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Durham University

Research & business

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Ms Christina Unwin, BA PDipMDT FSA

Contact Ms Christina Unwin

Research Topic

Aspects of design in Europe c 500 BC to c AD 200


This research proposes design practice and process as an approach for exploring matters of making, particularly applied to Iron Age and early Roman artefacts that have been dated to the period c 500 BC to c AD 200. The concept of design incorporates the individuals and groups who creatively engage with materials within their societies, offering a means of exploring artefacts in interconnected ways that goes beyond the framing of material culture through typologies and chronologies. In this context conventional archaeological conceptions of ‘art’ and ‘technology’, in relation to the framing of artefacts dated to this period as ‘Celtic’, will be reviewed. This research offers a design concept of artefacts as networks of associations between people and other objects conceived, made and recreated within conditions of social and material affordances and constraints.

As a background to this exploration, ways of seeing (and not seeing) that fundamentally inform both past and current research directions will be discussed.

Beyond the visual experience of artefacts, spoken and written terminologies have framed and categorized how artefacts have been perceived and how ideas about them have been transmitted, frequently preserving and continuing particular ways of seeing.

The idea of an ‘art object’ is at the core of many approaches to cultural material and has a long trajectory, and the consideration of whether an artefact constitutes a ‘work of art’ remains prominent and influential.A review of existing literature on ‘Celtic art’ demonstrates the divisions of ‘art’ and ‘technology’ that generally pervade archaeological studies of Iron Age and Roman artefacts. Research into design theory in fields outside archaeology, such as commercial design and architecture, shows that such divisions are redundant for the understanding of creative processes and practices. Design is a social process that links all aspects and associations of constructed objects – artefacts, buildings and landscapes.

The approach of this present study has been constructed from art criticism, archaeological theory and design theory, combined with ideas about design practice and process from both personal experience and discussions with designers, artists and makers that took place within their own creative spaces. These ways of working will be used to discuss aspects of design of Iron Age and early Roman artefacts within their social contexts and to assess the visibilities, invisibilities and transmissions of the cultural ideas that constituted their networks of associations.

Relevant skills and expertise

I am a graduate in archaeology from University College London and a postgraduate in design from the London College of Printing (University of the Arts London) in media, design and technology. I currently run my own practice as a professional graphic designer, illustrator and exhibition designer.

My professional life brings me into contact with designers and makers in a wide range of media. We share the view that many aspects of our practice and the processes we navigate to produce design objects are connected with the people and spaces around us. We strive to design objects that are not only effective and pleasing in their use and deployment but that also improve the ways in which things continue to be used and lived with, to make ‘good design’.

I consider that cultural material provides a rich resource for my projects and that archaeological thinking has useful applications for design. I have applied concepts from archaeological theory in my commissions, such as chorography to design the maps of the village and parish, and the graphic of the building, for a permanent installation at St Andrew’s Church in Winston, County Durham.


Richard Hingley and Christina Unwin 2005

Boudica: Iron Age warrior queen
Bloomsbury, London and New York

Diana Newall and Christina Unwin 2011
The Chronology of Pattern: pattern in art from lotus flower to flower power
A & C Black, London



American Association of Publishers PROSE Award 2019

Overall award for Londinium: Roman London from its origins until the fifth century (Bloomsbury, London) by Richard Hingley

Contribution: illustrator


Shanghai Archaeology Forum Gold Field Discovery Award

Overall award for Trypillia Megasites Project, Durham University

Contribution: design for mobile exhibition, in six editions according to language, installed in museums in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Germany and UK.


Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London

Since November 2014

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology