Skull Logo webv9My students organised their own conference for the first time ever. It took place 9am – 5pm Tuesday 19th  April, in the Lecture Theatre of the Grosvenor Museum Chester.

This was a FREE event.

The students were University of Chester single honours archaeology students in their third-years. They enrolled on the module HI6001 Archaeology and Contemporary Society and the conference is a formative assessment in preparation of their second assignment.


The conference aimed for students to not only get experience in public speaking and debating archaeology (a key addition to their CVs and to support their development for those wishing to go into graduate employment or postgraduate study), but in researching a topic of their choice relating to a theme that relates to many dimensions of archaeology in society today.

This is the first year for such an event, I decided to pick ‘Mortuary Archaeology and Contemporary Society’ since it is the theme of my soon-to-be-published book co-edited with Melanie Giles: Archaeologists and the Dead, but also because it is a theme that encapsulates all the other themes we have covered in the course, from archaeology, religion and politics, archaeology as and in popular culture, the illicit trade in antiquities and community archaeology.

Students have selected their own topics to research about a dimension of mortuary archaeology’s relationship with society today. They will not be assessed on their presentations per se, but will be writing up a critical reflection on their topic, informed by their research for, and reactions to, their conference papers.

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The conference blurb was:

From the tomb of Tutankhamun to the grave of Richard III, archaeologists have studied, displayed and debated evidence of the burial and commemoration of the dead from past times.  University of Chester archaeology students have conducted their own research to answer the question:  What is the relevance of mortuary archaeology to contemporary society? Presentations, videos, posters and artwork – together with special guest speaker Dr Ing-Marie Back Danielsson – will address key issues affecting how the archaeological dead influence and affect contemporary society.  Is it ethical to dig up and display human remains?  What do people learn from meeting ancient people in museums and heritage sites?  Come and join the debate.

The website is here and the event is advertised here. Following a short Introduction there were be 4 panels of 4 presentations by students and a guest lecture. It so happened that there was an additional talk by my doctoral student, Brian Costello. Both Ruth Nugent and Brian Costello assisted the students in preparing, presenting and in the running of the conference.

Doors opened from 8.30 and the audience was free to come and go throughout the day. The audience varied from between 15 and 20 people in addition to 14 of the 16 students.

Special Guest Speaker

Our special guest lecturer was Dr Ing-Marie Back Danielsson of Uppsala University. Ing-Marie is also a Visiting Research Fellow in my dept. She is an expert in mortuary archaeology, gender archaeology and her expertise focuses on the first millennium AD, specifically Migration Period, Vendel Period and Viking Period Scandinavia. Ing-Marie talked after the students, giving them a presentation linked to her own research on museum displays of the Viking dead, focusing on the figure of Estrid on display in museums and the landscape of Uppland.


The students wished the conference to be videoed and all but a few agreed to this. Lee Bennett, our superb audiovisual technician attended the entire event and has edited the videos. View the students’ talks and Dr Ing-Marie Back Danielsson’s presentation here.

Attend the Conference and Pre-Order the Book!

To learn more, why not read Archaeologists and the Dead?

Mel and my book Archaeologists and the Dead can be ordered from Oxford University Press. It is an academic hardback, and so not cheap, but maybe you have a rich friend who has money to buy you presents or want to order it for your university library!

Details are here.