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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Dan Lawrence

Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41170
Room number: 332

(email at


I have been a lecturer in the department since October 2015. I completed my PhD in Durham (November 2012) after studying at University College London and the University of Cambridge, and was a post-doctoral researcher on the ERC funded Persia and its Neighbours Project. I also spent a semester as a fellow at the Digital Institute for Archaeology in the Centre for Advanced Spatial Technology, University of Arkansas.

Research Interests

I am a Landscape Archaeologist with a focus on the Near East and Central Asia during the Holocene. I run two major research projects. The Semiyarka Urban Survey, funded by the British Academy, is investigating the site and surroundings of Semiyarka in Kazakhstan, a 140 hectare Bronze Age City. The Climate, Landscapes, Settlement and Society (CLaSS) project, funded by an ERC Starting Grant, began in January 2019 and examines the relationship between complex human societies and climate change over the last 8,000 years.

I direct the Durham Archaeology Informatics Laboratory, a research hub dedicated to Landscape Archaeology, GIS and remote sensing and computational approaches to the archaeological record. I am Deputy Editor of the journal Antiquity, a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and sit on the steering committees of the British Association of Near Eastern Archaeologists and the journal Iraq. I am an affiliated scholar to the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project and the Computational Research in the Ancient Near East II (CRANE II) project.

Climate Change

Climate change has been suggested to play a role in the history and prehistory of the Near East at a range of temporal scales. In the short term, so-called ‘collapse’ events brought about by extreme weather changes such as droughts have been blamed for declines in urban and rural population, social complexity, political systems and entire empires. At the other end of the scale, long term trends in complex phenomena such as urbanism or irrigation can be interpreted within the context of changing climate conditions. My research involves making large scale comparisons between settlement patterns, subsistence strategies, and land cover to identify the causal relationships between social and political organisation and environmental conditions

Cities and Empires

The last 8000 years has seen the emergence of urban sites, small scale polities and large territorial empires, all of which had profound effects on settlement patterns and landscapes. I have conducted research on the emergence of cities in Northern Mesopotamia during the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, and more recently in Eastern Kazakhstan at the site of Semiyarka which dates to the Final Bronze Age. I am interested in how and why people began to group together into larger agglomerations, and the effects this had on subsistence strategies, social systems and the wider landscape.

I am also interested in the impact of empires on landscapes, since they often have transformative effects. I was part of the ERC funded Persia and its Neighbours project (2012-2018) which investigated the frontiers of the Sasanian Empire, including the Gorgan Wall in northeastern Iran. I directed landscape surveys in Georgia, Oman, Iran and Azerbaijan and am currently bringing these to publication in a series of monographs, with colleagues from Durham and Edinburgh.

‘Big Data’ and Data Science in Archaeology

A major trend in recent archaeological research builds on new computational capabilities, especially Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and the combination of legacy data and remote sensing techniques to compose, integrate and manipulate large scale datasets. The shifts in the spatial and temporal scales of analysis we can now deal with allow us to see new patterns in old datasets, to combine different sources of data in new ways and ultimately to provide new perspectives on social and historical phenomena. The Archaeology Informatics Lab, which I direct, is at the forefront of these approaches. My own research also makes heavy use of satellite imagery data, including declassified CORONA spy photography.

Heritage Management and the Middle East

As part of the EAMENA project my research involves developing heritage management resources for countries in the Middle East and providing training to allow heritage bodies there to use and maintain the data. Building on datasets collected during my PhD and PDRA work, we have developed a database of sites in Syria and Iraq with several thousand records. Over the next few months we will be undertaking training courses in Lebanon and Iraq to build capacity among archaeologists and other stakeholders in the region.

