Professor Karen Milek
Professor of Geoarchaeology
BA (Hons) Toronto, MPhil and PhD (Cantab), FSA Scot
|Professor of Geoarchaeology in the Department of Archaeology||228||+44 (0) 191 33 41122|
|Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies|
Originally from southern Ontario, Canada, Karen received her BA in Anthropology and Near Eastern Studies from Victoria College, University of Toronto, in 1995. Her field training began as a seasonal employee with Parks Canada, working on historic sites in Ontario, but two field seasons in Ireland expanded her professional interest to include the Early Medieval Period in northern Europe. She went to Peterhouse, at the University of Cambridge, to do an MPhil in World Archaeology (1st Millennium AD) in 1995, which deepened her interest in the Vikings and sparked a new interest in geoarchaeology and soil micromorphology. She stayed at the University of Cambridge to do her PhD at Newnham College, working on Viking Age and 19th-century (ethno-historic) houses in Iceland, using geoarchaeological analyses of floor sediments to elucidate living conditions and how living spaces were organised and used.
Since 1997, Karen has brought expertise in archaeological field survey, excavation, and geoarchaeology to numerous Viking Age, Pictish Period, Medieval, and Early Modern projects in England, Scotland, Norway, Iceland, and, most recently, Siberia and Canada. She worked as seasonal excavation staff for the Institute of Archaeology, Iceland (FSÍ), from 2000-2007, becoming Director of the FSÍ / North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation's Field School in North Atlantic Archaeology in 2005, and Project Manager of the Viking Age Vatnsfjörður Excavation Project in 2006, roles she retained until the completion of the Vatnsfjörður excavation in 2013.
Karen was appointed Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen in 2007, where she helped to establish the new Department of Archaeology and had a key role in the development of its udergraduate degree programmes, serving as Undergraduate Programme Coordinator from 2007-2011. In 2009 the Graduate Program in Anthropology at the City University of New York appointed her as Adjunct Research Professor in recognition of her ongoing research and research-led teaching in the North Atlantic region. Karen was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2015.
On August 1, 2017, Karen moved to the Department of Archaeology at Durham University to take up the post of Associate Professor (Reader) in Geoarchaeology. She remains an Honorary Research Fellow with the Department of Archaeology at Aberdeen University.
- Geoarchaeology, including soil survey, archaeological soil micromorphology, geochemistry, magnetic techniques, and lipid biomarkers
- Early medieval period, especially the Viking Age, in: Scandinavia, the North Atlantic Region, NW Siberia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Isle of Man
- 19th and early 20th century in: Scotland, the North Atlantic Region, and Canada
- Excavation and environmental sampling methods
- Ground-truthing of remote sensing anomalies, including multi-spectral satellite imagery
- Microrefuse analysis
- Space syntax analysis in archaeology
- Human-environment-animal interactions
- Social archaeology of houses, farmsteads, and transhumant/nomadic pastoralist sites
- Migrations and invasions and relationships between incomers and indigenous peoples
- Impacts of culture contact on material culture, especially residential architecture and objects used in everyday life
- Ethnoarchaeology and ethno-historic archaeology, especially to help develop new methodologies for the interpretation of activity areas
- Experimental archaeology
- Northern Communities
- Social-Ecological Transformations: HUMan-ANimal Relations Under Climate Change in NORthern Eurasia (HUMANOR)
- 2020: Carr Lands, Bright Water(£7800.00 from )
- 2019: Archaeology and Cultural Geography of Arctic and Subarctic Coastal Regions(£42320.00 from British Council Yemen)
- 2019: Cohabiting with Vikings: Social space in multi-species communities(£311848.00 from Leverhulme Trust)
- 2019: Lindisfarne Archaeology Research Project: Radiocarbon dating(£2025.00 from Society for Medieval Archaeology)
- 2018: Geoarchaeological Approaches to Pictish Settlement Sites: Assessing Heritage at Risk(£3000.00 from )
- 2018: Soil survey and geoarchaeological assessment in the hinterland of Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, Northumberland(£475.98 from )
- 2017: Burials and landscapes in the Faroe Islands during the Viking Age(£54508.38 from FAROESE RESEARCH COUNCIL)
- 2017: Social-Ecological Transformations: HUMan-ANimal Relations Under Climate Change in NORthern Eurasia (HUMANOR). ESRC under the JPI Climate Initiative, £97,000, 01-08-2017 to 31-12-2018
- 2017: Adjunct (Honorary) Research Professor, City University of New York, Graduate Centre in Anthropology: Since 2009, Karen has held the position of Adjunct Research Professor at the Graduate Centre for Anthropology, City University of New York, due to her ongoing contribution to research and research-led teaching in the archaeology of the North Atlantic Region. She was director of the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization's (NABO's) Field School in North Atlantic Archaeology from 2005-2013.
