We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.


View Profile

Professor Robin Coningham, BA, PhD (Cantab.)

Professor in the Department of Archaeology
Professor (, Department of Archaeology
Telephone: 41145 (Faculty Telephone 42904)
Pro-Vice Chancellor in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (, Faculty of Social Sciences and Health
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42904


Professor Robin Coningham is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health and holds a Chair in Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology.

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.

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 in Nepal.

With colleagues from Sri Lankan, Indian and British Universities, he co-directs a major AHRC-funded investigation of the hinterland of Anuradhapura, analyzing the organization and development of the city's extra-mural settlements. This work recognizes 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 also works 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 are beginning to provide 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 15 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.

In addition to these activities, Professor Coningham is a member of the British Academy's Sponsored Institutes and Society’s Committee (BASIS), the British Academy's International Engagement Committee, UNESCO's Scientific Steering Committee for Lumbini, a Trustee of the journal Antiquity and an Expert member of the EC Research Executive Agency's FP7 2012 Marie Curie Fellowships SOC Panel.  Former posts include 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 acted as a QAA specialist in Archaeology for seven Departmental reviews and was a QAA Review Chair for a further five. He is amember of the Editorial Board of South Asian Studies and has conducted publication evaluations for Cambridge University Press, Thames & Hudson, AltaMira Press, Current Anthropology, Antiquity, Asian Perspectives, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Iran, and South Asian Studies and is a member of AHRC's Peer Review College and has evaluated grants for the National Science Foundation, American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies, The British Academy and NERC.  Professor Coningham is also a Governor of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and a member of the International Expert Panel for Pearson's World Class Qualifications Programme.

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.


R. Daroogheh-Nokhodcheri, M.A., Imperialism, Nationalism and the History of Archaeology in Iran

C. Davis, M.A., Buddhist Monasteries: centres of redistribution or recluses? Arts and Humanities Research Council PhD Award

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

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

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


Dr H. Fazeli, Director, Iranian Centre for Archaeology, Tehran, Social complexity and craft specialisation in the Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic period in the central plateau of Iran 2001

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

Dr H. Karimian, Lecturer, 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, Chairman, 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

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

Dr Abed Al Raouf Mayyas, Lecturer, 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, PDRA, University of Durham Normative models and the social organisation of the Harappan civilisation 2008

Dr Keir Strickland, Hon. Research Fellow, 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

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

Research Interests

  • 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

Books: authored

Books: edited

Edited essays

  • Coningham & Lewer N. (2000). Identity and Archaeology in South Asia. Antiquity.

Edited works: conference proceedings

  • 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.

Essays in edited volumes

  • 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.
  • 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. Thames and 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.

Journal papers: academic

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Middle East: Identity and the past
  • Asia (excluding Middle East): Heritage
  • Asia (excluding Middle East): Heritage
  • European & other international expertise: Identity and the past
  • Asia (excluding Middle East): Identity and the past
  • History & Archaeology: Bangladesh
  • Anthropology: Caste
  • History & Archaeology: Caste
  • History & Archaeology: Urbanism and cities
  • History & Archaeology: Persia
  • European & other international expertise: Heritage
  • History & Archaeology: Indian Ocean
  • History & Archaeology: Persian Gulf
  • History & Archaeology: Sri Lanka
  • History & Archaeology: Pakistan
  • History & Archaeology: India
  • History & Archaeology: Nepal
  • Ethics, Religion & Beliefs: Looting
  • History & Archaeology: Looting
  • Ethics, Religion & Beliefs: Buddhism
  • History & Archaeology: Buddhism
  • History & Archaeology: South Asia
  • History & Archaeology: Iran
  • Ethics, Religion & Beliefs: Trade in illict antiquities
  • History & Archaeology: Trade in illict antiquities


Selected Grants

  • 2012: National Geographic Society Lumbini: reinvestigating the archaeology of the birthplace of the Buddha £15,800
  • 2010: UNESCO Japanese Funds-in-Trust $791,786 (Co-PI)
  • 2008: The British Institute Of Persian Studies The Sialk Project, Iran £27,570
  • 2005: The British Institute Of Persian Studies Excavation And Survey In The Tehran Plain, Iran £8,000
  • 2004: AHRC The Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka) Project: Phase 2 - The Hinterland £215,870
  • 2004: The British Academy Excavation And Survey In The Tehran Plain, Iran £20,000
  • 2004: The British Institute Of Persian Studies Excavation And Survey In The Tehran Plain, Iran £10,000