Nicholas Groat

BSc, MSc

Department of Archaeology

Research Student

Thesis- Affective Apparatus: Early Distillation and Material Separation Practices in the Iron Age and “Hellenistic” East

Nick Groat
Profile picture of Nick Groat

I graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2016 with a BSc in Archaeological Science with Employment Experience, with a focus on material culture studies and later prehistory of northern and central Europe. During this period, I worked full-time for a year in Derbyshire County Council’s Department of Conservation and Design as a member of the Historic Environment Record (HER) team. This role involved enhancing the digital and physical HER archive, and associated GIS datasets for commercial archaeology units, academic research, and public access.

In 2017, I graduated from Leiden University after completing my MSc in Material Culture Studies, where I worked on the ceramic assemblage of Early Iron Age Heuneburg, Germany as part of the inter-European Bedeutungen und Funktionen mediterraner Importe im früheisenzeitlichen Mitteleuropa (BEFIM) project.

I began my WRoCAH funded PhD at Sheffield in October 2018 on the production and use of ceramics in the “Hellenistic East” proffered for distillation, working closely with Locksley Distilling Co. Ltd as a commercial partner to help inform research insights and applications.

Between 2015 and 2017, I was funded by the British Institute at Ankara’s (BIAA) Settlement of Anatolia Strategic Research Initiative to work on the Sinop Kale Excavations project in Sinop, Turkey, investigating the nature of pre-Greek settlement and early Greek settlement in the region.

My experimental portfolio includes work on the Neolithic-Bronze Age experimental project at Hosterwold (NL), demonstrations at public open days across Sheffield as part of the public engagement Roots of Iron Project and University of Sheffield Archaeology in the City initiative, and extensive experimental metallurgical projects. I have been involved in excavations and survey work on prehistoric, Roman, and medieval sites across the UK, including Castleton and the Hope Valley, Wytch Farm, Beauchief Abbey, and Thornton Abbey.

Since 2019, I have been the coordinator of Sheffield Archaeomaterials, the Department’s archaeological materials, material culture, and experimental archaeology research group.

  • 2017- MSc Material Culture Studies – Leiden, NL
  • 2016- BSc Archaeological Science with Employment Experience – Sheffield, UK
Research interests

Thesis- Affective Apparatus: Early Distillation and Material Separation Practices in the Iron Age and “Hellenistic” East

My research primarily concerns technology and material composition in prehistory to early historic periods. I am particularly interested in how intangible aspects of the archaeological record are investigated and interpreted, most recently alcohol, other liquids, and technical choices surrounding their production. This body of work has covered several geographic areas, and I broadly have an interest in prehistoric to early historic archaeology of Central and Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and West to South Central Asia.

My methodological and thematic focuses in these areas include:

  • Metallurgy and ceramic production technology 
  • Microwear, residue, and compositional analyses
  • Craft processes, material culture, and sociocultural facets of alcohol production
  • Experimental archaeology and technological reconstructions
  • Issues pertaining to archaeology, heritage, and contemporary society

Thesis Abstract

As archaeological thought has become increasingly aware of the centrality of sensory perception and human experience in the creation of material culture, a growing interest in a post-humanist consideration of affect - the ability to act and be acted upon - has emerged.

Placing this inquiry at the heart of interpretation has fostered an interpretation of the archaeological record beyond essentialist perspectives and centred an approach to material culture that considers technological change and innovation as the result of social interactions, networks, and milieus. However, while this has been embraced in some contexts, others are yet to follow, particularly within artefact studies that frequently devolve to discussions on physical and chemical properties.

This project therefore uses the context of early distillation practices to scrutinise the nature and conviction of technology and develop a sensory and affective perspective on technological practices. As a process imbued with sensory and affective qualities, distillation marks a significant change in the treatment and understanding of materials, and is one widely used across several craft spheres.

One significant case for early distillation apparatus has been tied to technical developments in the proverbial “Hellenistic East” (broadly West and South-Central Asia), seen to substantially contrast those of prehistory. Yet a comprehensive craft-centric study on the proffered apparatus remains to be fully explored, aside from questioning its ability to distil. Allied to this, research in the area has rarely extended into a holistic discussion on craft processes, focussing instead on determining specific chronological stages and evidence of ‘Greekness’.      

By analysing production technology through a methodology that centralises exploratory experimental reconstruction, the project will examine ceramic apparatus proffered for distillation, versed in questions of material composition and manipulation. Conducted through an integrated analytical approach that employs an experimental campaign informed by material analysis, it will present a comprehensive discussion on the foundational principles of distillation compounded by a broader understanding of early complex material transformation practices.

Utilising the expertise of academic researchers and industry professionals, the performance, materials produced, and sensory affects of distillation craft practices will be evaluated. As a result, the project will enhance and critique established narratives on technological innovation in the region and period whilst contributing to our growing understanding of early distillation practices.