- 2017: Developing International Geoarchaeology (DIG) Conference Steering Committee: Since being a co-organiser of the DIG 2007 conference in Cambridge, Karen has been on the steering committee of this large international conference.
- 2017: Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen: In ;recognition of her ongoing research links ;with the ;Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, Karen has been made an Honorary Research Fellow from 2017-2022.
- 2016: Advisory Board for the Directory of Archaeological Scientists in Scotland: From 2013-2016, Karen served on the Advisory Board for the Directory of Archaeological Scientists, an initiative stemming from the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework's Vision for Science in Scottish Archaeology.
- 2016: Consultant for BBC / PBS / NOVA Programme on the Vikings: From 2014-2016, Karen was an advisor for programme development, script-reading, and fact-checking for the BBC One History Programme 'The Vikings Uncovered'.
- 2016: Scottish Strategic Archaeology Committee: From 2013-2016, Karen served on the Scottish Strategic Archaeology Committee for Historic Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland), and was one of the authors of Scotland's Archaeology Strategy.
- 2016: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Northeast Section Committee Member: From 2008-2012, and again from 2014-2016, Karen served as a committee member of the Northeast Section of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
- 2015: Society for Medieval Archaeology Council Member: From 2012-2015, Karen served as a general council member for the Society of Medieval Archaeology.
- 2013: Co-Chair, Science Panel, Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF): From 2009-2013, Karen served as Co-Chair, together with Prof. Richard Jones, of the ScARF Science Panel, and co-edited and co-authored ;the Science Panel Report.
Available for media contact about:
- History & Archaeology: Geoarchaeology -- the application of earth sciences to archaeological research
- Environment and culture: Geoarchaeology -- the application of earth sciences to archaeological research
- World perspectives & techniques: Geoarchaeology -- the application of earth sciences to archaeological research
- History & Archaeology: Viking Age archaeology, especially in Iceland and the North Atlantic region
- Environment and culture: Viking Age archaeology, especially in Iceland and the North Atlantic region
- European Prehistory: Viking Age archaeology, especially in Iceland and the North Atlantic region
- Milek, Karen (2008). Review of Smith, D. N., Brickley, M. B. and Smith, W. (eds). 2005. Fertile Ground. Papers in Honour of Susan Limbrey (Symposia of the Association for Environmental Archaeology No. 22). Environmental Archaeology 13: 190-192.
Chapter in book
- Romankiewicz, Tanja, Milek, Karen, Beckett, Chris, Russell, Ben & Snyder, J. Riley (2020). New perspectives on the structure of the Antonine Wall. In The Antonine Wall: Papers in honour of Professor Lawrence Keppie. Breeze, David J. & Hanson, William S. Archaeopress Publishing Ltd. 64: 121-141.
- Munro, Kyle & Milek, Karen (2020). The cultivation soil (GAA) and hearth (GAB): Soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 104-107.
- Milek, Karen & Munro, Kyle (2020). House 3 soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 344-353.
- Munro, Kyle & Milek, Karen (2020). The Early Norse occupation (BB): Soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 68-75.
- Munro, Kyle & Milek, Karen (2020). The south hearth (GAC): Soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 107-110.
- Milek, Karen & Munro, Kyle (2020). The ancillary structures (GC): Soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 409-412.
- Milek, Karen & Munro, Kyle (2020). House 3 pre-floor features (BEB): Soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 311-313.
- Milek, Karen & Munro, Kyle (2020). Deposits in the entrance passage (BEG): Soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 354-357.
- Milek, Karen & Munro, Kyle (2020). The final occupation of the settlement: Soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 506-510.
- Munro, Kyle & Milek, Karen (2020). The Late Iron Age occupation (BA): soil micromorphology. In A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow Books. 3: 37-42.
- Kupiec, Patrycja & Milek, Karen (2018). Ethno-geoarchaeological study of seasonal occupation: Bhiliscleitir, the Isle of Lewis. In Historical Archaeologies of Transhumance Across Europe. Costello, Eugene & Svensson, Eva Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 6: 75-92.
