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Research and Impact Groups

Our six Research and Impact Groups represent key strengths in our current research profile and act as hubs for discussion and collaboration in fieldwork, analysis and grant applications, and so increase vitality and diversify our internal and external collaborations. Each group holds regular meetings and seminars; academic staff, Visiting Professors, Post-Doctoral Research Assistants and Research Postgraduates may belong to one or more groups and the involvement of Research Postgraduates in group seminars and workshops is particularly encouraged. 


Bioarchaeology is a world-leading group which applies emergent science to explore different impacts on human and other animal populations. Characterised by a breadth of expertise and international partnerships in 30+ countries, projects embrace diverse geographical/temporal scales, set agendas and tackle ethical concerns. Members have established new methods to explore human-environment interactions in marginal regions and climate/change impacts (Living with Vikings) and are charting the mobility and dietary histories of humans and animals (Food and Identity in Ireland). A focus on health and well-being of varied demographic and social groups across the life course (Mother-Child Nexus), in changing contexts and re-evaluations of past infectious diseases (Leprosy) are contributing to advances on human identity, identification and health in modern forensic contexts (Peptides).


Landscapes of Complex Society recognises the sustained development of research of global significance in landscape archaeology at Durham. Our Informatics Laboratory has proved a key resource driving a step change in fieldwork and remote sensing in projects that identify and interpret extensive trends in settlement and landscape change, such as the emergence of imperial landscape signatures in Asia or the varied signatures of early urbanism. New projects on slavery and inequality in Europe and the global south are opening up research possibilities on landscapes transformed by colonialism (Guinea Bissau project) while documentation and in-country collaborations are producing new data for research on palaeoclimate and landscape productivity.


Prehistoric Worlds captures Durham’s research strengths in prehistory with high-profile projects from Palaeolithic art and technology (Neanderthal cave art) to proto-urbanism (Bagendon/Bibracte) and the origins/flows of metal in later prehistoric Eurasia. Members are setting new agendas in early monumental architectures in Europe, past sensory experience (Caves in Context), and in digital visualisation (Making a Mark). Big Data projects explore past societies’ relationships with the dead in Europe and the Middle East (Invisible Dead). Interdisciplinary work with visual psychologists and collaborative research with Bioarchaeology are building new narratives around human cognition, past mobility and major episodes of socio-economic change.


Northern Communities capitalises on the strength of our commercial unit Archaeological Services Durham University and our long-established interest in North East England. Addressing broader North European, Atlantic and Arctic contexts and in collaboration with Bioarchaeology, members are developing research on marginal zones, responses to climatic pressures and human-animal mobility.  We undertake interdisciplinary large-scale explorations, for example of the distinctive challenges facing northern communities and the ways in which these shapes their lives (People and Place), while our Scottish Soldiers project has enabled archaeological research from Durham to reach international audiences creating new connections with museums and researchers in North America. We are pursuing work on social inequalities through Landscapes of the Great Depression and generating new accounts of the health of industrial communities (Fewston).  The expansive HLF-funded community project Belief in the North-East is setting an agenda for proactive, co-produced of research, of a kind that works closely with local and regional groups and the public.


Heritage Partnerships has emerged through a step-change in our engagement with cultural heritage protection, and reflects a growing global awareness of the critical relationship between heritage, identity and sustainability. Its work is founded upon co-production and responsiveness to local needs. For example, in the UK we work with the National Trust (Wows) and internationally with a range of national and transnational heritage bodies. We connect communities with their living religious heritage (Pilgrimage Lumbini GLA), and work with disadvantaged communities in Europe and the global south, engaging them with the heritage of their recent past (Enforced Migration). We are using our practitioner expertise to lead on heritage conservation agendas with the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for Asia and ICOM-CC and collaborate with the Dept. of Antiquities of Jordan on training in museum skills.


Material and Visual Culture has a a focus on artefacts, monuments and imagery which underpin some of our key projects. The RIG fosters new research agendas on the materiality of religion, belief, and identity, identifying new directions in the symbolic, socio-cultural and economic dimensions of monuments and artefacts. Members work with non-academic users to inform national and international collections management practices and develop better protection against theft and illicit trade. The group has given new impetus to artefact and monument research, facilitated by digital visualisation and recording tools with new analytical facilities revitalising research on ceramics, metals and stone monuments.