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Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Staff and Governance

To contact the IMEMS administrative office please use the following details:


T: 0191 334 42974

Core Staff

The day-to-day running of IMEMS is the responsibility of the Core Executive Committee, comprising the Director and Associate Directors and the Administrator. 

UNESCO Professor Robin Coningham, BA, PhD (Cantab.)

Personal web page

Associate Director (World Heritage Site) in the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Professor in the Department of Archaeology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41145
Room number: 229

(email at


Professor Robin Coningham holds the UNESCO 2014 Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage in the Department of Archaeology and is Associate Director (World Heritage) of Durham's Institute of Mediaeval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

He studied Archaeology and Anthropology at King's College, Cambridge and, after a six-month appointment as Graduate Scholar of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, returned to King's as a Scholar to complete his PhD under the supervision of the late F.R. Allchin, FBA. He then joined the Department of Archaeological Sciences at Bradford in 1994, becoming Professor of South Asian Archaeology and Head of Department in 2004. He moved to a Chair in Archaeology at Durham in 2005 and was Head of the Department of Archaeology between 2007 and 2008 before becoming Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health, a post which he held until 2015. UNESCO and Durham University established the UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage with Professor Coningham as first holder in 2014.

Professor Coningham is committed to field research and has conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka aimed at refining Early Historic chronologies and investigating the region's second, Iron Age, urbanization, the genesis of Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea trade and the archaeology of early Buddhism. Past projects range from excavations in the Citadel of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka's earliest capital, and deep sounding at the Bala Hisar of Charsadda in the Vale of Peshawar - one of the great sites on Pakistan's portion of the Silk Road, to reinvestigations of the birthplace and childhood home of the Buddha at Lumbini and Tilaurakot in Nepal. In 2015, he published 'The Archaeology of South Asia: From the Indus to Asoka' with Ruth Young in the prestigious Cambridge World Archaeology Series.

With colleagues from Sri Lankan, Indian and British Universities, he co-directed a major AHRC-funded investigation of the hinterland of Anuradhapura, analyzing the organization and development of the city's extra-mural settlements. This work recognized the centralizing role played by Buddhist monasteries within the hinterland as well as the role of irrigation in sustaining colonization in the island’s Dry Zone.

He has also worked in Iran, where joint excavations supported by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, The University of Tehran, The British Academy and the British Institute of Persian Studies at Tepe Pardis and Tepe Sialk provided a firm chronology for the spread of late Neolithic communities in the Central Plateau of Iran and their socio-economic developments.

Professor Coningham is committed to the preservation of cultural heritage, joining over 25 international missions for UNESCO and reviewing the Research Framework for the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site for the Irish Government. He parallels this with an interest in the relationship between identity and cultural heritage in regions of conflict as well as the impact of the international trade in illicit antiquities. Further to this commitment, he launched a Centre for the study of Ethics of Cultural Heritage with the Durham philosopher, Geoffrey Scarre and co-directs the new programme of UNESCO excavations and survey at the World Heritage Site of Lumbini in Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha and at Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu. With the Government of Nepal and funding from UNESCO, AHRC's Global Challenges Research Fund and National Geographic, he has co-directed two seasons of post-disaster archaeological investigation in Kathmandu. This critical research now engages with structural and geotechnical engineers to reduce disaster risk to life and livelihoods by evaluating the seismic safety of Kathmandu's historic urban infrastructure through the British Academy's GCRF Cities and Infrastructure Program.

In addition to these activities, Professor Coningham is a member of the UK National Commission for UNESCO's Expert Network, AHRC-GCRF Strategic Advisory Group, the National Academies Resilient Futures Steering Group, UNESCO's Scientific Committee for Lumbini, an International Expert for NWO's Security and the Rule of Law in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings Program and Chair of the Antiquity Trust. Former posts include membership of the British Academy's Sponsored Institutes and Society’s Committee (BASIS), the British Academy's International Engagement Committe, the EC Research Executive Agency's FP7 2012 & 2016 Marie Curie Fellowships SOC Panel, Reviewer for Panel SH6 of the European Research Council, Honorary Secretary of the British Institute of Persian Studies (The British Academy), member of Research Panel 1 of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and a Trustee of the Ancient India and Iran Trust (Cambridge). He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Society of Antiquaries and acted as a QAA specialist in Archaeology for seven Departmental reviews and was a QAA Review Chair for a further five.

Professor Coningham was elected a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1994, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2016 and a Foreign Corresponding Member of ISMEO – Associazione Internazionale di Studi sul Mediterraneo e l’Oriente in 2017.

