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Dr Christopher Davis

Research Associate

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Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology215 
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies  


Chris undertook both his BA and MA in Archaeology at Durham University and continued his studies in the Department of Archaeology with an AHRC funded PhD. His thesis, ‘Early Buddhist Monasteries in Sri Lanka: a landscape approach’, was linked to an AHRC-funded investigation of the hinterland of Anuradhapura, in the Northern Dry Zone of Sri Lanka. This study integrated archaeological evidence from excavations and landscape survey with epigraphic, textual and ethnographic sources to investigate the social, administrative and economic functions of Buddhist monasteries, including the role of monastic enterprise in the colonisation of marginal land, around the city of Anuradhapura between c. 340 BCE to 1200 CE.

Working within the UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage, Chris’ research relates to the archaeology of South Asia, with a continued focus towards the development of religious institutions. Located at the interface between archaeology, epigraphy, ethnography and heritage management, these elements are combined through site and landscape based approaches to provide understandings on the development of societies in the past as well as the ramifications for heritage in the present.

Chris is a member of UNESCO-sponsored archaeological investigations in the natal landscape of the Buddha, refining and characterising archaeological sequences at the sites of Lumbini and Tilaurakot (Nepal). He is part of a team that is now developing these methodologies across the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage Property (Nepal) in multi-disciplinary post-earthquake archaeological responses to heritage damaged and destroyed in the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. These investigations are identifying and characterising archaeological sequences and assessing foundations of collapsed monuments to guide future development and reconstruction, whilst protecting cultural heritage. This methodology has now been developed through British Academy sponsored fieldwork at Jaffna Fort, in Northern Sri Lanka, where damaged heritage is assessed and the earliest sequences of the site are being uncovered and linked to Indian Ocean trade networks. 

In addition to fieldwork in Sri Lanka (Anuradhapura, Polonnaruva, Jaffna) and Nepal (Lumbini, Tilaurakot and Kathmandu Valley), Chris has been part of archaeological projects in Bangladesh (Bagerhat, Mahasthangarh and Paharpur), India (Champaner-Pavagadh and Sarnath), Iran (Sialk) and Cambodia (Siem Reap – Angkor).

Research groups

  • Heritage Partnerships

Research Projects

  • Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka) Project: The Hinterland (Phase II)
  • Archaeological Investigations of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pashupati (Nepal)
  • Exploring the Medieval Hinterland of Polonnaruva
  • Post-Earthquake Rescue Archaeology in Kathmandu
  • Promoting the Protection of Heritage Sites in Nepal
  • Seismic Safety and Kathmandu’s Historic Urban Infrastructure
  • The Natal Landscape of the Buddha, Phase I: Lumbini
  • The Natal Landscape of the Buddha, Phase II: Tilaurakot
  • The Post-Disaster Archaeology of the Jaffna Peninsula (Sri Lanka) and reconstructing early Indian Ocean Trade
  • Uncovering Kathmandu's Early Urbanism
  • Understanding Pilgrimage & Heritage in India

Awarded Grants

  • 2019: Uncovering Kathmandu's Early Urbanism: Pilot investigation and evaluation of the subsurface heritage of Handigaon, Kathmandu (Nepal)(£2100.00 from The British Academy)
  • 2017: Post-conflict pilot excavations within Jaffna Fort (Sri Lanka)(£10000.00 from )
  • 2017: Promoting sustainable pilgrimage and the protection of heritage sites in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, India(£66270.00 from UKIERI)
  • 2014: Mapping Pashupati: Identifying and characterising the early cultural phases of the UNESCO world heritage site of Pashupati in the Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)(£2950.00 from The British Academy)


Chapter in book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

  • Coningham, R.A.E., Acharya, K.P., Davis, C.E., Kunwar, R.B., Schmidt, A. & Simpson, I. (2017). Below the Surface in Bhaktapur: Post-Earthquake Archaeological Assessment of the Vatsala Temple and Bhaktapur's Durbar Square. SPACES 12(11): 44-54.