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Megan Olshefski

Research Student

Research Student in the Department of Archaeology



I am a PhD student, filmmaker, and a 2020-2021 Fulbright Scholar focusing on the development of identity, memory, and heritage within groups of seventeenth century Scottish prisoners of war who served as indentured servants throughout New England. 

In 2016 I graduated from University of California Los Angeles with a BA in History (College, Departmental, and Latin Honours), with a dissertation focusing on the role of women in the development of Roman religion, culture, and growth of state (753-264 BCE). Thereafter, I worked in the Los Angeles television industry as a researcher and producer for documentary-style programmes including: National Geographic, NBC/Universal Studios, and the series Who Do You Think You Are? (US). Resulting from my work on the latter programme, I learned of Durham University’s Scottish Soldiers Project allowing us to retell one soldier’s story for global broadcast. My past fieldwork experiences include excavations at Binchester Roman Fort (2018) and Auckland Castle at Bishop Auckland (2018 and as supervisor in 2021, 2022, and forthcoming 2023), the latter as part of Durham University’s Auckland Castle Project.

Aside from my PhD research, I serve as Producer and Director for the Department of Archaeology in creating short videos/documentaries for on-going archaeological projects (the 2020 Auckland Castle Excavation video can be viewed here). By combing my passions for archaeology and the visual arts through the creation of independent documentaries, I intend to increase open access to education, public engagement, and interest in history and archaeology.

Research Topic

Archaeological Formation of Identity, Memory, and Heritage of Seventeenth Century Scottish Prisoners of War


The presence of forced migrants during the seventeenth century altered the order of global socio-economics. By studying their archaeological record, a better understanding arises as to how individuals and families integrate into communities, establish identities, and pass on a memory of home to their descendants.

Durham University's prior research on the Scottish prisoners captured at the Battle of Dunbar (1650) and thereafter imprisoned in Durham Cathedral serves as a foundation in this new research in determining how individuals establish identity, craft a collective memory, and develop a heritage after they are torn from their homeland. This understanding comes from an analysis of the gravestones, associated structures and landscapes, as well as the material culture of the Scottish prisoners from the Battles of Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651) who were shipped to New England as indentured servants and settled in the present-day states of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

Additional research interests within the aforementioned study includes: how one formulates an identity and memory after facing a collective trauma; location-based differences and similarities of cultural establishment between the collective groups of Scots.

Esteem Indicators

2022 - Visiting Fellow, Harvard University

2020-2021 - US-UK Fulbright Scholar


2023 - Old Berwick Historical Society Fieldwork Grant

2023 - Society for Historical Archaeology; Ed and Judy Jelks Award

2022- Old Berwick Historical Society Fieldwork Grant

2022 - Norman Richardson Award, Rotary Club of Durham

2022 - Seedcorn Fund - Durham Univeristy Department of Archaeology

2022 - Hatfield Trust

2022 - Rosemary Cramp Fund - Durham University Department of Archaeology

2020-2021 - Fulbright US-UK Award

Conferences and Talks

Media and Archaeology: why the past must meet new technology. CBA-Yorkshire Spring Symposium; Kings Manor, University of York, April 2023.

Walking in the Footsteps of Scottish Prisoners of War - Methods and Approaches in Recreating and Documenting a Forced March. Presenter and Session Chair, Society for Historical Archaeology, Lisbon, January 2023.

Archaeological Formation of Memory amongst 17th Century Scottish Prisoners of War. Society for Historical Archaeology, Lisbon, January 2023.

Engaging Cross-Disciplinary Approaches in Memory Studies. Invited Keynote Panel speaker at Exeter Univeristy, May 2022.

From Doon Hill to the Hills of Hollywood - Uncovering the Truth of our Past Through Family History and Television. Invited presentation at Palace Green Library, Durham University, June 2018.

Putting Historical Research to Work. Invited presentation at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, February 2018.

Women and Their Influence in Roman Government. Presented at UCLA History Conference, University of California Los Angeles, May 2016.

Research Interests
  • Public Relations and Archaelogy/History
  • Visual culture and archaeology
  • Post-Medieval Atlantic and Mediterranean diasporas
  • Historical archaeology
  • Experimental archaeology
  • Community archaeology and engagement
  • Cultural heritage
  • Collective memory and trauma
  • Archaeology and memory
Teaching Commitments
Tutor - ARCH 2191 Professional Training (2020-2022)
Tutor - ARCH 1131 Cities in Antiquity (2020-2021)
Selected Publications

Journal Articles

  • Olshefski, Megan 2023, 'Media and Archaeology - An overview about the methods accessible to an archaeologist', Forum - The Journal of Council for British Archaeology, Yorkshire, vol. 10, pp.271-276.
  • Olshefski, Megan. (Forthcoming). Sexual Assault from 1978-1999 at California Polytechnic University. California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo History Volume.

Newspaper/Magazine Articles