Dr Oliver Davis
CAER Heritage Project Co-director
I am a Lecturer in Archaeology and specialise in the later prehistory of Britain. My research is principally based around exploring concepts of 'community' and considering what processes and actions bind groups together. My current research interests consist of four inter-related themes which contribute to a broad range of research-led teaching:
- The nature of prehistoric communities and identities expressed through settlement architecture and landscape organisation
- The prehistoric archaeology of south Wales
- Multi-scaled approaches to landscape investigation
- The dynamics of outreach and co-production of research with communities and realising the potential of community heritage assets
I am also passionate about impact and engagement. I am the co-director, along with Dr Dave Waytt, of the CAER Heritage Project. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project is a collaborative project between Cardiff University, Ely and Caerau Communities First, local schools and local residents. The project is based around one of Cardiff's most important, but little-known, archaeological sites, Caerau Iron Age hillfort, and seeks to engage local people and school children in their shared history and help challenge marginalisation.
- The CAER Heritage Project - I am currently directing, along with Prof Niall Sharples, major excavations at Caerau Hillfort, Cardiff
- The Skomer Island Project - I am currently working in collaboration with the RCAHMW on the investigation of the archaeology of a number of Welsh islands including Skomer, Pembrokeshire, which possesses a remarkably well preserved later prehistoric landscape of international significance
- The Eastern Vale of Glamorgan Palaeoenvironmental Resource Assessment Project - I am working with Dr Andy Seaman and Dr Tudur Davies to try to understand if pollen analysis can be used to investigate spatial variations in environment and land-use in a lowland setting and to investigate what can these patterns reveal about the changing nature of society between the Neolithic and the post-medieval period?
Education and qualifications
2004-2010 PhD, Cardiff University, Title: A sense of place and space: an investigation of Iron Age communities in central and western Hampshire
2001-2002 MA British Prehistory, Cardiff University
1998-2001 BA Archaeology, Cardiff University
2014-Present Lecturer in Archaeology
2013-Present CAER Heritage Project Co-director
2011-2013 Aerial archaeologist, RCAHMW
2010-2011 Heritage Management Archaeologist, Dyfed Archaeological Trust
2009-2010 Archaeological Records Officer, Cadw
- Institute for Archaeologists: Associate
- Secretary of the IfA Next Generation Special Interest Group
- Council for British Archaeology: Wales
I am module co-ordinator and lecturer for the following undergraduate modules:
- HS2125 Analysing Archaeology
- HS2350 History of Archaeological Thought
- HS2341 & HS2343 Archaeological Fieldwork
I also teach on the following undergraduate modules:
- HS2124 Deep Histories: The Archaeology of Britain
- HS2126 Discovering Archaeology
- HS2428 Heritage Communication
- HS1107 History in Practice
I teach on the following postgraduate module:
- HST530 The Later Prehistory of Britain
Since 2014 I have been the Archaeology Fieldwork co-ordinator for the department. Please direct any queries about fieldwork to myself and I will be pleased to answer them.
The nature of prehistoric communities and identities expressed through settlement architecture and landscape organisation
This builds upon my PhD research where I developed an understanding of how Iron Age communities in Wessex may have ‘worked’ through an investigation of landscape and place making. I am particularly interested in the way that the organisation of domestic space and landscape can be used to express ideas of individual or communal identities. Many Iron Age social models are derived from a focus on ‘type-sites’ (e.g. Danebury) or ‘type-cultures’ (e.g. Little Woodbury). My research goes beyond this narrow focus, highlighting that there was considerable complexity in the settlement organisation and patterns of activity. Exploring concepts of place and landscape allow us to consider the totality of settlement and activity and leads to a more holistic understanding of the Iron Age.
- Davis, O.P. 2013. Re-interpreting the Danebury assemblage: houses, households and community. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 79, 353-75.
- Davis, O.P. 2011. A re-examination of three Wessex type-sites: Little Woodbury, Gussage All Saints and Winnall Down. In T. Moore and L. Armada (eds). Atlantic Europe in the first Millennium BC: crossing the divide, 171-86. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Davis, O.P. 2010. A sense of place and space: an investigation of Iron Age communities in central and western Hampshire. Unpublished PhD thesis. Cardiff University
The prehistoric and early-historic archaeology of south-east Wales
I am currently co-directing a major fieldwork project at Caerau Hillfort, Cardiff as part of the Caerau and Ely (CAER) Rediscovering Heritage Project. Previous accounts have tended to see the hillforts of south-east Wales as late arrivals in contrast to Late Bronze Age beginnings in north and west Wales. Yet, too few have been excavated on a sufficient scale to support a credible picture or chronology for the region. The lack of substantial assemblages of environmental remains from hillforts is also problematic and means that questions about Iron Age agricultural regimes are not clear. The presence of important Roman and medieval remains at Caerau also provide opportunities to explore interesting questions about Roman control and acculturation in this region during the first century AD, and power relations in the post-Roman and Anglo-Norman period.
