History of the School of Archaeology

The School of Archaeology is one of the premier departments in the world for the study and teaching of the human past.  Comprised primarily of the Institute of Archaeology and the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, the School hosts a dynamic faculty, nearly one hundred undergraduates, and a large cohort of outstanding graduate students each year.  It is one of the few places in the world where the many facets of archaeology come together to explore themes such as human origins and early hunter-gatherers, the ancient environment, classical and historical archaeology, and chronology.

A brief history of each department is given below.

The Institute of Archaeology

Institute of Archaeology

The Institute of Archaeology formally came into being in October 1961. However, the story began earlier when, in 1946, the first Professor of European Prehistory, Christopher Hawkes, was appointed at Oxford University. A short time later, he was joined by Ian Richmond, appointed to the newly created post of Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire. During these early years, the character of the Institute at 36 Beaumont Street began to take shape. A Lecture Room, Seminar Room, Reading Room and Common Room were created along with offices for staff and graduates in European, Roman and Aegean Archaeology. A photographic lab was set up in the basement of the building where it remains today.

Sheppard Frere succeeded Ian Richmond following his early death in 1965 and, in 1972, with the retirement of Professor Hawkes, Barry Cunliffe was appointed as the second Professor of European Archaeology. Beginning in the 1970s, rapid growth of facilities began to take place and there was a greatly increased research programme. In 1982, in cooperation with Blackwells, the Oxford Journal of Archaeology was launched.

Further changes took place in the 1990s. The Undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Anthropology was established in 1992, and the Institute became the focus for its archaeological teaching. The following year, Professor Margareta Steinby was appointed the Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire, and late in the decade, the development for the new Sackler Library began at the back of the Institute, demolishing the garden.

Today, there is more storage space for archaeological material, a new archival area and a dedicated GIS computer lab. Professor Andrew Wilson is the current Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire and Professor Christopher Gosden is the third Professor of European Archaeology.

The Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art

RLAHA © http://oxpoints.oucs.ox.ac.uk

The Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art is dedicated to the development and application of scientific methods to the study of the past. It was established in 1955, as a result of discussions between Professor Lindemann, Professor of Experimental Philosophy, and later to be Lord Cherwell, and Professor Christopher Hawkes, Professor of European Archaeology. The first Director, Teddy Hall, had by then just completed his DPhil in Physics. The first Deputy Director, Dr Stuart Young, was soon succeeded in 1957 by Martin Aitken.

The first volume of the journal Archaeometry (a word coined by Christopher Hawkes) was published in 1958 and is still published for Oxford University by Wiley-Blackwell. In 1962, Martin Aitken organized a day meeting for archaeologists who had purchased proton magnetometers, which became an annual meeting. The scope of the meetings broadened in 1969 to become the “Symposium on Archaeometry and Archaeological Prospection”, held in Oxford until 1975. In 1976, with the meeting in Edinburgh, it became the International Symposium on Archaeometry and Archaeological Prospection”, and in 1980 (Paris) the “International Symposium on Archaeometry”, which continues to this day as a bi-annual international conference.

Martin Aitken’s contribution to science was recognized by the award of a Fellowship of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1983, and Teddy Hall was awarded an Honorary FBA in 1984. Professor Robert Hedges was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 2008. Professor Mark Pollard is the current Edward Hall Professor of Archaeological Science and Professor Christopher Ramsey is the current Director of Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

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