School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Dr Benjamin Elliott

Post-doctoral Research Associate

Background

A Post Doctoral Research Associate who has recently arrived in Newcastle from a two-year Government of Ireland Postdoctroal Research Fellowship at UCD, looking at North European axe making traditions of the 5th Millennium cal. BC. I have been lucky enough work on some fantastic projects including SoundTracks at Creswell Crags, POSTGLACIAL at Star Carr and Flixton Island, Ice Age Island on Jersey, and the redevelopment of the Brú na Boinné Visitor Centre..

I am currently working on a major Leverhulme funded research project entitled "Masks Unmasked: Rethinking concepts of personhood 40,000- 4,000 BC". This runs under the direction of Dr Chantal Conneller, and draws on detailed analysis of masks from the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods to explore past ontologies.

I started out with an interest in the ways people understood and engaged with animals in the Mesolithic, then became interested in the way people use animal materials, and the way people engage with the materials and objects that they make. Then I became interested in sounds animals make within a landscape - and this is where it has taken me.

Research

My research interests revolve around three key areas within the context of the hunter-gatherer groups of Early Holocene Europe. These are sound, craft, and human/animal relations.

My research career began with a consideration of the latter two of these themes, through the study of antler-based technologies within the British Mesolithic. This sought to explore the role that the making of antler material cultures played in mediating the relationship between people and the three different species of deer which inhabited the British Isles in the Early Holocene, prior to the adoption of agriculture. This prompted further questions concerning the discourses of craft and technology within prehistoric archaeology, and the ways in which the experience of making can shape understandings of material culture within both hunter-gatherer and agriculturalist societies. My emerging appreciation of craft drove 5MATTERS; my IRC Postdoctoral Fellowship project, and the Making Things, Making People seminar series which I ran at UCD in 2019.

Alongside this interest in craft, my exploration of people and deer in the British Mesolithic led me to consider the wider range of ways in which people and animals encountered each other at a landscape level, in social contexts which extended beyond hunting activities. This led me to sound, and a questioning of the different ways in which both people and animals contributed to Early Holocene soundscapes. Pursuing this line of thought further, I have worked collaboratively to establish an interdisciplinary space concerned with the exploration of prehistoric soundscapes, and the implications this has for the fields of soundscape composition and understandings of human experience within prehistory. I have begun to think of this space as "Acoustic (Palaeo)Ecology", although I'm not entirely sure if that is a good idea yet or not... This interest has led to work with Dr Jon Hughes and Prof Mark Edmonds on the Sonic Horizons of the Mesolithic, SOUNDTRACKS, and Brú na Boinné Visitors Centre Redevelopment projects. These have produced open-air public sound installations, audio content for museum exhibitions, and a double CD and book of images and words entitled REFUGIUM.

I am currently revisiting ideas of craft and human/animal relations within the context of Early Prehistoric animal masks in Northern Europe. This includes technological studies of preserved masks from archaeological contexts, and anthropologically informed interpretations of masked individuals depicted within cave art, material culture and the burial record. This forms my contribution towards Dr Chantal Conneller's Leverhulme Trust funded major research project - "Masks Unmasked: Rethinking concepts of personhood 40,000- 4,000 BC".

Teaching


Modules contributed to:


 

History and Theory of Archaeology, Accessing Archaeology, Themes in Prehistory, Archaeological Excavation, Research Skills

UG

University of York

Mesolithic Lifeways, Mesolithic Theory and Interpretation

MA

University of York

The Archaeology of Prehistory, An Introduction to World Archaeology BC

UG

University of Leicester

The Human Past, Stone Age and Megalithic Europe, Human-Animal Relationships

UG

UCD

Experimental Archaeology

MsC

UCD

 

Modules led:


 

Themes in Prehistory

UG

University of York

Prehistoric Coastal Landscapes

MA

University of York

Later Prehistory (Distance Learning)

UG

University of Leicester

 

Modules co-ordinated:


 

Craft & Making in Archaeology

UG/MsC

UCD

Publications