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

  • Landscapes of Complex Society Research Group

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

  • Land of Carchemish (Syria) Project
  • Persia and its Neighbours: the Archaeology of Late Antique Imperial Power in Iran (Persia Project)

Department of Geography

  • Fragile Crescent, The: Settlement Change during the Urban Transition

Research Interests

  • Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
  • GIS and Remote Sensing
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Long term human-environment interaction
  • Urbanisation and the emergence of complex societies

Teaching Areas

  • Ancient Near East
  • GIS and Remote Sensing in Archaeology
  • Landscape Archaeology


Chapter in book

  • Lawrence, Dan & Wilkinson, Tony J. (2017). The Northern and Western Borderlands of the Sasanian Empire: Contextualizing the Roman/Byzantine and Sasanian Frontier. In Sasanian Persia: Between Rome and the Steppes of Eurasia. Sauer, E. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 99-125.
  • Lawrence, D. & Ricci, A. (2016). Long-term Settlement Trends in the Birecik-Carchemish Sectors. In Carchemish in Context: the Land of Carchemish Project 2006 - 2010. Wilkinson, T. J., Peltenburg, E. & Wilkinson, E. B. Oxford: Oxbow. 4: 38-67.
  • Smith, S, Wilkinson, T. J. & Lawrence, D. (2014). Agro-pastoral Landscapes in the Zone of Uncertainty: The Middle Euphrates and the North Syrian Steppe during the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. In Settlement Dynamics and Human-Landscape Interaction in the Dry Steppes of Syria. Morandi Bonacossi, D. Harrassowitz. Studia Charubensia 4: 151-172.