Funding and Awards

  • 2019- Ancient India and Iran Trust Research Bursary, Cambridge, UK
  • 2018 – 2021- White Rose College of Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH) AHRC Studentship, UK
  • 2015 – 2017- British Institute at Ankara (BIAA) Funded Researcher, Sinop Kale Excavations, Turkey
  • 2016- Petrie Watson Exhibition Prize, University of Sheffield, UK
  • 2016- Department of Archaeology Fieldwork Bursary, University of Sheffield, UK
Teaching activities
  • Autumn 2019 – 2020- University of Sheffield AAP116 Towards Modernity: Anthropology, Archaeology, and Colonialism 
    • Module tutor (undergraduate)
  • Spring 2018 – 2019- University of Sheffield AAP6082 Experimental Archaeology
    • Practical and laboratory demonstrator (undergraduate and masters)
  • Spring 2018 – 2019- University of Sheffield AAP108 World Civilisations
    • Module tutor (undergraduate)
  • Summer 2017- Sinop Kale Excavations
    • Fieldwork assistant and lecturer
Professional activities and memberships

Current Positions

  • March 2019 – current- Coordinator – Sheffield Archaeomaterials (University of Sheffield), UK
    • Departmental research group
  • April 2019 – current- Organiser –  The Space Network Research Group (WRoCAH), UK
    • Funding consortium research group

Previous Roles

  • March 2020- Organiser – 2nd Experimental Archaeology Student Symposium (EAStS), Sheffield, UK
  • Summer 2017- Assistant Trench Supervisor –Sinop Kale Excavations, Sinop, TR
  • November 2016- Organiser – Ceramic Petrology Group Annual Meeting, Leiden, NL
  • October 2014 – September 2015- Internship –Archaeology Department and Historic Environment Record, Department of Conservation and Design, Derbyshire County Council, Darley Dale, UK


  • 2020 –  current- Sussex Archaeological Society member
  • 2016 –  current- Council for British Archaeology member


  • Groat, N., (Forthcoming 2020). Abrasion and Inebriation: Investigating the Application of Use-Wear Analysis in Studies of Alcohol Production. In A. van Gijn, J. Fries-Knoblack and P. W. Stockhammer (eds.) Pots and Practices: an Experimental and Microwear Approach to Early Iron Age Vessel Biographies. BEFIM 3. Leiden: Sidestone Press. pp. xxx-xxx.

  • Marks, Y., Groat, N., Lortie, L. O., Hughes, M., Thompson, H. F., Woodland, C. J., Adams T. MS., Thorpe, T., Tang, B., Kenyon R., Langhorne, B., and Fraser-Darling, J. 2020. Smelting Conditions and Smelting Products: Experimental Insights into the Development of Iron Bloomery Furnaces. EXARC Journal, 2020(2). pp. 1-10.    

  • van Gijn, A., Jacobs, L., Groat, N., de Koning, N., Braekmans, D., and Verbaas, A., 2019. Studying Vessel Biographies from the Heuneburg: an Experimental Approach. In, P. W. Stockhammer and J. Fries-Knoblack (eds.) Was tranken die frühen Kelten? Bedeutungen und Funktionen mediterraner Importe im früheisenzeitlichen Mitteleuropa. Internationale Konferenz Kloster Weltenburg 28.04.-01.05.2017. BEFIM 1. Leiden: Sidestone Press. pp. 77-99.

Conference Papers

  • Groat, N. 2020. Experimental Archaeology in the 2020s: New Directions, Challenges, and Opportunities. University of Sheffield, UK, 29/02/2020. 2nd Experimental Archaeology Student Symposium 2020.

  • Groat, N. 2019. The Essence of Experience: Exploring a Sensory Approach to Early Distillation Practices. University College London, UK, 17/12/2020. 41st Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference 2019.

  • Groat, N. 2019. Alcoholic Affects: An Experimental Approach to Early Alcohol Distillation Practices. University of Sheffield, UK, 24/1/2019. University of Sheffield Department of Archaeology Postgraduate Research Conference.

  • van Gijn, A., Jacobs, L., Groat, N . 2017. ‘What Were These Pots Used For?’ An Experimental and Microwear Approach Towards Vessel Function. Kloster Weltenburg, Germany, 28/4/2017. Was tranken die frühen Kelten? Bedeutungen und Funktionen mediterraner Importe im früheisenzeitlichen Mitteleuropa.

  • Groat, N. 2016. A Critical Evaluation of Experimental Reconstructions of Alcoholic Beverages. Vardiza Monastery, Georgia, 19/5/2016. 8th International Student Archaeologists Conference Dedicated to Pitt Rivers, Vardzia, Georgia.

  • Groat, N. 2016. Trouble Brewing: a Critical Evaluation of Experimental Reconstructions of Alcoholic Beverages. Leicester University, UK, 21/4/2016. Chartered Institution for Archaeologists (CIfA) Annual Conference.

Other Publications

  • Groat, N. (Forthcoming 2020). Book Review: The Affect of Crafting: Third Millennium BCE Copper Arrowheads from Ganeshwar, Rajasthan. Uzma Z. Rizvi. Oxford Archaeopress. 2018. Assemblage. 18. pp. xxx-xxx. 

  • Groat, N., 2019. A Key Resource for South and Central Asian Archaeological Research. INDIRAN: Newsletter of the Ancient India and Iran Trust. 13. pp 9. 

  • Groat, N. 2017. Abrasion and Inebriation: Investigating the Application of Ceramic Use-Wear Analysis for Exploring Alcohol Production at Iron Age Heuneburg, Germany. Leiden: Unpublished MSc Thesis.

  • Groat N. 2016. Trouble Brewing: A Critical Evaluation of Experimental Reconstructions of Alcoholic Beverages. Sheffield: Unpublished BSc Thesis.