We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Professor Robin Skeates, B.A., D.Phil., F.S.A.

Professor in the Department of Archaeology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41156
Room number: 206B

Contact Professor Robin Skeates (email at


Through my research over the last two decades, I have contributed in particular to the prehistoric archaeology of Italy and the Central Mediterranean region. My publications explore a wide variety of themes within the overlapping inter-disciplinary fields of material culture, visual and sensual culture, museum and heritage studies. A central concern is with interpreting social relations, strategies and transformations between the Upper Palaeolithic and the Bronze Age, including those relating to age, gender and the body. This relates to my interest in ritual performance, including mortuary practices and meanings, and in the cultural construction and transformation of landscape, including liminality, the underworld, the social dynamics of enclosure, and commemoration. It equally relates to my interest in the biographies and power of objects, including the production, exchange and ascription of value to early copper artefacts, greenstone axe-amulets, flint arrowheads, decorated pottery, shell trumpets, coral, and prehistoric objects in museum collections. Out of this has evolved my strong interest in archaeologies of art and visual culture, including ways of seeing, creativity and tradition, visual communication and transformation, the politics of representation and display, and the symbolising of social boundaries, identities, status and prestige. This, in turn, has led to my involvement with sensual culture studies. I am interested in settlement strategies and resource exploitation, including transitions to agriculture in Italy, and upland archaeology in Wales where I have undertaken extensive field-survey work. I work on radiocarbon chronologies relating to prehistoric Italy, and promote a more widespread and critical use of them. More generally, I am interested in the history of archaeological thought, including the intellectual and political history of archaeological collectors, museum collections and exhibitions in the Mediterranean and beyond. I am also concerned with archaeological ethics, and have contributed to debates surrounding public archaeology in Britain and abroad.

Indicators of Esteem

Research Groups

Research Projects

  • An Archaeology of the Senses: Prehistoric Malta
  • Caves in Context: the Place of Caves in Middle Bronze Age Southern Lazio, Italy
  • Identifying and communicating the ‘wows’ of archaeology outdoors
  • Journeys to the Underworld: Ritual Transformations of Persons, Objects and Caves in Prehistoric Central Sardinia

Research Interests

  • Archaeological collecting
  • Archaeological theory
  • Artefact studies
  • Cave archaeology
  • Cultural representation
  • Ethics
  • Heritage studies
  • Material culture studies
  • Museum studies
  • Politics of the past
  • Prehistoric art
  • Prehistory of the central Mediterranean
  • Public archaeology
  • Sensual culture studies
  • Visual culture

Teaching Areas

  • Central Mediterranean Prehistory
  • MA Museum & Artefact Studies

Selected Publications

Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

Edited Journal

Journal Article

Working Paper

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Ethics: Archaeological ethics
  • European Prehistory: Mediterranean prehistory - Italy, Malta, etc
  • Art: Visual culture studies
  • Museums: Museum studies

Selected Grants

  • 2010: Journey to the underworld (£8900.00 from Fondazione Banco di Sardegna)
  • 2009: JOURNEYS TO THE UNDERWORLD, The Prehistoric Society, £350.00
  • 2009: Journeys to the Underworld: Ritual Transformations of Persons, Objects and Caves in Neolithic Central Sardinia (£52384.00 from The British Academy)
  • 2006: THE CULTURAL CONSTRUCTION (£2797.00 from The British Academy)
  • 2005: PREHISTORIC PINTADERAS AND VISUAL (£2400.00 from The British Academy)
  • 2004: FDTL5 SAMIAN PROJECT (£31140.00 from Higher Education Funding Council)
  • 2004: VISUAL CULTURE IN PALAEOLITHIC S.E. ITALY (£2100.00 from The British Academy)