- Simpson, Ian & Milek, Karen (2016). Thin section micromorphology of soils and sediments from the Phase 2 church chancel at Reykholt. In Reykholt: The Church Excavations. Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. National Museum of Iceland. 224-229.
- Carlisle, T. & Milek, K. (2016). Constructing society in Viking Age Iceland: Rituals and power. In The Farm as a Social Arena. Dommasnes, L. H., Gutsmiedl-Schumann, D. & Hommedal, A. T. Waxmann Verlag GmbH. 245-272.
- Wouters, Barbora, Milek, Karen, Devos, Yannick & Tys, Dries (2016). Soil micromorphology in urban research: early medieval Antwerp (Belgium) and Viking Age Kaupang (Norway). In Objects, Environment, and Everyday Life in Medieval Europe. Jervis, Ben, Broderick, Lee G. & Grau Sologestoa, Idoia Brepols. 279-295.
- Kupiec, Patrycja, Milek, Karen, Gísladóttir, Guðrún & Woollett, James (2016). Elusive sel sites: the geoarchaeological quest for Icelandic shielings and the case for Þorvaldsstaðasel, in northeast Iceland. In Summer Farms: Seasonal Exploitation of the Uplands from Prehistory to the Present. Collis, John, Pearce, Mark & Nicolis, Franco J.R. Collis Publications. 221-236.
- Kupiec, Patrycja & Milek, Karen (2015). Roles and perceptions of shielings and the mediation of gender identities in Viking and Medieval Iceland. In Viking Worlds: Things, Spaces and Movement. Eriksen, Marianne Hem, Pedersen, Unn, Rundberget, Bernt, Axelsen, Irmelin & Berg, Heidi Lund Oxbow. 102-123.
- Milek, Karen, Zori, Davide, Connors, Colin, Baier, Waldraud, Baker, Kate & Byock, Jesse (2014). Interpreting social space and social status in the Viking Age house at Hrísbru using integrated geoarchaeological and microrefuse analyses. In Viking Archaeology in Iceland: The Mosfell Archaeological Project. Zori, Davide & Byock, Jesse Brepols. 143-162.
- Milek, Karen (2014). Micromorphology of occupation deposits on archaeological sites. In Soil Micromorphology in General and Archaeological Context. Lisá, Lenka Mendel University. 60-79.
- Oliver, Jeffry, Noble, Gordon, Shepherd, Colin, Knecht, Richard, Milek, Karen & Sveinbjarnarson, Oskar (2013). Historical archaeology and the ‘Colony’ Reflections on fieldwork at a 19th-century settlement in rural Scotland. In Chapel of Garioch: The Bailies of Bennachie. Shepherd, Colin The Bailies of Bennachie (Chapel of Garioch). 2: 103-124.
- Milek, Karen (2012). Micromorphology. In A Late Iron Age Farmstead in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations at Mound 1, Bornais, South Uist. Sharples, Niall Oxbow. 54-61.
- Barrett, J.H., Farr, L.R., Redhouse, D., Richer, S., Zimmermann, J., Sharpe, L., Ovenden, S., Moore, J., Poller, T., Milek, K.B., Simpson, I.A., Smith, M., Gourley, B. & O’Connor, T (2012). Quoygrew and its landscape context. In Being an Islander: Production and Identity at Quoyrew, Orkney, AD 900-1600. Barrett, James McDonald Institute, Cambridge. 25-46.
- French, Charles & Milek, Karen (2012). The geoarchaeological evidence. In Experimental Archaeology and Fire: The Investigation of a Burnt Reconstruction at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village. Tipper, Jess Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service. 146: 77-89.
- Milek, Karen (2009). Micromorphological analysis. In The Anglo-Saxon Settlement and Cemetery at Bloodmoor Hill, Carlton Colville, Suffolk. Lucy, Sam, Tipper, Jess & Dickens, Alison Cambridge Archaeological Unit. 152-161.
- Lawson, I.T., Milek, K., Adderley, W.P., Casely, A. F., Church, M.J., Duarte, L., Dugmore, A.J., Edwards, K.J., Gathorne-Hardy, F.J., Guðmundsson, G., Morrison, S., Newton, A.J. & Simpson, I.A. (2009). The palaeoenvironment of Mývatnssveit during the Viking Age and Early Medieval Period. In Hofstaðir: Excavations of a Viking Age Feasting Hall. Lucas, Gavin Fornleifastofnun Islands (Reykjavik). 26-54.
