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.

Durham University

Research & business

View Research Directory

Landscapes of Complex Society

A research group of the Department of Archaeology.

Current Major Research Themes

The Group’s research is focused on the landscape dimension of complex polities, and draws upon case-studies from across Eurasia.

Landscape Signatures and Settlement, and the nature of large settlements
The recognition of settlement and landscape features and the analysis and interpretation of long-term change is a core element of the Durham approach to archaeological landscapes. This has been extensively developed in the Middle East, through projects using a combination of remote sensing and ground survey to identify archaeological features, and thus map the changing scale and nature of human activity in the landscape. The AHRC-funded Fragile Crescent Project charts the rise and fall of Bronze Age urban centres within the Fertile Crescent, with a focus on the nature and distribution of large sites in the 5th through 3rd millennia BC, and the different landscape contexts within which such sites developed. Graham Philip's work around Homs in western Syria has identified previously unrecognized dimensions of human activity in stony upland regions, which appear contemporaneous with these developments, while the nature of large settlements in western Europe is under investigation by Tom Moore A capital landscape: survey of the Stanwick ‘oppidum’ and its environs. Robin Coningham's work at Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka) is shaping our understanding of low density urbanism, and has now moved to investigate the role played by hinterland communities in the development of the urban centre. Prof. John Chapman is examining precocious urban settlements in the Ukraine (Early urbanism in prehistoric Europe?: the case of the Tripillia mega-sites), currently a missing chapter in the story of world urbanism. Nebelivka; for example is a 300 ha Neolithic site, within which geophysical survey has revealed evidence for around 2000 structures, raising questions about the significance, permanence and function of large settlements.

Landscape Dynamics
Penny Wilson's work in the western Nile Delta, and Chris Gerrard's Shapwick Project for Medieval Britain which has combined historical data with intensive survey, address the interrelationships between environment, human activity and the creation and modification of landscapes. These projects explore the nature of urban: rural distinction at different times and places, and the impact of technology such as water management, and the role of routes and patterns of connectivity.

Landscapes of Empires
The scale of landscape studies is well-suited to the investigation of extensive ancient empires. The work of Rob Witcher and Jamie Sewell is addressing the impact of Rome upon settlement across the Italian peninsula The Roman impact on the urban settlement pattern of peninsular Italy (350BC to AD200), while Derek Kennet’s research projects at Qarn al-Harf (UAE) and Kadhima in Kuwait are exploring the interrelationships between settlement, landscape and the economy in the Gulf from the Sassanian Empire through the Early Islamic period.

Work on frontiers, is an increasingly important part of the group’s activities and has been explored through the work of Richard Hingley and Rob Witcher through the AHRC-funded Tales of the Frontier Project which seeks to reinterpret Hadrian’s Wall Tales of the Frontier: political representations and practices inspired by Hadrian's Wall. This initial study was followed by a cross-disciplinary focus on the Materiality of Frontiers through the ‘Life of the Frontier’ project supported by the Inst. of Advanced Studies. Complementary work on the Gorgan Wall, at the frontier of the Sassanian Empire in northeast Iran, and a subsequent project Persia and it's Neighbours is led by Tony Wilkinson, working jointly with the University of Edinburgh and the ICHTO in Iran.

Religious Landscapes
Robin Coningham is examining the nature of monastic landscapes in South Asia (The Natal Landscape of the Buddha), and is using archaeological evidence to supplement and question, current text-based accounts of the past. Chris Gerrard’s work Religious orders on the frontier: monks on the edge of Christian Europe explores social and economic impact of the establishment of the religious orders and monastic houses following the Christian reconquest of NE Spain, while David Petts recently begun using geophysical survey to understand the organization of the island settlement and monastic community of Lindisfarne in North-East England.

Research students
The group includes a large group of PhD students, and we welcome enquiries about potential research projects at post-graduate and post-doctoral levels. Interested scholars should contact the relevant people within the research group in the first instance.


