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John Pearson

John's subject area is archaeology. His PhD project title is Experiencing Medieval Craft Practice: New Approaches to Glass Production in Islamic Iberia.

Project title

Experiencing Medieval Craft Practice: New Approaches to Glass Production in Islamic Iberia.



John Pearson

Project description

My research has been through several revisions since I began, and centres on everyday lived experiences of medieval glassworkers in twelfth-century Islamic Spain – al-Andalus. Archaeology’s tendency to collapse real time – the time in which real lives are lived – means that often it is only life at the macro-scale which is considered: broad social relations, technological developments, trading links, knowledge transfers, cultural exchanges, and so on.

Whilst these are undoubtedly vital topics for study, if the fundamental goal of archaeology is to understand past lives as they were lived day-to-day, it is incumbent on scholars to put themselves in the way of all the micro-scale emotional and sensory ‘happenings’ that made up the daily lived experiences of past people – just as they make up our own lived experiences today. Viewing the past through this lens can change the way we think and lead us to richer interpretations at a macro-scale.

My project combines the ethnoarchaeology of glass production with hands-on experimental archaeology. I’ve analysed a wide variety of glass production practices from the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Europe and North America in detail, and in 2023 completed some major fieldwork in southern Spain with an international team including other archaeology researchers, students and glassblowers. We built two wood-fired glass furnaces, fired them, melted glass in them, witnessed the glassblowers working that glass, and annealed the items they made. It was a fantastic and sometimes quite challenging experience for everyone involved.

The entangled information gathered from these sources has allowed me to attempt some reconstruction of the complex daily glassworking practices taking place in the twelfth-century glass workshop at Calle Puxmarina in Murcia, excavated in 1998, unique in Spain and one of only two discovered in all medieval Islam (the other being al-Raqqa, Syria). My thesis combines an interpretive creative writing element with traditional archaeological analyses to make the most I can of the workshop’s fragmentary evidence at both micro- and macro-scales.

Research Grants

My PhD is funded by the Northern Bridge Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NBCDTP) 2020-2026.


Pearson, J., Duckworth, C., López-Rider, J. and Govantes-Edwards, D. (2021) ‘Text, Practice, and Experience: An Experimental Approach to the Archaeology of Glassmaking in Medieval Iberia’, Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, published online 28 January 2021. DOI: 10.1080/17546559.2021.1874615

Govantes-Edwards, D. and Pearson, J. (2023) ‘Medieval Technical Texts and Experimental Approaches: A Theoretical Perspective on the Value of Technical Recipes as Sources to Reconstruct the History of Medieval Glassmaking Practices’, Meridies: Estudios de historia y patrimonio de la Edad Media (14), published online 29 December 2023. DOI: 10.21071/meridies.vi14.16252

Other roles


  • BA (Hons) Art & Design / Linguistics (First) – College of Ripon and York St John – 1984
  • MSc (Eng) Transport Planning and Engineering – Leeds University Institute for Transport Studies – 1992
  • MA Archaeology (Distinction) – Newcastle University – 2019. Dissertation: Text, Transformation and Practice: Experimental Experience and the Archaeology of Glassmaking in Medieval Spain