- Milek, Karen & French, Charles (2007). Soils and sediments in the settlement and harbour at Kaupang. In Kaupang in Skiringssal. Skre, Dagfinn Aarhus University Press. 321-360.
- Milek, Karen (2005). Soil micromorphology. In Sharples, Niall Oxford: Oxbow Books. 98-104.
- Milek, Karen & French, Charles (2002). Sediment micromorphology. In Deeply Stratified Medieval and Post-Medieval Remains at Market Mews, Wisbech. Hinman, Mark Cambridgeshire County Council. 38-48.
- Milek, Karen (2001). Environmental archaeology and the interpretation of social space. A comment on ‘Reconstructing house activity areas’. In Environmental Archaeology: Meaning and Purpose. Albarella, Umberto Kluwer. 271-281.
- Milek, Karen (1999). Settlement in thin section: the application of sediment micromorphology to the interpretation of Norse farmsteads in Iceland. In Settlement and Landscape. Proceedings of a Conference in Århus, Denmark, May 4-7, 1998. Fabech, C. & Ringtved, J. Jutland Archaeological Society. 497-498.
- Milek, Karen (1997). Soil micromorphology and the medieval urban environment: examples from Ely and Peterborough, England. In Environment and Subsistence in Medieval Europe. De Boe, G. & Verhaeghe, V. Institute of Archaeological Heritage (Zellik, Belgium). 9: 155-168.
Edited Sources, Research Data Sets and Databases
- Milek, Karen & Jones, Richard (2012). Science Panel Report. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (Scottish Archaeological Research Framework).
- Reid, Vanessa, Milek, Karen, O'Brien, Charlotte, Sneddon, David & Strachan, David (Forthcoming). Revealing the invisible floor: Integrated geoarchaeological analyses of ephemeral occupation surfaces at an early medieval farmhouse in upland Perthshire, Scotland. Journal of Archaeological Science
- Davies, Althea, Harrault, Loïc, Milek, Karen, McClymont, Erin, Dallimer, Martin, Hamilton, Alistair & Warburton, Jeff (2022). A multiproxy approach to long-term herbivore grazing dynamics in peatlands based on pollen, coprophilous fungi and faecal biomarkers. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 598: 111032.
- Harrault, Loïc, Milek, Karen, Huguet, Arnaud, Anquetil, Christelle & Anderson, David (2022). Preserved lipid signatures in palaeosols help to distinguish the impacts of palaeoclimate and indigenous peoples on palaeovegetation in northwest Siberia. Organic Geochemistry 167: 104407.
- Sulas, Federica, Schifter Bagge, Merethe, Enevold, Renee, Harrault, Loïc, Kristiansen, Søren M., Ljungberg, Thomas, Milek, Karen B., Mikkelsen, Peter H., Jensen, Peter M., Orfnanou, Vana, Out, Welmoed A., Portillo, M. & Sindbæk, Søren M. (2022). Revealing the invisible dead: integrated bio-geoarchaeological profiling exposes human and animal remains in a seemingly ‘empty’ Viking-Age burial. Journal of Archaeological Science 141: 105589.
- Reid, Vanessa & Milek, Karen (2021). Risk and resources: an evaluation of the ability of national soil datasets to predict post-depositional processes in archaeological sites and heritage at risk. Heritage 4(2): 725-758.
- Gerrard, C M Forlin, P Froude, M Petley, D Gutierrez, A, Treasure, E, Milek, K & and Oliveira, N (2021). The archaeology of a landslide: Unravelling the Azores earthquake disaster of 1522 and its consequences. Journal of European Archaeology 24(3): 388-411.
- Anderson, David G., Harrault, Loïc, Milek, Karen B., Forbes, Bruce C., Kuoppamaa, Mari & Plekhanov, Andreĭ V. (2019). Animal domestication in the high Arctic: Hunting and holding reindeer on the I͡Amal peninsula, northwest Siberia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 55: 101079.
- Harrault, Loïc, Milek, Karen, Jardé, Emilie, Jeanneau, Laurent, Derrien, Morgane & Anderson, David (2019). Faecal biomarkers can distinguish specific mammalian species in modern and past environments. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0211119.
- Milek, Karen (2018). Transdisciplinary archaeology and the future of archaeological practice: Citizen science, portable science, ethical science. Norwegian Archaeological Review 51(1-2): 36-47.
- Wouters, Barbora, Devos, Yannick, Milek, Karen, Vrydaghs, Luc, Bartholomieux, Bart, Tys, Dries, Moolhuizen, Cornelie & van Asch, Nelleke (2017). Medieval markets: A soil micromorphological and archaeobotanical study of the urban stratigraphy of Lier (Belgium). Quaternary International 460: 48-64.