Academic Staff

Research Staff

Emeritus Staff

Honorary Research Staff

Research Student

Publications by staff in this group

Authored book

Edited book

Conference Paper

Journal Article

Book review

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Chapter in book

  • Draycott, Catherine M. (2019). Activating the Achaemenid Landscape. The Broken Lion Tomb (Yılan Taş) and the Phrygian Highlands in the Achaemenid Period. In Phrygia in Antiquity: From the Bronze Age to the Byzantine Period. Proceedings of an International Conference 'The Phrygian Lands over Time: From Prehistory to the Middle of of the 1st Millennium AD', held at Anadolu University, Eskisehir, Turkey, 2nd-8th November, 2015. Tsetskhladze, Gocha R. Leuven: Peeters Press. 24: 189-220.
  • Draycott, Catherine M. (2019). Art History and Achaemenid History: Or, What You Can Get out of the Back End of a Bull. In Visual Histories of the Classical World Essays in Honour of R.R.R. Smith. Draycott, Catherine M., Raja, Rubina, Welch, Katherine & Wootton, William T. Brepols. 4: 15-33.
  • Draycott, Catherine M. (2018). Making meaning of myth. On the interpretation of mythological imagery in the Polyxena Sarcophagus and the Kızılbel Tomb and the History of Achaemenid Asia Minor. In Wandering Myths: Transcultural Uses of Myth in the Ancient World. Audley-Miller, Lucy & Dignas, Beate Berlin: De Gruyter. 23-70.
  • Gerrard, C & Gutiérrez, A (2018). 'The Qanat in Spain: Archaeology and Environment'. In Water Management in Ancient Civilizations. Berkin, J Berlin: Edition Topoi. 197–226.
  • Wilkinson, Tony, J., Rekavandi, Hamid Omrani, Hopper, Kristen, Priestman, Seth, Roustaei, Kourosh & Galiatsatos, Nikolaos (2013). The Landscapes of the Gorgān Wall. In Persia's Imperial Power in Late Antiquity: The Great Wall of Gorgan and the Frontier Landscapes of Sasanian Iran. Rekavandi, Hamid Omrani, Wilkinson, Tony J., Nokandeh, Jebrael & Sauer, Eberhard, W. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 24-132.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. (2013). The Archaeology of Early Buddhism. In Oxford Bibliographies in Buddhism. Payne,Richard Oxford University Press. 1-35.
  • Witcher, R.E. (2012). 'That From A Long Way Off Look Like Farms': The Classification of Roman Rural Sites. In Comparative Issues in the Archaeology of the Roman Rural Landscape. Site Classification Between Survey, Excavation and Historical Categories. Attema, P.A.J. & Schörner, G. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology. JRA Supplementary Series 88: 11-30.
  • Wilkinson, Tony & J. (2012). Earth and Water: The Land of Iran. In Ancient Iran from the Air. Stronach, David & Mousavi, Ali Philipp von Zabern, Darmstadt. 12-27.
  • Leone, A. & Moussa, F. (2012). Roman North Africa and Sahara. In Oxford handbook of African Archaeology. Lane, P. & Michell, P. Oxford University Press. 1.
  • 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). Frank Raymond Allchin(1923-2010). In Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy. Oxford University Press. IX: 3-23.
  • Witcher, R.E. & Craven, M. (2012). ‘Much That Has Long Been Hidden’ Reconstructing the Survey Methodology. In Veii. The Historical Topography of the Ancient City. A Restudy of John Ward-Perkins’s Survey. Cascino, R., Di Giuseppe, H. & Patterson, H.L. London: British School at Rome. 9-24.
  • Philip, G (2011). The later prehistory of the southern Levant: issues of practice and context. In Culture, Chronology and the Chalcolithic: Theory and Transition. Rowan, Y.M. & Lovell, J.L. Oxford: CBRL Monographs. Levant Supplementary Series 9: 189-206.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2011). Settlement Connections in the Canopic Region. In Alexandria and the North-Western Delta. Robinson, Duncan. & Wilson, Andrew. Oxford: Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology. 111-126.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2011). Masking and multiple personas. In Ancient Egyptian Demonology. Kousoulis, P. Peeters. OLA 175: 77-88.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2011). Ramsîs: Ancient Memory, Archaeology and the Western Delta. In Ramesside Studies in Honour of K. A. Kitchen. Collier, M. & Snape, S. Rutherford Press. 533-540.
