Professor Niall Sharples
Professor in Archaeology
- Material Culture
- British Prehistory
- The Norse settlement of the North Atlantic
- The history of Archaeology in the 20th Century
- Later Bronze Age Britain - 10 credits (HS2305)
- Iron Age Britain - 20 credits (HS2306)
- Complex Societies in Barbarian Europe - 10 credits (HS2365)
- Later Prehistoric Britain (HST730)
2007-ongoing. I am currently involved in a number of projects which are attempting to understand the role of hillforts in Later Prehistoric Britain.
- I am co-manager of the excavations at Ham Hill a joint University of Cardiff and Cambridge Archaeological Unit project that is excavating a large area in the interior of Britain's largest hillfort.
- I am a consultant for Herefordshire County Council working in particular on the excavations at Credenhill Camp in 2007 and 2008 and in their current project "An assessment of the Archaeological and Conservation Status of Major Later Prehistoric Enclosures in Herefordshire and Shropshire".
- I am academic leader for the University of Cardiff involvement with the CAER heritage Project, which is designed to understand the hillfort of Caerau, Ely, Cardiff.
These projects will provide an invaluable addition to our knowledge of the large hillforts of western Britain and have the potential to transform our understanding as previous explorations in these areas have been minimal. They build on my work at Maiden Castle in the 1980s and the reconsideration of the hillforts of Wessex in my book Social Relations in Later Prehistory.
1995-ongoing. In the 1990s I co-directed a large fieldwork project on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides in collaboration with the University of Sheffield and others. This was designed to explore the history of settlement on the island from its initial occupation through to the clearences. A detailed account of the project is available on the project web site.
My principal excavations were at the site of Bornais and were undertaken between 1994 and 2004. These revealed one of the largest known Norse settlements in Scotland and a sequence of occupation dating from the 3rd century AD to the 14th century AD at Bornais, South Uist. Two volumes have now been published on these excavations and work is ongoing to complete the final volumes.
The site provides crucial evidence for the development of commercial fishing, the organisation of craft activities and the use of domestic space in the Norse period. The quantity of artefacts and the quality of the stratigraphy provide an unparalleled opportunity for understanding chronological changes during this period.
The project aims:
- To understand the nature of the Norse settlement of the North Atlantic.
- To understand the development of domestic architecture in the Atlantic fringe of Scotland.
- To understand the change nature of agricultural practice in a marginal and fragile ecosystem.
This project is funded by Historic Scotland and Cardiff University, and has a value of £240,000.
Middens and Whitchurch
2006-ongoing. I am working with Kate Waddington (University of Bangor) and Richard Madgwick on the problem of the large middens that appear in southern England in the first half of the first millennium BC. The project aims include:
- Understanding the conspicuous consumption required to create the large middens that are found at the beginning of the first millennium BC.
- Reconsidering the social role of metal production, us and deposition at the beginning of the first millennium BC.
- Examining the taphonomic processes that inform the accumulation of material in these extraordinary sites.
The principal field element of the project was the excavation of the midden at Whitchurch in Warwickshire, an unusual site that lies on the periphery of the distribution. The excavations should provide an important framework for the Late Bronze Age early Iron Age transition in the West Midlands. The project has also obtained a large number of radiocarbon dates from the midden at East Chisenbury which should provide an unparalleled opportunity to precisely date these sites.
This project is funded by the Archaeological Society, the Prehistoric Society, NERC and Cardiff University.