Ewch i’r prif gynnwys
Dr Karen Dempsey

Dr Karen Dempsey

Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology

5.05, Adeilad John Percival , Rhodfa Colum, Caerdydd, CF10 3EU
Ar gael fel goruchwyliwr ôl-raddedig


I am a later medieval archaeologist whose research interests focus on the daily (and gendered) lives of people and their households in Ireland and Britain between 1100 - 1600.  This means researching people, places, plants and things together to understand lived experiences. I teach archaeology of the middle ages as well as archaeological theory.


My work blends the theoretical perspectives of prehistoric, historic and anthropological archaeology as well as material culture and heritage studies. I am a medieval archaeologist who specialises in studies of castles.

Anrhydeddau a Dyfarniadau

Government of Ireland, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, National University of Ireland, Galway. Oct. 2019 – Sept. 2022 (150,000 EUR). Home is Where the Heart(h) is: exploring medieval houses in Ireland 1100-1600 AD.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, University of Reading Oct. 2017 – September 2019 (199,500 EUR). Prof Roberta Gilchrist: mentor. HeRSTORY’ Holistic Research into the story of buildings, objects and people in the later medieval period of Ireland, Britain and France from a gendered perspective.

Charlemont Scholarship, Funded by the Royal Irish Academy with Prof. Ruth Tringham at U.C. Berkeley, U.S.A. June-July 2022. Feeling Home’: telling a digital sensorial story of medieval Irish houses.

Medieval Settlement Research Grant £3000, Society for Medieval Archaeology £1000, Transport Infrastructure Ireland 800EUR, National Monuments Service 800 EUR. Total 6300 EUR for The Material Experiences of ‘Peasant’ Life in Medieval Britain and Ireland (c. 1200–1500) Co- Lead Applicant with Dr Ben Jervis (Cardiff).

Research Grant: Society for Medieval Archaeology (Lead Applicant) and the Royal Irish Academy (Co-Lead Applicant) January 2021-November 2022 (4300EUR) ‘Revealing Roesia’: gendered landscapes of medieval castles.

Research Grant: Castle Studies Trust (£5,500 / 6400 EUR). January 2020 – November 2021. Sowing Seeds of Interdisciplinary Work: Relict Plants at Medieval Castles. Lead Applicant

Research Grant: Thyssen Foundation (7,000 EUR). July 2019 – November 2020. Getting the Sense of Small Things: Exploring the Relationship of Medieval People and Objects. Co-Lead Applicant With Dr Jitske Jasperse, Berlin, Humboldt-Universität

PhD scholarship: Irish Research Council at University College Dublin,Jan 2015.

Aelodaethau proffesiynol

  • Council Member & Events Officer Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • European Association of Archaeologists
  • Castle Studies Group (2012+)
  • Château Gaillard (European Castle Studies Group) (2012+),
  • Society for Medieval Feminists (2016+),
  • The Scottish Medievalists (2022+)
  • Medieval Settlement Research Group (2022+)

Safleoedd academaidd blaenorol

  • Government of Ireland, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Oct. 2019 – Sept 2022,
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, England, Oct. 2017 – Sept. 2019

Ymrwymiadau siarad cyhoeddus

Invited Speaker

  • ‘Gender Lives at Caerlaverock Castle: exploring masculine identities in later medieval Scotland, The Scottish Medievalists, Society of Scottish Medieval and Renaissance Studies. January 2023
  • ‘Church, castle, chapel: exploring Castleroche, Co. Louth, the landscape of Roesia de Verdun’, Château Gaillard 30, Austrian Academy of Sciences (Vienna), 6th September 2022
  • ‘Gender and Medieval Archaeology in Ireland: practices, past and present’, Royal Society of Antiquaries, Dublin, April 7th 2022
  • ‘Relict Plants: methods and practice’, Bennachies Landscapes Project, February 02nd 2022
  • ‘Gender and Feminist Medieval Archaeology: building better stories’, University of York, Dept of Archaeology, November 27th 2021
  • ‘Gender, Heritage and Women’s Stories’. European Heritage Day, Archaeology and Gender in Europe. September 28th 2021
  • ‘Thinking Green’: plants and people at medieval castles. Springtime Lecture Series, Natural and Human Heritage, NUI Galway, April 1st 2021.
  • ‘Gendering the Narrative of Research Frameworks’, The Discovery Programme and Heritage Council of Ireland. Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. October 08th, 2020. Available here
  • ‘Daily Life in Castles’, Carlow Archaeological and Historical Society, Carlow. 19 February 2020.
  • ‘A feminist approach to castle studies’, School of Archaeology, UCD, February 13th 2020.
  • ‘Tending the ‘Contested’ Castle Garden: sowing seeds of feminist thought’, College of Art History, Edinburgh University. January 23rd 2020
  • ‘Green Lives of Medieval Women: gardening as devotional practice’, University of York, Archaeology Dept. January 21st 2020
  • ‘Material Assemblages at Medieval Castle: big stories from small things’, Archaeological Society, National University of Ireland, Galway. October 29th 2019.
  • ‘Re-examining the Medieval Castle: micro-stories from material culture’, Durham Archaeological Society, Durham. October 15th 2019.
  • ‘Thing-based archaeology at medieval castles: discovering our blindspots’. Rethinking the (In)visibility of Medieval Objects, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. June 6-8th 2019
  • ‘Gender Archaeology and Medieval Residences’. Lund University, Sweden, Dept. of Medieval Archaeology. April 2019.
  • ‘Re-Peopling the Past: Buildings as Material Culture’, Building Archaeology Workshop, Trinity College Dublin. March 2019.
  • ‘An inclusive archaeology of medieval castles’ Institute of Historical Studies, University of London. November 2018.
  • *Society of Medieval Archaeology post-graduate conference ‘Archaeology, Feminist Practice and Medieval Castles’. University of Reading, November 2018 *Keynote
  • ‘HeRstory: seeing castles from new perspectives’, Castle Studies Annual Conference, Society of Antiquaries London. October 2018.
  • ‘Herstory: a feminist perspective on castle-studies’. Château Gaillard 29, Château –Thierry, France August 2018.
  • ‘Gundrada and Isabelle: medieval women, agency and material culture’. A workshop on medieval women’s charisma “Macht und Herrschaft - Vormoderne Konfigurationen in transkultureller Perspektive.” by Prof. Dr. Irina Dumitrescu. University of Bonn, Germany April 2018.
  • ‘Private places and intimate spaces?’: Looking towards a social archaeology of medieval castles’, Space and Settlement VII, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, May 2016.

Conference Papers

  • ‘Collaborative work and gendering medieval heritage’, Medieval Heritage Conference, Binghampton, New York, USA. October 22nd 2021
  • ‘Making a house a home: ordinary households in medieval Ireland’, Ruralia XIV, Viseau Portugal, 14th Sept 2021
  • ‘Putting our heads above the parapet together: heritage, gender and collaborative working’ in Session #424: Gender and archaeology for non-specialist audiences. Organized by Clara Masriera-Esquerra, Paloma González-Marcén, Karen Dempsey, Ana Cristina Martins and Erica Angliker. European Association of Archaeologists, 2020. Budapest [Virtual]
  • ‘People Plants and Places: medieval castles and modern landscapes’. Funded by The Castle Studies Trust in conjunction with Heritage Week 2020. Available here.
  • ‘Bounded spaces: devotional practice in the castle garden’. In Beyond ‘Virgin’ Lands: Interdisciplinary Approaches To Gendered Landscapes I, II, III Sessions 1508, 1608, 1708. Organisers: Emma O’Loughlin Bérat and Karen Dempsey. International Conference of Medieval Studies, Leeds. July 2020 [Held virtually: July 2021]
  • ‘Excavating the Archive: where are all the medieval houses?’, Institute of Archaeologists Ireland. Annual Conference, Belfast, April 2020. [Cancelled].
  • ‘Earning your spurs': A Gendered Study of Material Culture at Castles [Paper No: 1222-c] International Conference of Medieval Studies, Leeds. July 2019
  • ‘People. Places. Things.’ Challenging the problematic approaches within the archaeology of the later medieval period in Europe. Session 760 ‘…In with the New!’: The future of archaeological research in Medieval Europe. European Association of Archaeologist Conference, Barcelona. August 2018.
  • ‘HeRSTORY Gundrada and Isabel: a feminist perspective of northern European castle-studies’ Session 1332: Sharing Spaces: Uses and Functions of Medieval Buildings and Monuments International Conference of Medieval Studies, Leeds. July 2018
  • ‘Gender Bias in Archaeology’, Research Hour Workshop, Reading, March 2018.
  • ‘Outside the Can(n)on: Telling Inclusive Stories of Medieval Women’, Telling Herstory: Women’s History, Heritage and the Built Environment, English Heritage, Wrest Park. March 2018.
  • ‘Private’ spaces???....Reconstructing the ‘living-room’ of medieval castles’ as part of the session Under the raised roof: creating the space for family and community, European Association of Archaeologists, Vilnius, August 2016.
  • ‘Chamber-towers and their ‘private’ spaces: understanding the ‘living-room’, 29th Irish Conference of Medievalists, University College Dublin, July 2015.
  • ‘Lea Castle: some initial observations’, 29th Irish Conference of Medievalists, University College Dublin, July 2015.

Pwyllgorau ac adolygu

  • 2022-2025 Elected in 2021 as Ordinary Board Member for the Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • 2022-2025 Elected to Society for Medieval Archaeology (SMA) Council as Events Officer
  • 2021-2024 Series Editor of ‘Visual and Material Cultures’ ARC Humanities Press with Dr Jitske Jasperse and Dr Elizabeth Williams
  • 2021 Commissioned by Oxford University Press to write an annotated online bibliography on gender archaeology (30,000 words). Published 2022.
  • 2020 commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland to write first gender archaeological report (23,500 words) on medieval castles. Related co-written article submitted: Scottish Historical Review
  • 2020 Co-edited with Dr Jasperse Getting the Sense of Small Things. Das Mittelalter, (Journal of Medieval Research). 33 abstracts received; 8 papers published including four mentored ECR’s.
  • 2020 Referee for funding for Kress Foundation and Castle Studies Trust.
  • 2018 Self-assessment panel for Athena SWAN 2019 School of Archaeology, University of Reading
  • 2015+ Peer-reviewer Journal of Irish Archaeology, Archaeological Journal, Royal Society of Antiquaries, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Medieval Archaeology
  • 2012 Editor of a post-graduate journal, Trowel, in School of Archaeology, UCD (2012).










I teach Medieval Archaeology and the History of Archaeological Thought, as well as the core module Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study


My research specialism centres on medieval and gender archaeology; I am happy to supervise topics on:

  • later medieval households
  • medieval castles
  • gender and space
  • medieval gardens
  • human-plant relations