Archaeology at Leicester celebrates 50 years of success

Academics and graduates of the School of Archaeology are invited to mark 50 years of teaching at the University of Leicester.

This year, as the University of Leicester celebrates 50 years since it received its Royal Charter, the internationally acclaimed School of Archaeology and Ancient History also celebrates 50 years of teaching and research in Archaeology as well as forty years of teaching Classics and Ancient History.

At the heart of its celebrations is a day of events on Saturday 15th March, when the School is inviting its graduates back to mark the successes and landmarks Leicester archaeologists have achieved over the years, and to launch an anniversary book, Digging up our Past.

Edited by Alan McWhirr, Neil Christie and Marilyn Palmer, this tells the history of the School and its students over 50 years, heavily illustrated with archive photographs. Past students have also contributed their memories and the book will be available for sale to the public at £5.

This celebration on 15th March, 10.00am – 6.30pm, provides an opportunity for all former students of the School to come together and renew old friendships as well as forge new ones and catch up with fresh research developments within the School.

Past, present and future will come under scrutiny, as Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and former head of Archaeology at Leicester Professor Graeme Barker gives his view of the School in the 1990s; former student Charlotte Roberts, now Professor of Archaeology at Durham University, will proffer a former student’s view; and Professor of Roman Archaeology David Mattingly will discuss past and current fieldwork projects.

At a Celebration Lunch - with birthday cake - Dr Alan McWhirr will launch the book, Digging up our Past. Marilyn Palmer commented: “We are very fortunate in that one of our very first students, Dr Alan McWhirr, is still attached to the School and agreed not just to dredge back through his files and write about the early days of the School but also to produce the book.

“Alan has been responsible, too, for the School’s Monograph series and this Anniversary book would not have seen the light of day without him. It provides a valuable record of 50 years of archaeology in Leicester, Leicestershire and beyond as well as being an entertaining read!”

Festivities continue into the afternoon, when Dr Patrick Clay will speak on the work of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), the fieldwork unit based in the School, which has been responsible for excavating Neolithic finds at Rothley, hunters and hyenas in Ice-Age Rutland, and Roman and Medieval remains in the city of Leicester itself.

The reputation of Leicester archaeologists extends across the globe, and the results of fieldwork and research from sites as far flung as Australasia, the USA, Pakistan and Europe will be showcased in a series of mini-lectures over the afternoon by Dr Huw Barton on his research into ancient starch, Dr Pim Allison on Roman archaeology and social practices, Dr Ruth Young on archaeology in Pakistan and Dr Audrey Horning on the British Atlantic World.

The anniversary event will conclude with a wine reception in the School at 5.15 pm

The day itself is preceded by an opportunity on Friday 14th March to look round the School’s new building, where there are poster displays of fieldwork. There will also be a 50s-style tea party at 3pm to support a trek across Peru in aid of UNICEF by one of our ex-students, Jane Evans.

Colin Haselgrove, the current Head of School, commented “From its modest beginnings in the History Department in 1957, the grouping of archaeologists and ancient historians that makes up the School today is one of the largest and most distinctive of its kind anywhere, with a reputation that is truly worldwide.

“Staff are engaged in cutting-edge research and fieldwork projects in all six continents. Our students, past and present, are spread just as widely. Thanks to the distance learning programme, student and staff exchanges with other universities in Europe, Australia and Canada, and its overall reputation for research and teaching, the School regularly attracts students from all corners of the globe.

“We are justifiably proud of quite how many of our former students now hold professional posts not just in the UK, but all over the world.”

A series of events throughout the spring and summer to commemorate 50 years of Archaeology and 40 years of Classics and Ancient History will include:

1-3 April – conference on the early historian of Rome, Velleius Paterculus.

4-6 April – an exploration of links between later historical and industrial archaeologists – Crossing Paths, Sharing Tracks.

26 April – Celebrate Leicester Day – The University’s own 50th anniversary celebration, when it opens its gates to the public, to show some of the research that has given it the international reputation it enjoys. The School’s contributions include a lecture on ‘Rome in Film’ by Dr Andy Merrills and a Viking Re-enactment organised by one of our postgraduate students, Andy Tullett.

30 May – A lecture in Leicester by Professor Ian Hodder, a major name in Archaeology.

7 June – ULAS, School Staff and first-year undergraduates invite you to come and see their dig at Abbey Park in Leicester.

Source: By University Of Leicester

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