School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium 2015

The second Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium was held at Newcastle University on the 20th and 21st of November 2015 and was organised by 2nd year PhD archaeology students Lucy Cummings and Mareike Ahlers.

The symposium aimed to provide an opportunity for postgraduate, independent and early career researchers to present their research on aspects of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age to their peers in a relaxed and friendly environment. In order to make the event as inclusive a possible no theme was used, which participants commented "resulted in a great collection of papers including interdisciplinary researchers who’s primary focus was not archaeology". The conference was supported by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle, and a generous donation from BAR Publishing and a number of conference pack inserts from BAR, Beta Analytic, and Newcastle University.

Delegates attended from across Britain and Ireland including local archaeology group members, Newcastle lecturers, and interdisciplinary PhD students as well as research students in archaeology. The programme began on Friday 20th with a keynote lecture by Newcastle’s Dr Chris Fowler on powerful events and ontologies in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain and Ireland. This was followed by a wine reception and a chance to get to know the delegates prior to the PGR presentations on the Saturday.

On Saturday 21st, a full day programme of presentations began, covering a range of topics. The first session included new research on Mesolithic monuments of Exmoor Nations Park (Doug Mitcham, Leicester University), the landscape setting of stone rows of Connemara (Marcus Byrne, NUI Galway), the current issues with terminology and the study of henge monuments (Lucy Cummings, NCL), mortuary structures showing evidence of contact between Britain and the Northern Funnel Beaker Culture (Mareike Ahlers, NCL) and a critical review of the megalithic roller hypothesis (Barnabas Harris, UCL).

The second session was based on technology and included research papers on stone procurement at flint mines and axe quarries during the Neolithic (Peter Topping, NCL), experimental research into the use of flaked stone bars and stone and points in Orkney (Robert Leedham, Reading University), and a case study from Cyprus into the use of experimental archaeometallurgy (Marco Romeo Pitone, NCL).

The third and final session of the day was focused on ceramics and included presentations on feasting and identity in the Hebrides (Mike Copper, Bradford University), recent results of a contextual analysis of accessory cups (Claire Copper, Bradford University), reinterpretation through contemporary craft of gabbroic clay used in Cornwall from the Neolithic period to the present (Helen Marton, Falmouth University), and using regional informed perspectives to understand beakers as pots rather than a conceptual category (Owain Mason, Edinburgh).

New to this year’s symposium, there was also a poster display during the lunch hour including posters on the design and use of causewayed enclosures (Cameron Straughan, NCL), colour representation in Neolithic monuments of Atlantic Europe (Penelope Foreman, Bournemouth University), the use of polished flint discoidal knives (Melissa Metzger, Bradford University), the Neolithic stone axe factory at Graid Lwyd (Amber Roy, NCL) and the analysis of Neolithic and Bronze Age hafted stone tools (Amber Roy, NCL).

Co-organiser of the symposium, Lucy Cummings, commented that "the symposium was successful as it created a good atmosphere for researchers to present their research in a friendly environment to an interested and varied audience. Using Twitter and a website, as well as contacting universities, local archaeology groups, and previous attendees, we hope to expand the conference each year as it is passed on to the next Postgraduate Research Students to organise and host".

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published on: 4 December 2015