Laboratory of Archaeological Practice

Contacts: Dr Stuart Prior and Dr Konstantinos Trimmis

The archaeological practice laboratory in the University of Bristol formed in 2018, following the Department’s legacy on landscape archaeology and geophysical and terrestrial archaeological survey. The laboratory is located on the ground floor of 43 Woodland Road and hosts teaching, community archaeology and research activities. The laboratory geophysics equipment includes among others a Mala Explorer Ground Penetrating Radar, a Bartington Grad601-2 magnetometer, two Geoscan FM256 Fluxgate gradiometers, four RM15-D resistivity arrays and one RM85 resistivity array. Surveying kits, include among others, DJI Mavic pro drones, a state-of-the-art Topcon HiPER SR GNNS kit, and four Topcon ES103 Total Stations. In the laboratory, several stereoscopes, a Nikon Eclipse LV100 POL polarized microscope with a built-in digital camera, and photographic and 3D imaging kits are available for the students and researchers in the department.  

The facilities and Equipment of the lab are used for the year 1 Archaeological Practice and year 2 Post-Excavation analysis units, when students are also getting experience of using the laboratory and the equipment during the compulsory six weeks of fieldwork. Students can also use the equipment and facilities for their dissertations. Prospective MPhil and PhD students that are willing to host their research in the Laboratory of Archaeological Practice, should contact to discuss their projects with Dr Stuart Prior. The laboratory is collaborating with researchers and community groups in field archaeology projects in Bristol and beyond, while it is supporting high quality research in the Department such as the Berkeley Castle Project, the Hazel Anarchy Research Project (link, ) the excavation in Royal Fort Gardens, Bristol, the excavations at Castell de Montsoriu in Catalunia (link: ), Spain and the Australian Paliochora-Kythera Archaeological Survey (link: ), in Greece.

Osteology and Bioanthropology Collections

Contacts: Professor Kate Robson Brown and Dr Konstantinos Trimmis

The department manages one of the largest university collections of osteological material in Britain. The  collection, comprised of both human and animal bones, it is located in a dedicated store on campus. These collections are used for the practical teaching of Year 2 Post-Excavation analysis and Year 3 Forensic Anthropology units and as part of student dissertations. They are also available for use as part of MPhil and PhD research projects. Prospective PhD students willing to base their research on the collections should contact Professor Kate Robson Brown. Our human skeletal collections give an interesting insight into individuals in the South West of England, spanning the Roman to Post-Medieval periods. From friary to infirmary, their varied nature provides a wide scope for research which can be broadened further by our departmental facilities. Traditional osteological analyses can be performed in our laboratories alongside more specialised analyses including micro-CT, isotopic analysis and radiocarbon dating.

Anthropology Imaging Laboratory

Contact: Professor Kate Robson Brown

The anthropology imaging facility is in 43 Woodland Road. The laboratory is home to a range of imaging equipment, which includes a Bruker Skyscan 1272 microCT scanner and a Bruker Material Testing Stage. The lab has a sample preparation area in which mounting stages and refrigerated sample storage is available. This is located alongside a computing suite which is equipped with a range of processing software which includes NRecon, CTAn, Synopsis Simpleware. This laboratory has been used for a wide range of research projects, which has ranged from bone microstructure during ontogeny to the analysis of deformation in zebrafish spines.

Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory

Contact: Dr Lucy Cramp

Our department contains our own archaeological chemistry facilities for the preparation and molecular analysis of bioarchaeological remains, including pottery lipids, bones and teeth. We have a sample preparation laboratory, a wet chemistry laboratory and a range of instrumentation, including an Agilent 6890 gas chromatograph, a ThermoFinnegan single-quadrupole gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer and a ThermoFinnegan Flash 1112 series elemental analyser for the measurement of bulk δ13C and δ15N isotope ratios. We work closely with the Organic Geochemistry Unit in the School of Chemistry, which hosts the Bristol node of the NERC National Environmental Isotopes Facility (NEIF), and houses a suite of cutting-edge analytical instrumentation, including for compound-specific stable light isotope analysis and high resolution gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Our facilities enable us to conduct research into the molecular fingerprints of organic traces surviving in the archaeological record, including invisible traces of foods absorbed into the fabric of pottery dating back thousands of years, and the isotopic composition of human and animal bones and teeth. Both approaches lend unique insights into past dietary and subsistence strategies and environments, enabling us to tackle questions from the nature of the earliest farming in Britain 6000 years ago, through to cultural and religious food-related practices in the past. For further information on the principles and best practice of organic residue analysis, see our freely-available guidance booklet commissioned by Historic England here.

In addition to postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers and academic staff, our undergraduate students, and interns from UoB and beyond, conduct research in these laboratories.

Bristol Radiocarbon Mass Spectometry Facility (BRAMS)

Contact: Dr Tim Knowles, Research Fellow and Facility manager

The state-of-the-art Bristol Radiocarbon Mass Spectrometry Facility (BRAMS), run by the School of Chemistry, is based in our department, and integrated with our Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory. The MICADAS accelerator mass spectrometer is a high-precision and compact instrument that is capable of measuring radiocarbon dates on even the tiniest of samples. It is capable of analysing samples as both graphite targets and CO2 gas, with applications ranging from archaeology through to palaeoclimatology, past and present environmental studies, and geosciences. It is in these laboratories that the methodology to date preserved lipid (fat/oil) molecules captured in the walls of archaeological vessels was pioneered, enabling direct, accurate and reliable dating of ceramic use to be established. This facility forms the basis of important research programmes in the department and beyond, including Lucy Cramp’s Seascapes project, a major radiocarbon dating programme to trace the emergence and dynamics of early Bell Beaker maritime connectivity in the Mediterranean Copper Age through the dating of pottery lipids, and other short-lived archaeological samples.

Open Cultural and Linguistic Data Resources

Contact: Professor Fiona Jordan

Members of the Evolution of Cross-Cultural Diversity Lab ( work to make cultural and linguistic data systematic and openly available for comparative research. Since 2015, lab members have had funding from the European Research Council, Leverhulme Trust, US National Science Foundation, the Max Planck Society, and the British Academy to create data and methods resources.

Databases include:

D-PLACE: A Database of People, Languages, Culture, and Environment

CHIELD: The Causal Hypotheses in Evolutionary Linguistics Database

KINBANK: Global Database of Kinship Terminology

Methodological field-kits open on the Open Science Framework:

VARIKIN-Development: A Toolkit for Investigating Children's Acquisition of Kinship Concepts

In coming years these resources will include datasets on the world’s numeral systems (Numeralbank, as part of QUANTA) and ethnobotanical datasets from Nordic People and Plants.



Student using microscope in Laboratory of Archaeological Practice

Anthropology Imaging Laboratory

Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory

Bristol Radiocarbon Mass Spectrometry Facility (BRAMS)

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