Professor Coningham would be pleased to supervise research postgraduate students interested in the Archaeological visibility of Buddhism; Caste and the development of craft specialisation; Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea trade; International cultural resource management; Later Prehistory and Early Historic archaeology of Southern Asia (from Iran to Myanmar); Politics, identity and archaeology; Urbanisation; and the Prehistory of Iran. Please email him about potential topics.


A. Lafortune-Bernard, M.A., Mastering the master plan of Lumbini: towards developing an evidence-based approach to evaluating the economic and social impact of site development on local communities

J. Shoebridge, M.A., Arikamedu Type 10 and the reconstruction of networks of Indian Ocean trade 


Dr H. Fazeli, Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran, Social complexity and craft specialisation in the Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic period in the central plateau of Iran 2001

Dr R. Young, Department of Archaeology, University of Leicester Food procurement strategies in Iron Age Pakistan 2000

Dr H. Karimian, Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran Space and society in Mediaeval Bam 2003

Dr L. Ford, Ceramic Specialist, West Yorkshire Archaeology Unit. Towards the scientific provenancing of Rouletted ware 2004

Dr M. Mortazavi, Department of Archaeology, University of Zahedan System collapse? A reassessment of the end of the civilisations of southeast Iran in the second millennium BC 2004

Andrew Newton, MPhil Politics and archaeology in nineteenth and twentieth century Germany 2005

Prof. P. Gunawardhana, Department of Archaeology, University of Kaleniya, Monastic planning and sectarianism in Sri Lanka 2006

Dr Abed Al Raouf Mayyas, Faculty of Science, Jordanian University of Science and Technology (with B. Stern: University of Bradford) Late Prehistoric ceramic function and provenance in the Tehran Plain 2007

Dr Mark Manual, Departmernt of Archaeology, University of Durham Normative models and the social organisation of the Harappan civilisation 2008

Dr Keir Strickland, Lecturer, UHI, The Jungle Tide: Urban Collapse in Early Medieval Sri Lanka 2011

Dr Saud Al-Ghamdi, M.A., Neolithic settlement in the south-west of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2011

Dr Cesar Villalobos, M.A., Archaeology in circulation: nationalism and tourism in post-Revolutionary Mexico 2011

Dr J. Marshall, M.A., Missing links: demic diffusion and the development of agriculture in the Central Iranian Plateau 2012

Dr C. Davis, M.A., Early Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka: a landscape approach 2013

Dr R. Daroogheh-Nokhodcheri, M.A., Nationalism, politics and the practice of archaeology: the case study of Iran 2014

Dr J. Tremblay, M.A., The Development and spread of Buddhism: an archaeological evaluation 2015 

Dr A. Margussian, M.A., Ceramic typologies and stylistic phylogenesis: the prehistoric ceramics of the Central Plateau of Iran 2017

Indicators of Esteem

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

  • Heritage and Built Environment Research Group
  • Landscapes of Complex Society Research Group

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

  • Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka) Project: The Citadel (Phase I)
  • Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka) Project: The Hinterland (Phase II)
  • Archaeological Investigations of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pashupati (Nepal)
  • Benchmarking the Social and Economic Impacts of Cultural Heritage in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, India
  • Benchmarking the social and economic impacts of the tangible and intangible heritage of Middle Egypt
  • Exploring the Medieval Hinterland of Polonnaruva
  • Post-Conflict Archaeology of the Jaffna Peninsula
  • Post-Earthquake Rescue Archaeology in Kathmandu
  • Promoting the Protection of Heritage Sites in Nepal
  • Reducing Disaster Risk to Life and Livelihoods by Evaluating the Seismic Safety of Kathmandu's Historic Urban Infrastructure
  • Socio-Economic Transformations in the Tehran Plain
  • The Natal Landscape of the Buddha, Phase I: Lumbini
  • The Natal Landscape of the Buddha, Phase II: Tilaurakot

Research Interests

  • Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage
  • Archaeological visibility of Buddhism
  • Caste and the development of craft specialisation
  • Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea Trade
  • International cultural resource management
  • Later Prehistory and Early Historic archaeology of Southern Asia (from Iran to Myanmar)
  • Politics, identity and archaeology
  • Urbanisation

