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Research

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Professor Chris Gerrard, BA (Hons), PhD, MIFA, FSA

Professor & Head of Department in the Department of Archaeology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41134
Room number: 203A

(email at c.m.gerrard@durham.ac.uk)

Biography

Professor Christopher Gerrard has held a Chair in Archaeology since 2009 and was a Deputy Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health 2008-2011.

After studying for a joint honours degree in Archaeology and Geology Chris continued at the University of Bristol to complete his PhD in 1987 under the supervision of Professors Mick Aston and Richard Harrison. Subsequently he was awarded a post-doctoral grant from the Spanish government to work on medieval pottery in Spain and later joined the newly-formed Cotswold Archaeological Trust (now Cotswold Archaeology) in Cirencester in 1989, going on to become the Senior Archaeological Consultant at Countryside Planning and Management. He left commercial archaeology in 1992 to take up a post as lecturer at the University of Winchester (then King Alfred's College), joining the Archaeology department in Durham in 2000. He was Deputy Head of Department and Chair of the Department's Research Committee in the period 2005-7 before becoming a Deputy Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health (for Postgraduate matters) 2008-11 and Deputy Head of Department again in 2012. He is the current Chair of the Board of Studies in Archaeology.

Chris has conducted fieldwork in many different parts of Britain, notably at Shapwick (Somerset) in an intensive landscape project he directed with the late Mick Aston (and for which he won the Best Archaeological Book of the Year award 2014), and at Clarendon (Wiltshire) where he worked with Tom Beaumont James on the medieval and later royal palace and park. Both of these projects, funded in large part by English Heritage, benefited greatly from the involvement of local communities and volunteers. He has also worked in NE Spain for many years and has published excavations and standing building recording on later medieval sites there, including Templar and Hospitaller complexes. His particular interest lies in the transition from Islamic to Christian societies and their landscapes in the north-east of Spain, including themes such as water/irrigation and qanats (he is co-PI on a Leverhulme Trust project on this topic). Chris is currently undertaking field survey and site recording with Spanish colleagues as part of the Moncayo Archaeological Survey and in 2013-14 excavated the abbot’s palace at Bulbuente (Zaragoza). His past experience in project management and ongoing interests in heritage and site presentation involves him in a wide variety of projects including as a trustee of the Ad Gefrin Trust (which manages the early medieval site at Yeavering in Northumberland). He has been an external examiner for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at the universities of Leicester, Nottingham, Exeter and Bournemouth, sits on the steering group of University Archaeology UK, formerly the Standing Committee for University Professors and Heads of Archaeology, and was a co-author of the 2015 revisions to the HEFCE Archaeology benchmarking statement. He also evaluates publications for Oxford University Press, Blackwells, and many others, as well as reviewing grant applications for research councils in the UK and abroad.

Chris' research students mainly work in three areas: medieval and later landscapes, artefacts, and medieval Spain and Europe. Among the former are Simon Draper who worked on early medieval Wiltshire (now Victoria County History, Oxford), Abby Antrobus on medieval townscapes (Senior Archaeological Officer, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service), Amanda Richardson on medieval parks (Senior Lecturer in History at Chichester), Jenny Morrison (Archaeology officer, Tyne and Wear) who worked on post-medieval landscapes around Newcastle, Ronan O'Donnell who won an AHRC studentship to work on post-medieval landscapes in the north-east England and recently completed his doctorate, and Mark Kincey who is currently working on historic lead mining in the North Pennines (collaboration with the department of Geography). As this list makes clear there are many opportunities for post-graduate topics in NE England working on both industrial and agrarian landscapes.

Among those who have worked on artefact topics are Eleanor Standley whose thesis was about medieval dress accessories (Assistant Keeper at the Ashmolean Museum and a Lecturer at the University of Oxford), Gwendolynn Heley on material culture as revealed by probate inventories in post-medieval Newcastle, Richard Kelleher (Assistant Keeper (Medieval and Modern) Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) who worked on coins identified through the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Phil Marter on the production of English medieval ceramics (Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Winchester), and Andrew Blair who works on the Indian Ocean economy in the late first millennium. Among the Spanish and European theses supervised by Chris are Erica D'Amico on Byzantine ceramics (Lecturer at Richmond, Rome), Ran Zhang on Chinese export ceramics, Diane Rego on the archaeological signatures of French and English peasants and Michelle Alexander (Lecturer at the University of York) who completed her PhD on the diet of medieval Spain using isotopic techniques. Many of these young researchers have successfully published their theses, for example Draper, Heley, and Richardson as BAR Archaeopress volumes, Standley in the Antiquaries Journal, and Alexander in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Those with an interest in studying later medieval topics in Britain and Europe should contact me directly. In particular, I am currently developing my interests in medieval ‘natural’ disasters such as severe weather, storm surges, earthquakes and tsunamis and investigating the varied responses of European societies to geophysical and hydrometeorological hazards. Peter Brown, an AHRC scholar, is beginning his doctoral research into medieval flood events (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/features-casestudies/features/29395/efficient-flood-response800-years-ago.aspx) and Paolo Forlin, a Marie Curie scholar based in Durham (2014-16), is developing new ways to analyse seismic events in the Middle Ages with archaeological case studies in southern Spain, Cyprus, the Azores and northern Italy (http://armedea.wordpress.com/). In collaboration with colleagues in the Institute of Hazard and Risk our aim in this research is to explore how hazards become major disasters, how medieval society perceived these events and to understand how communities reacted and evolved to reduce their vulnerability. These are topics of wide interest to geographers, seismologists and climatologists, among others.

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

Research Interests

  • Archaeological resource management
  • Historic earthen architecture
  • Historic irrigation and water
  • Landscape archaeology
  • Medieval artefacts
  • Medieval ceramic imports
  • Medieval disasters and responses
  • Medieval rural settlement
  • Spanish medieval ceramics
  • Templars and Hospitallers
  • The western Atlantic seaboard in the Middle Ages

Selected Publications

Articles: magazine

Books: authored

Books: edited

Books: reviews

Books: sections

Edited works: conference proceedings

Essays in edited volumes

Journal papers: academic

Other media: research equivalent

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Supervises