Professor James Whitley

Professor James Whitley

Professor in Mediterranean Archaeology

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

Research interests

  • Early Iron Age and Archaic Greece, particularly Crete
  • Ethnicity and material culture
  • Eastern Crete and Praisos
  • Archaeological History
  • History of Archaeology, particularly Classical Archaeology
  • Art and Agency in the Greek World
  • Ancient literacy
  • Mortuary Practices and Tomb Cults

Research projects

  • The Praisos Project
  • Pottery Production and Consumption in Iron Age Crete: Knossos and Sybrita

My principal research and scholarly interest lies in the art and archaeology of the Mediterranean world in the Early Iron Age and Archaic periods. Though my work has been focussed primarily upon the Aegean, I also have interests in Iron Age Italy, particularly relating to my participation in the Gubbio project.  My principal aim has been and is to use archaeology to gain a better understanding of Greek society in the Early Iron Age and Archaic period. My principal contribution however has been (and is) to help to open up two related, 'interdisciplinary' debates:  the first concerns the relationship between archaeology and history in the ancient world in general and Greece in particular, the second the relationship between an explicitly theoretical prehistoric archaeology and a Classical archaeology which has, traditionally, disdained 'theory'.   So, while my published work embraces specifically archaeological topics such as burial archaeology, other contributions cover subjects and themes, such as tomb cults, hero cults and ancestors, the relationship between art and society, and early literacy in Greece, which straddle the traditional boundary between 'archaeology' and 'history'.  I have always argued that the contribution of archaeology to our understanding of antiquity lies not so much in addressing questions or problems arising from the study of ancient texts, but rather in throwing up 'strange cases', such as the disappearance of rich female graves in Archaic Athens, or the ubiquity of written laws in sixth-century Crete, which in their turn require historical explanation.   My interests in archaeological theory are therefore not subsidiary, but stem from a belief that interpretations of Greek material should be informed by anthropological concepts such as object biographies and social agency, gender, and ethnicity. Equally, my interest in the history of archaeological thought arises from a desire to explain the different paths taken by Classical and prehistoric archaeology respectively.

There is not point in theory unless it has an impact on archaeological practice, including fieldwork. In recent years, my particular research focus has lain in Early Iron Age and Archaic Crete , and in the site of Praisos in Eastern Crete in particular. Since 1992 I have been directing a survey project in and around this site, which is of particular interest as it was the political centre of the 'Eteocretans', an ethnic group which maintained an identity distinct from their Greek speaking neighbours to the West and North.  Topographical survey of the site in 1992 has been followed by three seasons of intensive fieldwalking.  Study has  revealed sharp differences between the material culture of this 'Eteocretan' area with those of its neighbours. Work on the publication of the Praisos survey is now at an advanced stage. In 2007, the first season of renewed excavation of this important Early Iron Age to Hellenistic site took place on the First Acropolis, yielding evidence of several Classical and Hellenistic houses.

Excavation and topographical study of Praisos has also had a direct bearing on the other Cardiff research project with which I am directly involved, namely  Strategies, Structures and Ideologies of the Built Environment 2000-100 B.C.

This variety of research interests has provided the basis for my general book on Archaic and Classical Greece which has recognised as the standard textbook on the subject in Britain, North America and Scandinavia. This in turn provided a firm foundation for the general digest of all archaeological work in Greece, from the Palaeolithic until Ottoman times, that (with much help) I have been contractually obliged to write, compile, edit and produce every year – 'Archaeology in Greece'. Since 2002, this has been the only such digest produced annually in any language.

Education and qualifications

Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University 1976-1980

BA (now MA), part I Classics, Part II Archaeology

Cambridge University 1981-1986

PhD. in Archaeology

Career overview

Professor in Mediterranean Archaeology from 1st September 2008 onwards.

Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology, Cardiff, from 1st September 2004 - 2008.

