School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Dr Chris Fowler

Senior Lecturer in Later Prehistoric Archaeology



I studied at the University of Southampton from 1992 to 1999, on BA hons and PhD archaeology programmes. Through my PhD, and through a Leverhulme Special Research Fellowship which I held at the University of Manchester from 2000 to 2002 I investigated the application of anthropological approaches to the body and the person in prehistoric archaeology, especially Neolithic and early Bronze Age Britain. I joined the School of Historical Studies at Newcastle in 2004.

I am extremely interested in anything to do with British and European later Mesolithic, Neolithic and early Bronze Age archaeology, and prehistoric archaeology in general. I am also interested in social and cultural anthropology, particularly where it relates to conceptions of the body and person.

Roles and Responsibilities

I am currently on research leave until January 2021 

Previous roles

Head of Archaeology, Sept 2010-Jan 2011 & Jan 2017-Jan 2020

Director of Research, School of History, Classics & Archaeology Jan-Aug 2012

Programme Director for Research Degrees in Archaeology 2004-2016





Research Interests

Neolithic and early Bronze Age Britain
Personhood, the body and identity in archaeology and anthropology
Mortuary practices and burial grounds

Other Expertise

Archaeological theory
Prehistoric art

Prehistoric cosmologies

Current and Recent Research

Much of my recent work has focused on Neolithic and Early Bronze Age mortuary practices in the British Isles. I am also working on theoretical approaches to identity, personhood and bodies, the interpretation of mortuary practices, and the relationship between theory, method and interpretation in archaeology (e.g. uses of typology).

I am currently investigating Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary practices and associated monuments on the Isle of Man as part of the Round mounds of the Isle of Man project, which I have been co-directing with Rachel Crellin since 2016. Since 2017 this has included excavations at an Early Bronze Age burial mound at Berk Farm, Kirk Michael.

I continue to research Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age mortuary practices in Northeast England, and published a synthesis of the evidence for these mortuary practices in The Emergent Past: A Relational Realist Archaeology of Early Bronze Age Mortuary Practices (Oxford University Press, 2013), a book which also explores a new theoretical approach to archaeological synthesis. 

Previous Research

In 2013 I participated in excavations at Low Hauxley, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, exploring the remains of an Early Bronze Age burial cairn, in collaboration with Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Archaeological Research Services, Ltd. as part of the Rescued from the Sea project. The report was published in 2016.

I led a project entitled Dead but not forgotten: human remains from archaeological excavations in North-East England, which assessed how much human bone survives in contemporary collections from excavated Neolithic to medieval period sites in the North East of England (Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham). This was followed by an osteoarchaeological reassessment of the Early Bronze Age human remains in Tyne and Wear Museums, and a programme of radiocarbon dating for some of those remains, in order to refine our understanding of changing mortuary practices in the period.

Along with Richard Tipping (University of Stirling), I organised the Tyne-Forth Prehistory Forum from 2009-2012. I co-founded the Forum, which brought together archaeologists involved with research into prehistoric archaeology in north-east England and south-east Scotland. Its membership consisted of archaeologists working in universities, museums and heritage agencies, of students, volunteers and members of amateur archaeology groups, and contract archaeologists. It was a fundamental aspect of the network to promote collaborative research between members of these communities. I was the principle investigator for an AHRC-funded Research Networking project entitled Investigating Prehistoric Social and Cultural Networks through the Tyne-Forth Prehistory Forum, which funded five meetings of the Forum from 2010 to 2012 in order to investigate the nature, origins, and drivers of prehistoric social and cultural networks in the region, and the role of present-day borders that may disrupt our understanding of them. The meetings led to an edited volume on the prehistoric archaeology of Southeast Scotland and Northeast England which I co-edited with Richard Tipping and Rachel Crellin: Prehistory without borders: the prehistoric archaeology of the Tyne-Forth region.

I collaborated with Dr Vicki Cummings (UCLan) in excavating two Bargrennan chambered cairns in Dumfries and Galloway. Our interim reports are posted on-line through the Archaeology Data Service, and the final report was published as a British Archaeological Report in 2007. 

Research Roles 

I am an Associate Editor (Archaeology) for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

I was a member of the Research Council for the project 'Meetings Make History: Hunters’ Rock Art and Lands of Identity in Mesolithic northern Europe' (Oslo University, Principal Investigator Dr Ingrid Fuglestvedt), and a member of the Specialist Group reviewing and updating English Heritage's North East Regional Research Framework for archaeology. 

I was a specialist advisor on prehistoric artefacts for The Cutting Edge, a project that draws together different sources of information about tools and weapons with sharp edges from  collections held in Tyne and Wear Museums and combines existing information with new images of the artefacts. The project made high-resolution images and other information  available online for public access, enabling easy assessment of key parts of the collection for future research projects.  

I was the co-ordinator of the Bodies and Identities Research Strand in the School of Historical Studies, 2009-13.

I was the Programme Director for Research Degrees in Archaeology from 2005-2016. 