- Noble, Gordon, Turner, Joe, Hamilton, Derek, Hastie, Lee, Knecht, Rick, Stirling, Lindsey, Sveinbjarnarson, Oskar, Upex, Beth & Milek, Karen (2017). Early Medieval Shellfish Exploitation in Northwest Europe: Investigations at the Sands of Forvie Shell Middens, Eastern Scotland, and the Role of Coastal Resources in the First Millennium AD. The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 1.
- Mikołajczyk, Łukasz & Milek, Karen (2016). Geostatistical approach to spatial, multi-elemental dataset from an archaeological site in Vatnsfjörður, Iceland. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 9: 577-585.
- Oliver, Jeff, Armstrong, Jackson, Milek, Karen, Schofield, J. Edward, Vergunst, Jo, Brochard, Thomas, Gould, Aoife & Noble, Gordon (2016). The Bennachie Colony: A Nineteenth-Century Informal Community in Northeast Scotland. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 20(2): 341-377.
- Stirling, Lindsey & Milek, Karen (2015). Woven Cultures: New Insights into Pictish and Viking Culture Contact Using the Implements of Textile Production. Medieval Archaeology 59(1): 47-72.
- Mikołajczyk, Łukasz, Ilves, Kristin, May, Johnny, Sveinbjarnarson, Óskar Gísli & Milek, Karen (2015). Use of phosphorus mapping in assessing coastal activity zones of an Icelandic multi-period site of Vatnsfjörður. Journal of Archaeological Science 59: 1.
- Forbes, Véronique & Milek, Karen (2014). Insects, activity areas and turf buildings' interiors: An ethno-archaeoentomological case study from 19th to early 20th-century Þverá, northeast Iceland. Quaternary International 341: 195.
- Edwald, Ágústa & Milek, Karen (2013). Building and keeping house in 19th-century Iceland: Domestic improvements at Hornbrekka, Skagafjörður. Archaeologia Islandica 10: 9-27.
- Milek, Karen B. & Roberts, Howell M. (2013). Integrated geoarchaeological methods for the determination of site activity areas: a study of a Viking Age house in Reykjavik, Iceland. Journal of Archaeological Science 40(4): 1845.
- Milek, Karen B. (2012). Floor formation processes and the interpretation of site activity areas: An ethnoarchaeological study of turf buildings at Thverá, northeast Iceland. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 31(2): 119.
- Milek, Karen (2012). The Roles of Pit Houses and Gendered Spaces on Viking-Age Farmsteads in Iceland. Medieval Archaeology 56(1): 85.
- Bertini, Martina, Shortland, Andrew, Milek, Karen & Krupp, Eva M. (2011). Investigation of Iron Age north-eastern Scottish glass beads using element analysis with LA-ICP-MS. Journal of Archaeological Science 38(10): 2750.
- Forbes, Véronique, Bain, Alison, Gísladóttir, Guðrún Alda & Milek, Karen (2010). Reconstructing aspects of daily life in late 19th and early 20th-century Iceland: archaeoentomological analysis of the Vatnsfjörður Farm, NW Iceland. Archaeologia Islandica 8: 77-110.
- Sveinbjarnardóttir, Guðrún, Erlendsson, Egil, Vickers, Kim, McGovern, Thomas, Milek, Karen, Edwards, Kevin, Simpson, Ian & Cook, Gordon (2007). Reykholt: the palaeoecology of a high status Icelandic farm. Environmental Archaeology 12(2): 187-206.
- Simpson, Ian A., Barrett, James H. & Milek, Karen B. (2005). Interpreting the Viking Age to Medieval period transition in Norse Orkney through cultural soil and sediment analyses. Geoarchaeology 20(4): 355.
- Simpson, Ian, Milek, Karen & Guðmundsson, Garðar (1999). A reinterpretation of the Great Pit at Hofstaðir, Iceland, using sediment thin section micromorphology. Geoarchaeology: an International Journal 14(6): 511-530.
- Simpson, Ian, Milek, Karen & Guðmundsson, Garðar (1998). Archaeological sediments and site formation at Hofstaðir, Mývatn, NE Iceland. Archaeologia Islandica 1: 129-142.
- Milek, Karen (1997). History and environmental archaeology in Medieval Europe: a review of recent discussions. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 14: 99-103.