Archaeologist of the Year 2018 Nominee Interviews

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Sponsors of the Archaeologist of the Year 2018

We spoke to our three nominees for Archaeologist of the Year 2018 to find out their highlights of the year and of their careers so far, and their thoughts on the future of archaeology. 


Below are the three nominees. You can read more about them here.

Voting has now closed, and all the winners of the 2018 Current Archaeology Awards will be announced on 23 February as part of Current Archaeology Live! 2018.

Timothy Darvill  

Proudest archaeological achievement?

Excavating inside the central stone setting at Stonehenge back in 2008 with my colleagues Geoff Wainwright and Miles Russell, and a group of researchers and students (CA 219). Essentially a piece of keyhole surgery, the aim was to investigate the early bluestone settings and collect samples for analysis. What we found surprised us all. Many of the bluestones had been broken up to make discs and axes in the prehistoric period, probably as lucky charms and talismans. And, largely ignored by earlier excavators, Stonehenge was well used in the Roman period as was poignantly illustrated by a large shaft in the middle of our small trench.

Archaeological moment of 2017?

Walking the Stonehenge landscape with participants in the Human Henge project brought many special moments (CA 329). One of the great prizes was getting to spend time with the monuments one by one rather than rushing round trying to see as much as possible in too short a time. But the highlight was walking the Cursus on a clear night with the moon and stars shining brightly, the Milky Way stretched across the heavens, and feelings of prehistory all around.

How do you view the future of archaeology?

Archaeology is all about the here and now, and we must keep it that way. In Europe, at least, the essential cultural history of the landscape, and those who dwelt within it, is now well established. This allows us the freedom to engage with broader themes relevant to current debates: understanding what it means to be human; looking at how past communities adapted to changing climate and rising sea-levels; and using our knowledge of the past to improve our own perspectives, quality of life, and sense of well-being.

Hella Eckardt 

Proudest archaeological achievement?

I led a project investigating migration into Roman Britain, combining the study of grave goods with isotope analysis and ancestry assessment (measuring skulls to determine descent). The immigrants we identified were often relatively wealthy, came from both colder and warmer areas of the empire, and included women and children as well as men. This included the famous ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ at York, who seems to be of African descent. To help primary schools deliver teaching that reflects these findings of significant diversity and high mobility, we created a website and teaching resource (

Archaeological moment of 2017?

This is cheating slightly, as it was excavated a few years ago and published in 2016, but I still think the new writing tablets (and other finds) excavated by MOLA at the Bloomberg site in London (CA 317) are my biggest highlight of the past couple of years. The writing tablets are especially fascinating to me, as I have spent the last few years researching the material culture of writing, in particular inkwells and other writing equipment (CA 328).

How do you view the future of archaeology?

It has been really sad to see the end of the Archaeology A-level, especially at a time when there are so many opportunities for careers in commercial archaeology. Archaeology offers an important perspective on many current debates, including key topics like migration and diversity, as was shown by the recent Twitter attacks (by various right-wing commentators) on a BBC cartoon that depicted (perfectly accurately) an African soldier on Hadrian’s Wall and on Mary Beard’s measured response to it.

Jim Leary 

Proudest archaeological achievement?

Working in the Silbury Hill tunnel (CA 293) was an extraordinary privilege. It was an amazing project to conserve one of the country’s foremost prehistoric monuments, and the feeling of pride at what we all did there still swells my heart every time I drive past it. This ignited a passion that led me to date the nearby Marlborough Mound, showing that this medieval motte was prehistoric in origin. In turn, this has led me all over the country dating and investigating mounds, with astonishing results.

Archaeological moment of 2017?

This has got to be the excavation of Cat’s Brain long barrow (CA 333). We had no idea the Neolithic timber hall had survived decades of ploughing, and I can’t tell you how amazing the team’s reaction was as the soil was stripped back revealing it in its full and breathtaking glory. An electric current ran through everyone digging on site. The other one is my 6-year-old running in with a stone in her hand shouting ‘I’ve found a scraper’. It wasn’t, but what a moment!

How do you view the future of archaeology?

At times it feels like the world has gone to hell in a handcart, but I think there’s lots to be positive about. Yes, there are cuts across the heritage sector, but interest in archaeology has never been greater, and archaeologists and heritage-lovers are fighters. Archaeology, and the technologies it uses, is moving at a staggering pace and has an important role in telling our national and international story, particularly when it comes to discussions of migration. Archaeology never stops, and our knowledge is always growing; I think it will be ok. The challenge for the future is making sure the archaeological voice is heard.

Voting has now closed

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