Director of the British School at Athens, 1st October 2002 – 30th September 2007

Senior Lecturer in Mediterranean Archaeology, Cardiff, 1st September 2001 until 31st August 2004

Lecturer in Mediterranean Archaeology, Cardiff,  September 1993 – September 2001

Tutorial Fellow in Archaeology, Cardiff, 1990-1993

Visiting Assistant Professor, Vassar College, Spring 1990

Macmillan-Rodewald Student at the British School at Athens 1988-89

School Student at the British School at Athens 1986-87

Honours and awards

  • Award in recognition of contribution to 'Greek culture' awarded by Mr Giorgios Voulgarakis, the Greek Minister of Culture,  at the Athenian Agora, 20th June 2007
  • Antiquity Essay Prize for 2003, for article 'Too many ancestors'
  • Sir Steven Runciman prize awarded June 2002, for book The Archaeology of Ancient Greece

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 2002 onwards
  • Member, Archaeological Institute of America, 1988- present
  • Member, British School at Athens, 1982 to present

Part two BA/BSc undergraduate modules

  • HS2350 History of Archaeological Thought
  • HS2389 Art and Archaeology of Classical Greece
  • HS2386 Art and Archaeology of Archaic Greece
  • HS2387 The Aegean Bronze Age: Emergence to Collapse

Postgraduate

  • HST203 Themes in Classical Archaeology
  • HST536 Interpreting the Past

Teaching profile

Greek Archaeology and Archaeological Theory

Projects

The Praisos Project, 1992-2015

The Praisos Project is an integrated survey and excavation project focussing on the site and environs of the ancient city of Praisos in Eastern Crete,  famed in antiquity as the city of the Eteocretans ('True Cretans'). The aims of the project are; first to understand the history of settlement in the region, from Neolithic times until the present; second to understand the urban structure and use of domestic space within the settlement and city; and third to understand how the material culture of the 'Eteocretans' differed, if at all, from their Greek neighbours to the North-East and West. It is funded by the British School at Athens; the British Academy; the Society of Antiquaries of London; the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, Philadelphia (INSTAP); the Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; Packard Humanities Institute (for excavation). Its value is £200,000.

Project publications

2016
Contribution to conference volume (jointly with R. Madgwick). ‘Consuming the Wild: more thoughts on the andreion’. In J. Blok, F. van den Eijnde and R. Strootman (eds), Feasting and Polis Institutions. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

2015
Article: ‘Scholarly traditions and scientific paradigms: Method and reflexivity in the study of ancient Praisos’. In Donald C. Haggis and Carla M. Antonaccio (eds), Classical Archaeology in Context: Theory and Practice in Excavation in the Greek World, 23-49. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.

2014
Article:‘Chapter 7: Commensality and the “Citizen State”: The Case of Praisos.’ In  F. Gaignerot-Driessen and J. Driessen (eds), Cretan Cities: Formation and Transformation (Aegis 7), 141-63. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain.

2011
Report: 'Praisos V: A preliminary report on the 2007 season of excavation'. Annual of the British School at Athens 106 [2011]: 3-45.

2010
Contribution to festschrift: 'Eteocretans and Eteobritons: the intellectual prehistory of the Minoans. In N.V. Sekunda (ed.), Ergasteria: Works Presented to John Ellis Jones on his 80th Birthday, 36-43. Gdańsk: Institute of Archaeology, Gdańsk University.

2008
Article: 'Identity and Sacred Topography: The Sanctuaries of Praisos in Eastern Crete,' in Anders Holm Rasmussen and Susanne William Rasmussen (eds), Religion and Society: Rituals, Resources and Identity in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World: The BOMOS-Conferences 2002-2005 (Analecta Romana Instituti Danici Supplementum XL), 233-246. Rome: Edizioni Quasar.

2006
Article: 'Praisos: political evolution and ethnic identity in Eastern Crete, c.1400-300 B.C.' in S. Deger-Jalkotzy and I. Lemos (eds), Ancient Greece from the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer(Edinburgh Leventis Studies 3), 597-617. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Article: 'The Minoans: A Welsh Invention? A View from East Crete', in Y. Hamilakis and N. Momigliano (eds), Archaeology and European Modernity: Producing and Consuming the 'Minoans', 55-67. (Creta Antica 7). Padua: Bottega D'Erasmo.

