About Me

Me on a Jebel in Qatar looking at some rock art.

I am a PhD researcher at the University of York (see below for my research topic). I started off my archaeological career at the University of Reading and haven’t looked back. In an effort to move with the times I wanted to start an online blog to post up the less serious side of my archaeological work (although I’m sure the serious stuff will be up here too!).  I also wanted to showcase some of the work which I’m doing which isn’t immediately relevant to my PhD work but is still a big part of what I do as an archaeologist. So read on and enjoy!

PhD Research Project at York University

Soil micromorphology and its application to archaeological deposits has always been an area of interest within my academic career, as has the development of new and innovative techniques, to widen our understanding of past environments and people. My PhD, which is part of the wider InterArChive project, focuses specifically on these two elements in relation to Prehistoric and Roman human burials. InterArChive is a multidisciplinary project which spans both the Archaeology and Chemistry departments of York University and also the Environmental Sciences department as Stirling University. The broad aim of the InterArChive project is to investigate human inhumations unlocking the archaeological record which is hidden within the microscale of the soil surrounding bodies. My role within the InterArChive project is to develop the micromorphological and inorganic geochemical methodology, and where possible, relate the findings back to the Prehistoric and Roman archaeological data. The sites within my study have been sampled by members of InterArChive (including me!) and my research will also inform the organic chemical analysis which is being conducted by other members of the project.

Previous Research

Investigation of Mineralogical and Micromorphological Evidence for Spatial and Environmental change from Level Five, the Later occupation of Catalhoyuk: My undergraduate dissertation looked at the evidence for changes in the use of space and materiality of structures within a building at Catalhoyuk. This investigation employed both micromorphology and XRD analysis of environment sediments and plasters layers from within the building to identify changes in the morphology and composition of floor plaster layers and relate them to the wider environment.

An Investigation into the Archaeological Application of Carbon Isotope Analysis used to Establish Crop Water Availability: Solutions and ways Forward: My MSc dissertation explored the use of carbon isotope signatures as a proxy analysis for the estimation of ancient crop water availability as part of the wider WLC project. This research centred on the isotopic analysis of carbon from modern crops in order to establish the precision of the technique and to look for ways to improve its application and archaeological interpretation.

3 responses

  1. Hi Helen, I recently came across your piece entitled ‘investigating the hidden archive within archaeology grave soil’ and wondered if the results have been documented yet? I am really interested in exploring acidic soil and the puzzle surrounding the Benty Grange site which had an Anglo Saxon burial in a limestone area yet the grave site itself was actually acidic soil. Would you be able to shed any light on this? I am not an expert in forensic archaeology sadly!

    • Hi,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a large body of work published from the project, but there is a project web page which you can access here. I am not familiar with Bently Grange myself but it sounds like an interesting site. It may well be that although the overall geology of the area is alkaline the soil itself my have localised areas of acidity. You can find out more about the soil around the UK from the National Soil Resources Institutes’s web page.

      You can also keep up to date with my research by subscribing to my blog and twitter feed @helenRSwilliams

      Best wishes

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