- Davis, O.P. in prep. Filling in the gaps: The Iron Age in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan
- Davis, O.P. and Sharples, N. 2015. An interim report on the 2014 Excavations at Caerau Hillfort, Cardiff, South Wales. Cardiff: Cardiff Studies in Archaeology
- Davis, O.P. and Sharples, N. 2014. An interim report on the 2013 Excavations at Caerau Hillfort, Cardiff, South Wales. Cardiff: Cardiff Studies in Archaeology
Multi-scaled approaches to landscape investigation
I am particularly interested in the understanding of later prehistoric settlement, farming and social patterns through a consideration of landscape relationships identified through remote sensing techniques. I have taken a lead role in the development of LiDAR as an archaeological prospection tool in Wales and have published widely on the use of this technique for identifying archaeology. I am currently working in collaboration with the RCAHMW on the investigation of the archaeology of a number if Welsh islands including Skomer. Skomer possesses a remarkably well preserved later prehistoric landscape of international significance. It has been the target of two important archaeological surveys in the 1940s (Grimes) and 1980s (J Evans) which have argued for a relatively short history of occupation. However, re-analysis of the island’s archaeology using remote sensing data (aerial photographs and LiDAR data) has allowed us to identify a much deeper chronology for occupation and activity. Intensive field survey, including pioneering use of geophysics, on the island has built upon this data and significantly enhanced our knowledge of the landscape organisation of Skomer in prehistory.
- Barker, L., Davis, O.P., Driver, T. and Johnston, R. 2012. Puffins admidst prehistory: reinterpreting the complex landscape of Skomer Island. In W.J. Britnell and R.J. Silvester (eds). Reflections on the past: Essays in honour of Francis Lynch, 280-302. Welshpool: Cambrian Archaeological Association.
- Davis, O.P. 2012. Processing and working with LiDAR data: a practical guide for archaeologists. Aberystwyth: RCAHMW.
- Driver, T. and Davis, O.P. 2012. Historic Wales from the air. Aberystwyth: RCAHMW.
- Davis, O.P. 2012. The archaeology of Grassholm Island, Pembrokeshire. Studia Celtica 46, 1-10.
- Davis, O.P. 2012. A LiDAR survey of Skokholm Island, Gateholm Islet and the Marloes peninsula, Pembrokeshire. Archaeologia Cambrensis 160, 115-32.
The dynamics of outreach and co-production of research with communities
Embedded within my research is a significant outreach component as I believe it is fundamental for academics to not only communicate with a variety of professional and public audiences, but also explore new ways of working – such as co-producing research with communities. I am the co-director, along with Dr Dave Waytt, of the CAER Heritage Project. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project is a collaborative project between Cardiff University, Ely and Caerau Communities First, local schools and local residents. The project is based around one of Cardiff’s most important, but little-known, archaeological sites, Caerau Iron Age hillfort, and seeks to engage local people and school children in their shared history and help challenge marginalisation.
Ely and Caerau are great places with strong communities, but today they are only suburbs of Cardiff, Wales’ capital city, and face significant social and economic problems. Yet, before the advent of the Roman invasions in AD74, Caerau hillfort was the major power centre for the entire Cardiff region and is one of the largest and most impressive hillforts in south-east Wales. During the Medieval period a ringwork and church (St Mary’s) were built within the ancient Iron Age defences and their impressive remains can still be seen today.
The CAER Heritage Project’s objective is to help the people of Caerau and Ely to connect with this site’s fascinating the past and make it relevant to the present. From the outset the project’s key objectives have been to put local people at the heart of cutting-edge archaeological research, to develop educational opportunities and to challenge stigmas and unfounded stereotypes ascribed to this part of Cardiff.
My research is now undertaking a more critical approach in order to understand better the dynamics of these relationships and the values upon which they are founded. I am Co-I on two collaborative AHRC funded projects – ‘On Shared Ground’ and ‘Heritage Legacies’. These are exploring the legacies and impacts of AHRC funded Connected Communities research
- Vergunst, J., Curtis, E., Davis, O., Johnston, R., Graham, H. and Shepherd, C. forthcoming. Material legacies: Shaping things and places in collaborative heritage research. In K. Facer and K. Pahl (eds). Researching in Public: Contested Origins, Live Debates & Emerging Legacies for Collaborative Research.
- Ancarno, C., Davis, O.P. and Wyatt, D. 2015. Forging communities: the CAER Heritage Project and the dynamics of co-production. In D. O’Brien and P. Matthews (eds). After urban regeneration: Communities, policy and place, 113-130. Bristol: Policy Press.
- Davis, O.P. 2014. Exploring Celtic Cardiff: Digging Caerau Hillfort. Cardiff: Cardiff University
- Davis, O.P., Sharples, N. and Wyatt, D. 2013. Exploring Celtic Cardiff: the CAER Heritage Project. British Archaeology 134, 32-7.
- Davis, O.P. 2013. The CAER Heritage Project: revealing the hidden history of Caerau and Ely. Cardiff: Cardiff University.