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Miss Lisa Snape-Kennedy

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Member of the Department of Archaeology  


I have a BSc in Archaeology from Durham University and then specialised in Geoarchaeology for my MSc at the University of Reading. I worked for a commercial archaeological unit in London before returning to Durham to start a PhD in luminescence dating as part of the Persia and its Neighbours Project (ERC funded).

Before university, I volunteered at Heronbridge and Vindolanda excavations where I developed an interest in archaeology. I have since worked on a number of other volunteer excavations throughout my time at university. I have also had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting research projects in Spain, Ukraine, the Channel Islands, the Western Isles, Central Turkey and Lebanon.

As part of my PhD research, I have been working in a range of environments and landscapes, which include; Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Southern Arabia (UAE and Oman). As part of this research I have been applying luminescence and geoarchaeological techniques to landscapes features such as canals, channels and agricultural terraces.


2013 - PhD

2010 - 2011 MSc Geoarchaeology (University of Reading)

2007 - 2010 BSc Archaeology (Durham University)

Archaeological Employment

2011-2013 Environmental Archaeologist/Geoarchaeologist (Pre-Construct Archaeology)

Research Topic

Luminescence dating techniques applied to irrigation systems in the Northern Frontiers of the Sasanian Empire.


During the Sasanian Empire (between the 3rd-7th centuries AD), the control and distribution of water was essential for providing a regular water supply to regions under military control. The Sasanians are renowned for their construction of large-scale state-sponsored irrigation canals which were under direct control by the centralised government at that time. Information regarding the socio-political institutions, economy and infrastructure has mainly come from sites in southwest Iran and Iraq; however, increasing evidence for settlements expansion, large-scale state-sponsored irrigation, and defensive walls and fortifications have now been found in the Northern Frontier zone (Transcaucasia).

The Transcaspian region is not only extremely variable in terms of landscape, environment and climate (rain-fed upland areas and irrigated lowland plains), but it is also situated on the cusp between other powerful empires and mobile agro-pastoralist communities to the North. Complete control of the Northern Frontier zone remained challenging, eventually all connections with this region declined including infrastructure and important trade networks between the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

As part of a wider multidisciplinary project; ‘Persia and its Neighbours: the Archaeology of Late Antique Imperial Power in Iran (Persia Project)’ funded by the ERC, my research principally aims to date irrigation systems linked to Sasanian settlements identified in satellite imagery and surveys in the Transcaspian region (Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran) in order to test traditional relative dating methods using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL). This method is becoming increasingly used for dating archaeological contexts. It is now one of the most important methods for dating landscape features such as agricultural terraces and irrigation features as it enables the direct dating of inorganic sediments. OSL dating will be used alongside geoarchaeological techniques applied to irrigation deposits to understand the life-histories of irrigation features in order to identify phases of construction, maintenance and eventual abandonment.

Conference Contributions

2015: UK Archaeological Science Conference (UKAS), Durham University 9th April

Co-organiser of ‘Chronology, Climate and Landscapes’ Session

Podium presentations:

2017: British and Near Easter Archaeology (BANEA), University of Glasgow, 4th–6th January. Special session: Interdisciplinary approaches to Water History.

Landscapes, Mounds and Luminescence: New insights into large-scale irrigation systems using chronostratigraphic sequencing methods

2016: 10th ICANNE, Austria, Vienna 25th-29th April. Workshop: Finding Common Ground in Diverse Environments: Survey Archaeology in the South Caucasus.

A multi-scalar approach to landscape investigations on the Sasanian Frontiers in the South Caucasus. (Presented with Kristen Hopper)

2015: International Student Conference, Vardzia, Georgia 23rd-27th April

Luminescence dating applied to archaeological sediments in the Dariali Gorge, North Georgia.

2015: UK Archaeological Science Conference (UKAS), Durham University 9-11th April

Geoarchaeology and OSL chronology of Terrace Features in the Upper Caucasus, Georgia.

2014: 'The Qanāt: Archaeology and Environment', Durham University October 17-19th

Luminescence dating of a Qanat in Aragon, NE Spain.

2014: International Student Conference, Vardzia, Georgia April 9-14th

Luminescence dating techniques applied to landscape features in Transcaucasia.

Poster presentations:

2017: Luminescence and Electron Spin Resonance Dating (LED), Rhodes University, South Africa, 11th-15th September.

Wind, Water and Walls: luminescence dating applied to large-scale irrigation systems in Transcaucasia.

2017: Developing International Geoarchaeology (DIG), University of Newcastle, 4th-7th September

Dynamics of Upland Field systems in the Central Caucasus: A Multidisciplinary Approach.

2015: British and Near Easter Archaeology (BANEA) Conference, UCL January 7-9th

Luminescence dating techniques applied to landscape features in the Northern Frontiers of the Sasanian Empire.

2012: ‘Where the Wild things are’ Further Advances in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Research, Durham University

Seasonality, Climate and Fire: Holocene banded sediments at Goldcliff, Wales.

2010: Experimental Archaeology: Developing Scientific Approaches, University of Reading

Experimental Mesolithic hearths: Charcoal and magnetic susceptibility signatures.

Research interests

  • Geoarchaeology
  • Luminescence dating techniques
  • Landscape archaeology
  • Human-environment interactions
  • Environmental archaeology
  • Coastal and wetland archaeology

Research Projects

  • Luminescence Dating Techniques
  • Persia and its Neighbours: the Archaeology of Late Antique Imperial Power in Iran (Persia Project)

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