University of Reading: Quadruple Award Nomination For Reading Archaeologists

Four University of Reading archaeologists have been nominated in the 2022 Current Archaeology Awards, highlighting the department’s outstanding research.

Projects revealing answers to questions about the Roman Empire and a medieval Queen, a book describing the rich history of the Roman town of Silchester, and a researcher studying how humans interacted with landscapes thousands of years ago are all in the running for awards.

Members of the public can place votes in the four categories at and more information on the nominations is below.

Professor Martin Bell is nominated for Archaeologist of the Year. An Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Reading, he is an advocate of experimental archaeology as a means of increasing our knowledge of the past.

This practice can involve creating copies of constructions from the past using approximations of historical techniques in order to test theories of how people lived and responded to challenges. Professor Bell leads the Experimental Earthwork Project and is currently writing this up as a Leverhulme Research Fellow.

Professor Bell has researched the prehistory of the Severn Estuary for almost 40 years. He is a published author on how people interacted the landscape thousands of years ago, and how the landscape and climate have themselves changed during that time.

Having taught MSc Geoarchaeology and Coastal and Maritime Archaeology at Reading, he retired in July 2021. However, he intends to continue his research.

Professor Mike Fulford is nominated in the Book of the Year category, for his book Silchester Revealed: the Iron Age and Roman town of Calleva.

He has been excavating at Silchester, in Hampshire, since he joined the University of Reading in 1974. His book outlines the town’s history and its national significance, as well as the big issues of Roman Britain.

Professor Fulford’s excavations at Silchester have explored what everyday life was like for ordinary people in the Roman town, plus how it was transformed by Emperor Nero and other rulers. Most recently the University has been investigating the remains of the town’s bath house since 2018. The excavations have also provided opportunities for the training of students and volunteers.

Read a full review of the book

A project co-led by Professor Hella Eckardt, investigating why so many Roman artefacts are discovered in rivers, is nominated in the Research Project of the Year category.

The ‘Bridge over troubled water’ project, also led by Dr Philippa Walton now at Birkbeck, University of London, catalogued 3,600 Roman coins and other objects discovered in the River Tees at Piercebridge, near Darlington, in order to learn more about the relationship Romans had with rivers.

Until now, Roman finds in rivers were assumed to have been dropped in accidentally, or to have been thrown away as litter. However, there is evidence that some were thrown into the river as offerings to ensure a safe crossing.

The discovery of the site of a ‘lost’ monastery beside the Berkshire-Buckinghamshire border this year has resulted in Dr Gabor Thomas being nominated for the Research Project of the Year award.

The excavation in the village of Cookham on the River Thames unearthed evidence that the 8th century monastery ruled over by royal abbess Queen Cynethryth stood in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church. Its location had been unknown and long-debated.

The team led by Dr Thomas, an early medieval archaeologist at Reading, found extensive remains of the settlement attached to the Anglo-Saxon monastery alongside pottery, food remains and personal artefacts attesting to the daily life of its occupants.

The coming years will see more excavation at Cookham, and allow university students and local volunteers to participate in exploring a site that has huge potential for understanding the role played by monasteries in the early medieval development of the Thames Valley as a strategic border zone.