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Coningham, R.A.E., Acharya, K.P., Kunwar, R.B., Davis, C.E., Manuel, M.J., Simpson, I.A., Strickland, K.M., Hale, D., Tremblay, J. & Lafortune-Bernard, A. (2018). Excavating ancient Kapilavastu: the childhood home of Lord Buddha. In Buddha Rashmi Vesak Volume 2018: Essays in Buddhism and Buddhist Monastic Archaeology. Gunawardhana, P. & Coningham, R.A.E. Colombo, Sri Lanka Central Cultural Fund, Ministry of Education, Sri Lanka. 8-25.
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Acharya, K.P., Davis, C.E., Weise, K., Kunwar, R.B. & Simpson, I.A. (2018). Look Down, Not Up: Protecting the Post-disaster Subsurface Heritage of the Kathmandu Valley’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Evolving Narratives of Hazard and Risk The Gorkha Earthquake, Nepal, 2015. Bracken, L.A., Ruszczyk, H. & Robinson, T. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. 159-181.
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Manuel, M.J., Davis, C.E. & Gunawardhana, P. (2017). Archaeology and Cosmopolitanism in Early Historic and Medieval Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History. Biedermann, Z. & Strathern, A. London: UCL Press. 19-43.
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Acharya, K.P., Kunwar, R.B., Manuel. M.J., Davis, C.E. & Lafortune-Bernard, A. (2017). Promoting the Protection, Preservation and Presentation of the Natal Landscape of the Buddha in Nepal. In Buddha Rashmi Vesak Volume: Essays in Buddhism and Buddhist Monastic Archaeology. Gunawardhana, P., Coningham, R.A.E. & Nampoothiri, K. Central Cultural Fund of Sri Lanka. 13-26.
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Manuel, M.J. & Shoebridge, J.E. (2016). Reconstructing Networks of Trade and Exchange in the Indian Ocean during the Early Historic Period: Case Studies from Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka). In Imperial Rome, Indian Ocean Regions and Muziris: New Perspectives on Maritime Trade. Mathew, K.S. Routledge. 31-51.
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Acharya, K.P. & Davis, C.E. (2015). Archaeological Evidence and the Historicity of the Buddha: Lumbini. In Vesak, Peace and Harmony: Thinking of Buddhist Heritage. Degalle, M. Nagananda International Buddhist University. 59-82.
  • Manuel, M.J., Coningham, R.A.E., Gillmore, G. & Fazeli, H. (2014). Societal change and sustainability within the Central Plateau of Iran: an archaeological viewpoint. In Sustainable Development: an appraisal from the Gulf Region. Sillitoe, P. Berghahn. 38-61.
  • Fazeli, H., Coningham, R.A.E., Marghussian, A., Manuel, M.J., Azizi, H. & Pollard, A.M. (2013). Mapping the Neolithic occupation of the Kashan, Tehran and Qazvin Plains. In The Neolithisation of Iran: the formation of new societies. Matthews, R. & Fazeli, H. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 114-135.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Tremblay, J. (2013). Re-discovering Lumbini: Archaeology and Site Interpretation. In The Sacred Garden of Lumbini: Perceptions of Buddha's Birthplace. Weise, K. UNESCO. 61-95.
  • Kourampas, N., Simpson, I.A., Fazeli, H., Coningham, R.A.E. & Manuel, M.J. (2013). Sediments, soils and livelihood in a Late Neolithic village on the Iranian Plateau. In The Neolithisation of Iran: the formation of new societies. Matthews, R. & Fazeli, H. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 178-189.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. (2013). The Archaeology of Early Buddhism. In Oxford Bibliographies in Buddhism. Payne,Richard Oxford University Press. 1-35.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. (2012). Frank Raymond Allchin(1923-2010). In Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy. Oxford University Press. IX: 3-23.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Gunawardhana, P. (2012). Looting or Rededication? Buddhism and the Expropriation of Relics. In Appropriating the Past: Philosophical Perspectives on the Practice of Archaeology. Scarre, G. & Coningham, Cambridge University Press. 281-294.
  • Coningham,R.A.E. (2012). Non-Western Societies and Indigenous Peoples, Archaeology and: Archaeology and South Asia. In The Oxford Companion To Archaeology. Silberman, N.A. Oxford University Press.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. (2011). Buddhism. In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. Insoll, T. Oxford University Press. 934-947.
  • Gillmore, G.K., Stevens, T. Buylaert, J.P. Coningham, R.A.E., Batt, C. Fazeli, H. Young, R. & Maghsoudi, M. (2011). Geoarchaeology and the value of multidisciplinary palaeo-environmental approaches: a case study from the Tehran Plain, Iran. In Human Interactions with the Geosphere: The Geoarchaeological Perspective. Wilson, L. The Geological Society of London. 352: 49-67.
  • Young, R.L. & Coningham, R.A.E. (2010). From Village to State: Modelling Food Consumption and Ideological Change at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. In Essays in Archaeology. Gunawardhana, P., Adikari, G. & Coningham, R.A.E. Colombo: Neptune Publishers. 81-92.
  • Schmidt, A. & Coningham, R.A.E. (2010). Geophysical Investigations of World Heritage Sites in South Asia. In Essays in Archaeology. Gunawardhana, P., Adikari, G. & Coningham, R.A.E. Colombo: Neptune Publishers. 285-290.