Journal Article

  • Stephens, Lucas, Fuller, Dorian, Boivin, Nicole, Rick, Torben, Gauthier, Nicolas, Kay, Andrea, Marwick, Ben, Geralda, Chelsey, Armstrong, Denise, Barton, C. Michael, Denham, Tim, Douglass, Kristina, Driver, Jonathan, Janz, Lisa, Roberts, Patrick, Rogers, J. Daniel, Thakar, Heather, Altaweel, Mark, Johnson, Amber L., Sampietro Vattuone, Maria Marta, Aldenderfer, Mark, Archila, Sonia, Artioli, Gilberto, Bale, Martin T., Beach, Timothy, Borrell, Ferran, Braje, Todd, Buckland, Philip I., Jiménez Cano, Nayeli Guadalupe, Capriles, José M., Diez Castillo, Agustín, Çilingiroğlu, Çiler, Negus Cleary, Michelle, Conolly, James, Coutros, Peter R., Covey, R. Alan, Cremaschi, Mauro, Crowther, Alison, Der, Lindsay, di Lernia, Savino, Doershuk, John F., Doolittle, William E., Edwards, Kevin J., Erlandson, Jon M., Evans, Damian, Fairbairn, Andrew, Faulkner, Patrick, Feinman, Gary, Fernandes, Ricardo, Fitzpatrick, Scott M., Fyfe, Ralph, Garcea, Elena, Goldstein, Steve, Goodman, Reed Charles, Dalpoim Guedes, Jade, Herrmann, Jason, Hiscock, Peter, Hommel, Peter, Horsburgh, K. Ann, Hritz, Carrie, Ives, John W., Junno, Aripekka, Kahn, Jennifer G., Kaufman, Brett, Kearns, Catherine, Kidder, Tristram R., Lanoë, François, Lawrence, Dan, Lee, Gyoung-Ah, Levin, Maureece J., Lindskoug, Henrik B., López-Sáez, José Antonio, Macrae, Scott, Marchant, Rob, Marston, John M., McClure, Sarah, McCoy, Mark D., Miller, Alicia Ventresca, Morrison, Michael, Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, Giedre, Müller, Johannes, Nayak, Ayushi, Noerwidi, Sofwan, Peres, Tanya M., Peterson, Christian E., Proctor, Lucas, Randall, Asa R., Renette, Steve, Robbins Schug, Gwen, Ryzewski, Krysta, Saini, Rakesh, Scheinsohn, Vivian, Schmidt, Peter, Sebillaud, Pauline, Seitsonen, Oula, Simpson, Ian A., Sołtysiak, Arkadiusz, Speakman, Robert J., Spengler, Robert N., Steffen, Martina L., Storozum, Michael J., Strickland, Keir M., Thompson, Jessica, Thurston, T. L., Ulm, Sean, Ustunkaya, M. Cemre, Welker, Martin H., West, Catherine, Williams, Patrick Ryan, Wright, David K., Wright, Nathan, Zahir, Muhammad, Zerboni, Andrea, Beaudoin, Ella, Munevar Garcia, Santiago, Powell, Jeremy, Thornton, Alexa, Kaplan, Jed O., Gaillard, Marie-José, Klein Goldewijk, Kees & Ellis, Erle (2019). Archaeological assessment reveals Earth’s early transformation through land use. Science 365(6456): 897.
  • Evangeline Cookson, Daniel J. Hill & Dan Lawrence (2019). Impacts of long term climate change during the collapse of the Akkadian Empire. Journal of Archaeological Science 106: 1-9.
  • Ricci, Andrea, D'Anna, Maria Bianca, Lawrence, Dan, Helwing, Barbara & Aliyev, Tevekkül (2018). Human mobility and early sedentism: the Late Neolithic landscape of southern Azerbaijan. Antiquity 92(366): 1445.
  • Lindsay, Ian, Rubinson, Karen S., Greene, Alan F., Hammer, Emily & Lawrence, Dan (2018). Progress, problems, and possibilities of GIS in the South Caucasus: an international workshop summary. Antiquity 92(362).
  • Lawrence, D., Philip, G., Wilkinson, K., Buylaert, J.P., Murray, A.S., Thompson, W. & Wilkinson, T.J. (2017). Regional Power and Local Ecologies: Accumulated Population Trends and Human Impacts in the Northern Fertile Crescent. Quaternary International 437(Part B): 60-81.
  • Lawrence, Dan, Philip, Graham, Hunt, Hannah, Snape-Kennedy, Lisa & Wilkinson, T.J. (2016). Long term population, city size and climate trends in the Fertile Crescent: a first approximation. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0152563.
  • Lawrence, D. & Wilkinson, T. J. (2015). Hubs and upstarts: pathways to urbanism in the northern Fertile Crescent. Antiquity 89(344): 328-344.
  • Sauer, E W Pitskhelauri, K, Hopper, K, Tiliakou, A, Pickard, C, Lawrence, Dan, Diana, A, Kranioti, E & Shupe, C (2015). Northern outpost of the Caliphate: maintaining military forces in a hostile environment (the Dariali Gorge in the Central Caucasus in Georgia). Antiquity 89(346): 885-904.
  • Wilkinson, T., Philip, G., Bradbury, J., Dunford, R., Donoghue, D., Galiatsatos, N., Lawrence, D., Ricci, A. & Smith, S. (2014). Contextualizing Early Urbanization: Settlement Cores, Early States and Agro-Pastoral Strategies in the Fertile Crescent during the Fourth and Third Millennia BC. Journal of World Prehistory 27(1): 43-109.
  • Lawrence, D, Bradbury, J & Dunford, R (2012). Chronology, Uncertainty and GIS: A Methodology for Characterising and understanding Landscapes of the Ancient Near East. eTopoi Journal for Ancient Studies Special Volume 3: 1007-1014.
  • Wilkinson,Tony, J , Galiatsatos, Nikolaos , Lawrence, Dan , Ricci,Andrea Dunford,R. & Philip, Graham (2012). Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Landscapes of Settlement and Mobility in the Middle Euphrates: A Reassessment. Levant 44(2): 139-185.

Book review

  • Lawrence, Dan (2019). New Book Chronicle. Antiquity 93(367): 280.
  • Lawrence, Dan (2018). New Book Chronicle. Antiquity 92(363): 839.
  • Lawrence, Dan (2018). New Book Chronicle. Antiquity 92(364): 1134.
  • Lawrence, Dan (2018). New Book Chronicle. Antiquity 92(362): 556.
  • Lawrence, Dan (2018). New Book Chronicle. Antiquity 92(361): 267.
  • Lawrence, Dan (2018). New Book Chronicle. Antiquity 92(365): 1414.
  • Lawrence, Dan (2018). New Book Chronicle. Antiquity 92(366): 1693.

Doctoral Thesis

  • Lawrence, Dan (2012). Early Urbanism in the Northern Fertile Crescent [electronic resource] a comparison of regional settlement trajectories and millennial landscape change. Durham University. PhD.