote Lecture: ANAGPIC 2012:

    Keynote Lecture: View from the Ivory Tower

    Delivered to the 2012 ANAGPIC (Association of North American Graduate Programmes in Conservation) Conference, New York

  • 2011: External Examiner 2011: UCL MA in Artefact Studies & MSc in Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials:
  • 2007: External Examiner, Derby University, Heritage Conservation:
  • 2005: External Examiner PhD thesis, UCL:
  • 2005: Joint Leader of Workshop on Teaching Conservation, Winterthur Museum, USA: Together with Garth Rhodes (University of Northumbria) gave a 3 day workshop to the staff of the Winterthur-Delaware conservation course on teaching artefact conservation. Directors of the other east coast conservation programmes also attended.
  • 2005: Keynote Speaker at International Conference on Archaeological Conservation: Keynote speaker and first day session chair at the 4 day international conference 'Archaeological Conservation: Current Trends and Future Directions', held in Cllonial Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.
  • 2003: External Examiner University of Leicester, Dept. of Museum Studies, MA in Museum Studies (Distance Learning):
  • 2003: Speaker - International Colloqium on Reburial in USA: One of the 50 or so speakers and participants in the international colloqium on reburial in Sante Fe New Mexico, USA.

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Conference Proceeding

  • Caple C. & Hovmand, I. (2001). The Problems of Monitoring Archaeological Waterlogged Anoxic Deposits in Situ. BAR.
  • Caple C, D. Dungworth & P.W. Clogg (1997). Results of the characterisation of the anoxic waterlogged environments which preserve archaeological organic materials.
  • Caple C & P.W. Clogg (1996). Conservation Image Enhancement at Durham University.
  • Caple C (1996). The creation of self-development learning packages (SDLP) and formalised object construction and use sequences (FOCUS).

Edited book

Journal Article


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