Press Office

Kay Hartley

Roman pottery expert honoured by Newcastle University

Published on: 8 December 2023

Kay Hartley, an international scholar in mortarium studies, was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters at a degree ceremony today.


Described as ‘the oracle on Romano-British mortaria’ (Roman pottery), her research over the past 70 or so years has advanced the study of the Northern Roman walls with which Newcastle University is closely associated. She has championed female inclusivity within archaeology and continues to contribute to academic scholarship.

“I am flabbergasted,” said Kay, 94. “I really do feel the honour.  I did register for a PhD in 1959 but I couldn’t get a grant as I was married.”

Kay Hartley

The doyenne

She is widely recognised as the ‘doyenne of her discipline’, a specialism which she single-handedly developed from the beginnings of post-war rescue archaeology in the 1950s through to commercial and academic research projects in the 2020s.  She has made a significant contribution to almostevery British Roman archaeology report produced over the last 60 years. 

As a founder member of the Study Group for Roman Pottery, established in 1971, Kay contributed to the creation of a forum which has advanced the field immeasurably and is now leading the introduction of a greater degree of standardisation in the discipline.

In Kay’s citation, Professor Vee Pollock said; Kay has been a forerunner of women’s ability to claim their own education, a role-model for women in archaeology and, particularly, for women in her family who have benefitted from her courage, strength and inner-steel.”

Kay is still carrying out research and is working with others to put her work online.


Latest News