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Northern Communities: Research and Impact Group

The Team:

Sarah Semple

Chris Gerrard

Karen Milek

John Castling

Perry Gardner

Freya Horsfield

Veronica Freitas

Holy Island

About Us

Building on long-running department research engagement with the archaeology and heritage of North East England and the strengths of Archaeological Services, our commercial operation in the north east, Northern Communities is a new research and impact group engaging with a broader northern British and European, Atlantic and Arctic context. Key emerging research themes include borders and identities, migrations and diaspora, industrial legacies, place-making and indigenous archaeologies. Interdisciplinary projects underway are exploring the lifeways and challenges facing northern communities (Cohabitating with Vikings, People and Place), while Scottish Soldiers has enabled archaeological findings from Durham to reach international audiences creating connections with museums and researchers in North America. Research on social inequalities in the past by the Landscapes of the Great Depression and Fewston project teams has established new narratives around the experiences of industrial communities in the north and the expansive HLF-funded community project Belief in the North is setting an agenda for a more proactive, structured co-productive research with local and regional groups and the public.


Key projects



Potential plans for 2021-22 include:

  • Stakeholder and engagement mapping to establish who we are connected to and who we have yet to reach;
  • Workshops with local archaeological community groups to establish stronger links and develop ideas for capacity building with local communities around place-making and heritage assets;
  • A day-seminar with Archaeological Services and the Department lead on Community Archaeology to identify priorities for future project development;
  • Guest speaker seminar series bringing in key heritage and policy makers relevant to northern challenges, heritage policy and indigenous and community archaeology initiatives.



Interdisciplinary collaborations with members of the Bioarchaeology and Landscapes research and impact groups are generating projects that are using new methodologies and data sets to explore past lifeways such as Cohabitating with Vikings and People and Place, while new areas of investigation are focused on fragile environments, from marginal zones to historic urban landscapes.

Research is underpinned by major fieldwork programmes including the Lindisfarne Holy Island Project (David Petts, Karen Milek), the Auckland Castle Project (Chris Gerrard) and the Yeavering Environs Project (Sarah Semple and The Gefrin Trust).


Future strategic goals

  • Work more closely and collaboratively with Archaeological Services on a regional community agenda;
  • Increase connections and collaborative work with non-academic partners to create enduring connections and reach in the north;
  • Build more PhD projects with regional and national partners;
  • Look at ways of enabling research funding and collaborative bids to leverage community group engagement, research and infrastructure development.


 A group of staff and students on a boat