  • 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.
  • Witcher, R.E. (2011). Missing persons? Models of Mediterranean Regional Survey and Ancient Populations. In Settlement, Urbanization and Population. Bowman, A. & Wilson, A. Oxford Oxford University Press. Oxford Studies in the Roman Economy 2: 36-75.
  • Wilson, Penelope (2011). Pots, People and the Plural Community: A case Study of the Greeks in Egypt at Sais. In Intercultural Contacts in the Ancient Mediterranean. Proceedings of the International Conference at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, 25th to 29th October 2008. Duistermat, K. & Regulski, I. Peeters. 149-160.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. (2011). Buddhism. In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. Insoll, T. Oxford University Press. 934-947.
  • Wilkinson, Tony, J. & Deckers, K. (2011). Tell Brak’s Loess Section in Area TC. In Holocene Landscapes through Time in the Fertile Crescent. Deckers, K. Brepols: Turnhout. 28: 107-110
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Goodchild, H. & Witcher, R.E. (2010). Modelling the Agricultural Landscapes of Republican Italy. In Agricoltura e scambi nell’Italia tardo repubblicana. Carlsen, J. & Lo Cascio, E. Rome & Bari: Edipuglia. 187-220.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2010). Consolidation, Innovation and Renaissance. In Egyptian Archaeology. Wendrich, Willeke. Oxford: Blackwell. 241-257.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2010). Temple Architecture and Decorative Systems. In The Blackwell Companion to Ancient Egypt. Lloyd, A.B. Oxford: Blackwell. 781-803.
  • Wilkinson, T.J. (2010). Environment and Long-Term Population Trends in Southwest Arabia. In The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia. Petraglia, M.D. & Rose, J.I. Dordrecht: Springer, Science. 51-66.
  • Hawthorne,J., Mattingly,D.J., Daniels, C.M., with contributions from, Barnett, T., Dore, J.N. & Leone, A. (2010). Zinkekra: an Early Garamantian Escarpement Settlement and Associated Sites. In The Archaeology of Fazzan. Vol. 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. Mattingly, D.J. London: The Society for Libyan Studies. 3: 19-84.
  • Edwards, D.N., Mattingly D.J., Daniels, C.M., with contributions from, Dore, J.N. & Leone, A. (2010). Excavations and survey at Tinda, al Khara'iq and Ikhlif Escarpment Settlements. In The Archaeology of Fazzan. Vol. 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. Mattingly, D.J. London: The Society for Libyan Studies. 3.
  • Mattingly, D.J., HAwthorne, J., Daniels, C.M., With contributions from, Dore, J.N., Leone, A. & Cole, F. (2010). Excavations at the Classic Garamantian Settlement of Saniat Jibril. In The Archaeology of Fazzan. Vol. 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. Mattingly D.J. London: The Society for Lybian Studies. 3.
  • Mattingly, D.J., Hawthorne, J., Daniels, C.M., with contributions from, Dore, J.N., Leone, A., Kenrick, Ph. & Tagart, C. (2010). The Garamantian Cemetery of Saniat Bin Huwaydi. In The Archaeology of Fazzan. Vol. 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. Mattingly D.J. London: The Society for Libyan Studies. 3.
  • Edwards, D.N., Mattingly, D.J., Daniels, C.M., with contributions from, Dore, J.N. & Leone, A. (2010). Excavations of other Garamantian Cemeteries and Burials. In The Archaeology of Fazzan. Vol. 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. Mattingly, D.J. London: The Society for Libyan Studies. 3.