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Acharya, K.P., Schmidt, A. & Bidari, B. (2010). Searching for Kapilavastu. In Essays in Archaeology. Gunawardhana, P., Adikari, G. & Coningham, R.A.E. Colombo: Neptune Publishers. 55-66.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Manuel, M.J. (2009). The Early Empires of South Asia. In The Great Empires of the Ancient World. Harrison, T. London: Thames & Hudson. 226-249.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Coningham, S.E. (2008). Chandragupta Maurya. In Great military leaders and their campaigns. Black, J. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Manuel, M.J. (2008). Warfare in ancient South Asia. In The ancient world at war. de Souza, P. London.: Thames and Hudson. 229-242.
  • Gillmore, G.K., Coningham, R.A.E., Young, R., Fazeli. H., Rushworth, G., Donahue, R. & Batt, C.M. (2007). Holocene alluvial sediments of the Tehran Plain: sedimentation and archaeological site visibility. In Reconstructing human-landscape interactions. Wilson, L., Dickinson, P. & Jeandron, J. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars. 37-67.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Strickland, K.M. (2007). South Asia Sri Lanka. In Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Pearsall, Deborah M. Elsevier. 791-795.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Manuel, M.J. (2007). South Asia The Northwest Frontier and Kashmir region. In Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Pearsall, Deborah M. Oxford: Elsevier. 733-745.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Young, R. (2007). The archaeological visibility of caste. In The Archaeology of Identities: A Reader. Insoll, T. London: Routledge. 250-264.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Manuel, M.J. (2007). The Indus Civilisation. In 30,000 Years of Art. Fortenberry, Diane London: Phaidon.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Manuel, M.J. (2007). The Indus Civilisation. In Archaeologica The world's most significant sites and cultural treasures. Cremin, Aedeen Melbourne: Random House. 240-245.
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Cooper, R. & Pollard, A.M. (2006). What value a unicorn's horn? A study of archaeological value. In The ethics of Archaeology: philosophical perspectives on archaeological practice. Scarre, C. & Scarre, G. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 260-272.
  • Coningham R.A.E. (2005). South Asia: From Early Villages to Buddhism. In The Human Past. Scarre C.J. London: Thames and Hudson. 518-551.
  • Coningham R.A.E. & Mann S. (2005). The Story of the Stupa Revisited. In Essays in Archaeology. Gunawardhana P. & Coningham R.A.E. Colombo: Godage International Publishers. 31-43.
  • Coningham R.A.E. (2002). Deciphering the Indus Script. In Indian Archaeology in Retrospect. Settar, S. & Korrisettar R. New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research. 2: 81-104.
  • Ali I. & Coningham R.A.E. (2002). Recording and Preserving Gandhara's Cultural Heritage. In Illicit Antiquities: the Destruction of the World's Archaeological Heritage. Brodie J., Doole J. & Renfrew A.C. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. 25-31.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. (2001). The archaeology of Buddhism. In Archaeology and world religion. Insoll, T. London: Routledge. 61-95.
  • Coningham R.A.E. (1999). South Asia. In The Seventy Wonders of the World. Scarre S.J. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Coningham R.A.E. & Young R.L. (1999). The Archaeology of Caste. In Case Studies in Archaeology and World Religions. Insoll T. Oxford: BAR. 84-93.
  • Coningham R.A.E. (1997). Anuradhapura. In The Oxford Campanion to Archaeology. Fagan B. New York: Oxford University Press. 38-39.
  • Coningham R.A.E. (1995). Dark Age or Continnum? An Archaeological Analysis of The Second Emergence of Urbanism in South Asia. In The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia: The Emergence of Cities and States. Allchin F.R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 54-72.
  • Coningham R.A.E. & Allchin F.R. (1995). The Rise of Cities in South Asia. In The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia: The emergence of Cities and States. Allchin F.R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 152-184.

Conference Proceeding

  • Ford, L. & Coningham, R.A.E. (2006). Early Historic Specialisation and Standardisation: The Technology of Rouletted Ware and Associated Wares at Anuradhapura. Deutsches Archaologisches Institut.
  • Krishnan K. & Coningham R.A.E. (1997). Microstructural Analysis of Samples of Rouletted Ware and Associated Pottery from Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Oxford and IBH.
  • Coningham R.A.E. (1997). The Spatial Distribution of Craft Activities in Early Historic Cities. Oxford and IBH.
  • Coningham R.A.E. (1994). Notes on the Construction and Destruction of Ancient Sri Lankan Buildings. Oxford and IBH.

Edited book

Journal Article

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Full Executive Committee

Our Full Executive Committee is made up of the Core Executive Committee, listed above, plus a number of executive members including:

International Advisory Board

We are extremely fortunate to have be able to call on the help and guidance of colleagues from around the world who help to shape and guide our direction, strategy and international reach. Our current Advisory Board members are: