From uncovering Sheffield’s Classical past to exploring the Minoan palace at Knossos: Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience projects in Archaeology

Each year the University sponsors a series of undergraduate student research projects through the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience scheme. Through paid six-week placements SURE offers our undergraduate students an opportunity to become directly involved in the research activity of the University, take part in active research projects in subject areas that are of special interest, and experience what it's like to work in partnership with academic staff or collaboratively in a research group.

This summer we have several Archaeology students involved in SURE projects:

Bel Bowden, a second year BA Archaeology and History student, will be researching the history of the Sheffield branch of the Classical Association and the role of classical studies at the University of Sheffield. Bel is particularly interested in ancient history so this project, supervised by Drs Julia Hillner (History) and Jane Rempel (Archaeology) was perfect for her. Bel will be working with archival documents, including the committee’s minute book, which dates back to the branch’s foundation in 1921, as well as conducting interviews with current and past members. In the process, she will receive training in oral history and help to create a web-based exhibition of her findings.

Helen Donelly’s SURE project will see her spending her time at Twycross Zoo observing the gorillas. Non-human primates are often used as an analog for early human ancestors and studying their behaviour offers an insight into how we might have evolved into the complex, highly social organisms we are today. Helen, a third year part-time student on the BA Archaeology, will be analysing the effects of different visitor characteristics on gorilla behaviour in order to promote the welfare and breeding of these animals, which are part of the European endangered species breeding programme.

Successful SURE applicants, Tracey Platts (centre), David Inglis (upper-right) and Bel BowdenArchaeology students who have successfully received SURE placements, Tracey Platts (left), David Inglis (upper-right) and Bel Bowden.

And some of our students will be travelling a bit further afield for their SURE projects this summer. They’ll be part of the Sheffield team at Knossos, Crete, one of the most famous and important archaeological sites of the Mediterranean, known in Greek mythology as the palace of the legendary King Minos and, since its first systematic excavations by Sir Arthur Evans, as the centre of the Minoan civilisation.

David Inglis, a second year BA Prehistoric Archaeology student, will be working alongside Dr Gianna Ayala, a co-director of the Unexplored Knossos: Gypsades project. His SURE project involves conducting geoarchaeological sampling and analysis as part of the international excavations of a Bronze Age neighbourhood on the hill of Gypsades, adjacent to the palace.

Tracy Platts, third year part-time student on the BA Archaeology, will be undertaking a SURE project evaluating animal teeth from the excavations for dental microwear analysis. She will be working alongside Sheffield PhD student Lucy Lawrence as part of a larger project investigating the diet and management of ancient cattle.

And finally, Tom Maltas, a second year BSc Archaeology student, will be funded by Oxford University to work with Professor Amy Bogaard, a co-director of the Unexplored Knossos: Gypsades project, as part of her archaeobotany team.