  • Wilkinson, Tony J. (2010). The Tell: Social Archaeology and Territorial Space. In The Development of Pre-state Communities in the Ancient Near East: Studies in Honour of Edgar Peltenburg. Bolger, Diane & Maguire, Louise Oxbow, Oxford. 55-62
  • Wilkinson, Tony J (2010). Empire and Environment in the Northern Fertile Crescent. In Landscapes and Societies - Selected Cases. Martini I.P. & Chesworth, W. Dordrecht: Springer. 135-151.
  • Gerrard, C.M. (2009). The study of the deserted medieval village: Caldecote in context. In Caldecote. The development and desertion of a Hertfordshire village. Beresford, G. Leeds: Society for Medieval Archaeology. 28: 1-20.
  • Witcher, R.E. (2009). The Countryside. In A Companion to Ancient History. Erskine, A. Oxford: Blackwell. 462-473.
  • Gerrard, C M (2009). Tribes and territories: 50 years of Medieval Archaeology in Britain. In Reflections. 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology. Gilchrist, R & Reynolds, A Leeds: Society for Medieval Archaeology. 79-112.
  • Gerrard, C M (2009). The Society for Medieval Archaeology: The early years (1956-1962). In Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology, 1957-2007. Gilchrist, R & Reynolds, A Maney Publishing. 30: 23-46.
  • Wilkinson, T.J. (2009). Political landscapes and states in upper Mesopotamia and the Levant. In States and Landscape,. Redman, C. & Falconer, S. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 152-62
  • Wilkinson, T.J. (2009). Foreword. In Arabia Felix: An Exploration of the Archaeological History of Yemen. Alessandro de Maigret London: Stacey International. 9-20.
  • Kennet, D. (2009). Transformations in late Sasanian and Early Islamic Eastern Arabia: the evidence from Kush. In L’Arabie à la veille de l’Islam, bilan clinique. Orient & Méditerranée No. 3. Schiettecatte, J. & Robin, C. Paris: De Boccard. 135-161.
  • Wilkinson, Tony & J. (2009). The Hinterland (of Siraf). In Siraf: History, Topography and Environment. Whitehouse, David Oxbow. 54-76
  • Gerrard, C. M. (2008). Adventures in a post-medieval landscape: a rural case study from Shapwick, England. In Constructing post-medieval archaeology in Italy: a new agenda. Gelichi, S & Librenti, M Florence: Edizioni All'Insegna del Giglio. 75-96.
  • Witcher, R.E. (2008). Regional Field Survey and the Demography of Roman Italy. In People, Land and Politics. Demographic Developments and the Transformation of Roman Italy, 300BC-AD14. de Ligt, L. & Northwood, S. Leiden: Brill. 303: 273-303.
  • Gerrard, C.M. & Dauber, R. (2008). Building Biographies: Graffiti, Architecture and People at the Hospitaller Preceptory at Ambel (Zaragoza), Spain. In The Military Orders. Volume 4. On Land and by Sea. Upton-Ward, J. Aldershot: Ashgate. 235-250.
  • Witcher, R.E. (2008). The Middle Tiber Valley in the Imperial Period. In Mercator Placidissimus. The Tiber Valley in Antiquity. New Research in the Upper and Middle River Valley. Coarelli, F. & Patterson, H. Rome: Quasar. 467-486.
  • 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.
  • Coningham, R.A.E. & Coningham, S.E. (2008). Chandragupta Maurya. In Great military leaders and their campaigns. Black, J. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Wilson, Penelope. & Gilbert, Gregory. (2008). Trading Relations with the Eastern Mediterranean. In Moving Across the Boders: Foreign Relations, Religion and Cultural Interactions in the Ancient Mediterranean. Kousoulis, P. & Magliveras, K. Leuven: Peeters. 249-265.
  • Wilkinson, T.J. (2008). Human dimensions of environmental change in the ancient Near East. In Proceedings of the 4th International Congress of the Ancient Near East (Berlin). Kuhne,H., Czichon, R.M. & Kreppner, F.J. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. Vol. 1: The Reconstruction of the Environment: 3-18.
  • Kennet, D. (2008). Sasanian Coins from ‘Uman and Bahrayn. In Current Research in Sasanian Archaeology, Art & History. BAR International Series 1810:. Kennet, D. & Luft, P. Oxford.: 55-64.