1999
Report: (with M. Prent and S. Thorne):  "Praisos IV: A Preliminary Report on the 1993 and 1994 Survey Seasons," Annual of the British School at Athens 94 (1999), 215-64.

1998
Article: "From Minoans to Eteocretans: The Praisos Region 1200-500 B.C." In W.G. Cavanagh, M. Curtis, J.N. Coldstream and A.W. Johnston (eds) Post-Minoan Crete: Proceedings of the First Colloquium, 27-39. London: British School at Athens.

1996
Report: (with K. O'Conor and H. Mason) "Praisos III: A Report on the Architectural Survey Undertaken in 1992," Annual of the British School at Athens 90 (1995), 405-428.

1992
"Praisos," in J. W. Myers, E.E. Myers and G. Cadogan (eds) The Aerial Atlas of Ancient Crete, 256-61. Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press.


Pottery Production and Consumption in Iron Age Crete: Knossos and Sybrita, 2005-2009

This project is essentially a petrological (primarily petrographic) analysis of the coarser and plainer pottery from Early Iron Age Knossos and Sybrita in Crete. The study of Early Iron Age coarsewares in the Aegean has suffered from comparative neglect as compared to those of the Bronze Age. The aim is an improved understanding of patterns of production and consumption of the coarse and plain pottery used in everyday life, especially in domestic contexts, in Knossos and Sybrita. It is funded by The Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP) and the British School at Athens. This is a collaborative project involving J. Whitley (Cardiff), Dr Anna Lucia D'Agata (National Research Centre, Rome) and Dr Marie Claude Boileau, of the Fitch Laboratory of the British School at Athens.

Project publications

2015
Article (jointly with M.C. Boileau): ‘True grit: production and exchange of cooking wares in the 9th century BC Aegean’. In M. Spataro and A. Villing (eds), Ceramics, Cuisine and Culture: The Archaeology and Science of Kitchen Pottery in the Ancient Mediterranean, 75-90. Oxford and Philadelphia: Oxbow.

2010
Article (written jointly with M.C. Boileau): 'Patterns of production and consumption of coarse to semi-fine pottery at Early Iron Age Knossos,' Annual of the British School at Athens 105: 225-68.

Article (written jointly with M.C. Boileau and A.L. D'Agata). 'Pottery production in Iron Age Crete viewed in the context of regional and external trade networks: a ceramic petrology perspective'.Bollettino di Archeologia Online: Volume Speciale.

2009
D'Agata, A.L. and Boileau, M.-C. 2009. 'Pottery production and consumption in Early Iron Age Crete: The case of Thronos Kephala (ancient Sybrita)', Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici 51, 145-202.

(jointly with M.C. Boileau and A. L. D'Agata): 'Pottery technology and regional exchange in Early Iron Age Crete', in P.S. Quinn (ed) Interpreting Silent Artefacts: Petrographic Approaches to Archaeological Ceramics, 157-72. Oxford: Archaeopress.


Transformations in the Mediterranean 1200-500 BC, 2010-2015

This is an umbrella project, run by Professor Manfred Bietak (Vienna) and Professor Hartmut Matthäus (Erlangen), whose purpose is to understand the social and economic processes that led to a 'connected' Mediterranean in the Iron Age. The principal aim of the project is primarily to understand the processes by and through which the Mediterranean became transformed (or 'got connected'). Providing an improved chronological framework is a first step in this understanding. Activities include: workshop in Vienna, January 2008; workshop in Cambridge 'Bridging the Divide', 6th-7th November 2009. Dr Simon Stoddart (Cambridge), Dr Alexandra Villing (British Museum) and myself represent the British branch of this largely Austrian/German enterprise.


Research group

Strategies, Structures and Ideologies of the Built Environment: Regionalism and Continuity in the History and Prehistory of Greece

Research on houses, including excavation of houses at Praisos,  forms part of this AHRB-funded project on houses and settlements in Greece and the Aegean from the Middle Bronze Age to the late Hellenistic period, directed by Nick Fisher and myself and largely conducted by Ruth Westgate. The aim of the project is to investigate the structures of domestic space and the internal arrangement of settlements in three regions of the Aegean (central Greece, Crete and Macedonia) between 2000 and 100 BC.