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Durham University

Centre for Visual Arts and Culture

Christoph Doppelhofer

Christoph Doppelhofer, MA, BA

PhD Research

Title: ‘Travels from Winterfell to King’s Landing: Assessing the creation and perception of fictional worlds through visual media and their impact on heritage reality’

Supervisors: Mike Crang (Geography), Robert Witcher (Archaeology), James Koranyi (History)

The present research seeks to investigate how depictions of fictional places in modern visual entertainment media are re-shaping and reinterpreting cultural heritage landscapes and their perception, meaning and identity in society through an examination of locations featured in the successful HBO television series Game of Thrones (GOT).

Over the last couple of years, GOT has become a pop-cultural phenomenon and has linked numerous archaeological and historical sites across several countries. These sites have been used to portray the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, overcoding them with their on-screen identities by fusing real places with special effects, narrative and new spatial relations. GOT’s popularity induced many people to travel to fictional places such as ‘Winterfell’ and ‘King’s Landing’, which led to the development of dedicated tours, experiences, shops and marketing campaigns. By inscribing centuries old heritage sites with new place names and myths as well as the emergence of new performances within these spaces, the landscape is completely reconfigured according to the images previously encountered on the television screen. Through this re-interpretation and re-contextualisation of places and spaces on a transnational scale, entirely new imaginary cultural geographies are being imposed on pre-existing heritage landscapes.

Through a multi-site visual ethnography, this research aims to: (1) investigate how boundaries between visual media and scenery are negotiated by both visitors and locals, (2) determine how different stakeholders are using, reinforcing or opposing those images, and (3) evaluate how the interplay between recipients and producers of this imaginary geographies impacts and re-shapes the meaning and identity of affected heritage landscapes.


Christoph holds a Bachelor’s degree in Classical Archaeology with focus on the Roman provinces from the University of Vienna and a Master’s degree in International Cultural Heritage Management from Durham University. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Visual Culture at Durham University, researching how modern visual media is reshaping heritage landscapes.

He worked on research and community excavations in England, Austria, Italy, Turkey and Egypt, and gained further work experience in the archaeology, museum and cultural tourism sectors. Christoph worked as private lecturer and author on topics such as public archaeology, map- and app-based heritage trails as well as heritage in conflict and post-war regeneration.

His research interests include:

  • Cultural heritage and visual media
  • Cultural geography
  • Memory and Identity
  • Heritage tourism and Photography
  • Cultural heritage in conflict
  • Cultural heritage and the public
  • Ethics of cultural heritage
  • Authenticity of reconstructions


  • 2018 Mahnmal und Rekonstruktion - Vorschläge zum Umgang mit zerstörtem Kulturerbe in Syrien [Memorial and Reconstruction – Thoughts on the handling of destroyed cultural heritage in Syria], in Schörner, G. & Meinecke, K. (eds.), Akten des 16. Österreichischen Archäologentages am Institut für Klassische Archäologie der Universität Wien vom 25. bis 27. Februar 2016, pp. 59–72. Vienna: Phoibos.
  • 2017 The Archaeologist and the Public: The New Role of Archaeology in the 21st Century, Archäologische Informationen 40, pp. 387-396, [German with English abstract]
  • 2016 Will Palmyra rise again? – War crimes against Cultural Heritage and Post-war reconstruction, (
  • Beyond repair? – Vorschläge zum Umgang mit zerstörtem Kulturerbe in Syrien und Irak, Forum Archaeologiae 78/III/2016 (

Book reviews

  • 2018 Reviving Palmyra in Multiple Dimensions: images, ruins and cultural memory, by Minna Silver, Gabriele Fangi and Ahmet Denker, Dunbeath, Whittles Publishing, 2018, 244 pp., $44.95/£30.00 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-84995-296-5, International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol. 25 (2), pp. 219-224.
  • 2018 Weller, U., Lessig-Weller, T., Hanning, E. (eds), 2017. Experimentelle Archäologie in Europa, Jahrbuch 2017. Festschrift für Mamoun Fansa zum 70. Geburtstag, Bad Langensalza: EXAR, Unteruhldingen: Gunter Schöbel & Europäische Vereinigung zur Förderung der Experimentellen Archäologie e.V. European Association for the advancement of archaeology by experiment, ISBN: 978-3-944255-10-1.

Conference Papers

  • 2017 - Increasing Archaeological Literacy: The Benefits of Cultural Heritage Management & Public Archaeology, International Open Workshop: Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 12,000 Years: The Creation of Landscapes V, Kiel Mar 20-24 2017.
  • 2016 - Cultural Heritage Management und sein Beitrag zum Kulturgüterschutz, ‘Jenseits von Palmyra‘ – Tagung zum Kulturgüterschutz in der Lehre, 29. Oct., Berlin
  • Beyond repair? – Vorschläge zum Umgang mit zerstörtem Kulturerbe in Syrien und Irak, 16. Österreichischer Archäologentag 25.-27. February, University of Vienna
  • 2015 - ‘I’ll make a German out of you.’ The role of monuments in the nationalistic movement in Germany in the 19th century, SCR Postgraduate Symposion (March 3rd) College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham University


  • 2017 - Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship in Visual Culture, Durham University & Centre for Visual Arts and Culture (CVAC).
  • 2014 - MA International Cultural Heritage Management Masters Bursary