Postgraduate Supervision

I currently supervise the following PhD students:

  • Eleanor Harrison 'Single burial traditions and identity in Neolithic Britain and Ireland' (co-supervisors Dr Lisa Shillito, Prof. Janet Montgomery (Durham))
  • Emma Gooch 'The Material Culture of Children in Ancient Greece: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Identity' (lead supervisor Dr Sally Waite)
  • Eleonora Montanari 'Gendered Stories: Constructing identities through glass beads in Iron Age Italy and Iberia' (lead supervisor Dr Chloe Duckworth)

Recently submitted:

  • David Astbury 'Long-Term Landscape Development in Northern England: understanding path creation from late prehistory to the late Middle-Ages' (lead supervisor Prof. Sam Turner)
  • Ben Morton 'Understanding the dynamics of change in historic landscapes' (lead supervisor Prof. Sam Turner)

 Previously supervised PhD students:

  • Amber Roy 'A contextual and comparative analysis of the uses and significance of British Neolithic and Early Bronze Age hafted stone implements' (2019)
  • Lucy Cummings 'Rethinking the henge monuments of the British Isles' (2019)
  • Mareike Ahlers 'Early Neolithic mortuary features and other pre-barrow constructions in the British Isles and the Near Continent' (2018)
  • Stephanie Moat 'A comparative approach to mimesis in  sculpture from the Roman provinces' (lead supervisor Dr Jane Webster, 2017)
  • Peter Topping 'The social context of prehistoric extraction sites in the UK' (2017)
  • Rachel Crellin 'Scales of time, scales of change: the emergence of a Bronze Age on the Isle of Man' (2014)
  • David Cockcroft 'Round barrows in Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Yorkshire: Architecture, burial, and landscape' (2014)
  • Sophie Moore 'Life, death and cosmology in Mid-Byzantine Anatolia (9th – 12th century AD): an holistic approach to mortuary practice' (lead supervisor Mark Jackson, 2013)
  • Ndukuyakhe Ndlovu 'A comparative analysis of rock art in southern Africa: animals and cosmological models.' (lead supervisor Dr Aron Mazel, completed 2012)
  • Michelle Gamble 'Health and disease in Chalcolithic Cyprus: A problem-oriented palaeopathological study of human remains.' (lead supervisor Dr Kirsi Lorentz, completed 2011)
  • Brian Albrecht 'Activities at causewayed enclosures in the British Isles.' (co-supervised with Dr Jan Harding, completed 2010)
  • Ana Clelia Corriea 'Engraved world: A contextual analysis of figures and markings on the rocks of south-eastern Piaui, Brazil.' (co-supervised with Dr Jan Harding, completed 2009)         
  • Hannah Lynch 'The use and exchange of Neolithic flint in northern England' (lead supervisor Dr Jan Harding, completed 2007)

Prevously supervised MLitt students:

  • Tom Ward 'A comparative archaeology of ontology: using Descola's schema to compare the structures of Late Neolithic Britain and Minoan Crete' (co-supervised with Matthew Haysom, 2019)
  • David Astbury 'Settlement patterns in North Tyneside from prehistory to the medieval period' (lead supervisor Professor Sam Turner, completed 2015)
  • Ivana Zivaljevic 'Human and animal bodies during the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in the Danube Gorges' (lead supervisor, completed 2010)
  • Ben Dyson 'Cosmology and land use in upland Bronze Age landscapes'   
  • Erin Watson Rock art and 'portable' art in northern Britain' 
  • Jessica Windsor 'Anthromorphs of Chalcolithic Cyprus: a contextual study' 
  • Kate Phillips 'Violence in the British Iron Age'
  • Hannah Flint 'Cosmology and architecture in prehistoric Britain' 

If you are considering studying for an MLitt, MPhil or PhD in a topic related to my research interests I would be delighted to hear from you.


Undergraduate Teaching

I am currently module leader for:

  • ARA2001 Archaeological Theory and Interpretation
In most years I also lead the following modules:
  • ARA1028 Prehistoric Britain (led in 2020 by Chantal Conneller)
  • ARA3036 Neolithic & Early Bronze Age Britain and Ireland in their European Context

I also contribute to other modules including:

  • ARA1001 Stuff: Living in a Material World 
  • ARA1027 Introduction to Archaeology                                                                                                 
  • HIS2085 Pre-Columbian and Spanish America 

Between 2004 and 2017 I taught:

  • ARA3022 Themes in European Prehistory (cosmology, bodies, personhood, and art)

Postgraduate Teaching

I am the module leader for:

  • ARA8036 Neolithic & Early Bronze Age Britain and Ireland in their European Context
  • ARA8184 Bodies in Prehistoric Europe, c.6500-700 BC

I contribute to:

  • ARA8190 Research Themes, Theories and Skills in Archaeology

External Examining

I was an external examiner for Archaeology BA (hons) and MA Social Archaeology at Southampton University from 2013-17. Between 2010 and 2014 I was external examiner for the following MA programmes at Sheffield University: MA Archaeology; MA European Prehistory, MA Aegean Prehistory and; MA in Medieval Archaeology.