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Professor in the Department of Archaeology+44 (0) 191 33 41134
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 


Christopher Gerrard has held a professorial chair in Archaeology at Durham since 2009. He was Deputy Head of Department and chair of the Department's Research Committee in 2005-7 before becoming a Deputy Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health (for Postgraduate matters) 2008-11, Deputy Head of Department again in 2012 and Chair of the Board of Studies 2013-2016.

Chris studied for a joint honours degree in Archaeology and Geology at the University of Bristol and went on to complete his PhD in 1987 supervised by Mick Aston and Richard Harrison. Awarded a post-doctoral grant from the Spanish government to work on medieval pottery in Spain, he later joined the newly-formed Cotswold Archaeological Trust (now Cotswold Archaeology) in Cirencester in 1989, going on to become the Senior Archaeological Consultant at Countryside Planning and Management. He left commercial archaeology in 1992 to take up a post as lecturer at the University of Winchester (then King Alfred's College), joining the Archaeology department at Durham in 2000.

Chris has conducted fieldwork across Britain, notably at Shapwick (Somerset) in an intensive landscape project he directed with the late Mick Aston (for which he won the Best Archaeological Book of the Year award 2014), and at Clarendon (Wiltshire) where he worked with Tom Beaumont James on the medieval and later royal palace and park. He is currently excavating at the bishop’s palace at Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland (Co. Durham) ( Chris has also worked in NE Spain for many years, publishing excavations and standing building recording on later medieval sites there, including Templar and Hospitaller complexes. His particular interest lies in the transition from Islamic to Christian societies and their landscapes, including themes such as irrigation and agriculture (he was co-PI on a Leverhulme Trust project on qanats). Chris has identified and recorded many new sites with Spanish colleagues as part of the Moncayo Archaeological Survey ( and excavated several of them with teams of Durham students. These include the Visigothic site at Bureta, the Islamic settlement at the Mora Encantada near Bulbuente, and the abbot’s palace at Bulbuente (all near Zaragoza), among others.

His past experience in project management and ongoing interests in heritage involves him in a wide variety of projects including as a trustee of both the Ad Gefrin Trust (which manages the early medieval site at Yeavering in Northumberland) ( and Cotswold Archaeology ( Chris has been an external examiner for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at the universities of Leicester, Nottingham, Exeter and Bournemouth, chairs University Archaeology UK (UAUK) (, formerly the Standing Committee for University Professors and Heads of Archaeology, and was a co-author of the 2015 revisions to the HEFCE Archaeology benchmarking statement. He also evaluates publications for Oxford University Press, Blackwells, and many others, as well as reviewing grant applications for research councils in the UK and abroad.

Chris' research students mainly work across three areas: medieval and later landscapes, artefacts, and medieval Spain and Europe. Among the former are Simon Draper who worked on early medieval Wiltshire (now Victoria County History, Oxford), Abby Antrobus on medieval townscapes (Senior Archaeological Officer, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service), Amanda Richardson on medieval parks (Senior Lecturer in History at Chichester), Jenny Morrison (Archaeology officer, Tyne and Wear) on post-medieval landscapes around Newcastle, Ronan O'Donnell who won an AHRC studentship to work on post-medieval landscapes in the north-east England, Mark Kincey who worked on historic lead mining in the North Pennines (collaboration with the Department of Geography), Caroline Smith on the episcopal palaces of the north of England (Isobel Fleck award winner in conjunction with the Department of History), AHRC student Ed Treasure on the ‘Islamic Green Revolution’ in Spain and AHRC student Peter Brown on severe medieval weather events and floods.

Among those who have worked on artefact topics are Eleanor Standley on medieval dress accessories (Associate Professor of Later Medieval Archaeology at the University of Oxford; Curator of Medieval Archaeology Ashmolean Museum),  Gwendolynn Heley on material culture as revealed by probate inventories in post-medieval Newcastle, Richard Kelleher (Medieval and Modern Coin curator, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) who worked on later medieval coins identified through the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Phil Marter on the production of English medieval ceramics (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Winchester), and Andrew Blair who has completed his PhD on the Indian Ocean economy in the late first millennium. Among the Spanish and European theses supervised by Chris are Erica D'Amico on Byzantine ceramics (Lecturer at Richmond, Rome), Ran Zhang on Chinese export ceramics, Diane Rego on the archaeological signatures of French and English peasants and Michelle Alexander (now University of York) who investigated the diet of medieval Spain using isotopic techniques. Many of these researchers have successfully published their theses, for example Draper, Heley, and Richardson as BAR Archaeopress volumes, Standley in the Antiquaries Journal, and Alexander in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Those with an interest in studying later medieval topics in Britain and Europe should contact me directly.

Apart from the major excavations at Auckland Castle, Chris continues to develop his interests in medieval ‘natural’ disasters such as severe weather, storm surges, earthquakes and tsunamis and the varied responses of European societies to geophysical and hydrometeorological hazards. Paolo Forlin, a former Marie Curie scholar based in Durham (2014-16), and Maria Chicote, are the other members of a team funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2017-20) to analyse seismic events in the Middle Ages. With archaeological case studies in southern Spain, the Pyrenees, Cyprus, the Azores and northern Italy (, this group is exploring how hazards become major disasters, how medieval society perceived these events and to understand how communities reacted and evolved to reduce their vulnerability. These are topics of wide interest to geographers, seismologists and climatologists, among others.

Chris’ latest project focuses on collective ownership and access rights. Not only on ancient rural commons like mountain pastures or woodlands where communities pasture their animals and collect wild foods, but also on global commons, so called ‘new commons’ and urban commons. Some of these resources have a long history of regulation and exploitation which in Europe goes back as far as the Middle Ages at least. Others are recognised today for their international value in conservation terms or for their contribution to sustainable livelihoods, both now and in the future. With funding from a EU transnational JPICH initiative and from Durham’s Institute of Advanced Studies, Chris and a wider team are exploring this topic from multiple geographical perspectives, embracing historical, ecological, legal and archaeological concerns, for the benefit of both scholars and community groups.

Chris was also academic lead on the Scottish Soldiers Project which was set up to investigate the human remains uncovered at the heart of Durham’s World Heritage Site in 2013 ( discovery resulted in an extensive research project which generated interest far beyond anything expected. Over the next two years, a jigsaw of evidence was pieced together by a team of archaeologists from Durham University. Today we know them to be some of the 1,700 Scottish prisoners who died in 1650 in the-then empty and disused Durham Cathedral and Castle following the Battle of Dunbar on the south-east coast of Scotland in September 1650. Using the latest techniques of skeleton science, this project aimed to give them back a voice through an understanding of their lives and the events that led to their imprisonment. It also uncovered the voices of those who survived this terrible ordeal and reconnected living descendants with this dark past. The story continues to attract media interest all over the world with over 2000 learners from over 100 countries signing up to the project’s MOOC ( The project featured on Who Do You Think You Are? with American actor Jon Cryer.

Research interests

  • Archaeological resource management
  • Common rights and resources
  • Historic earthen architecture
  • Historic irrigation and water
  • Landscape archaeology
  • Medieval artefacts
  • Medieval disasters and responses
  • Medieval rural settlement
  • Templars and Hospitallers
  • The western Atlantic seaboard in the Middle Ages

Esteem Indicators

  • 2023: BIshop Big Dig: Times Higher Education Awards 2023 - Shortlisted - Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community:
  • 2023: Bishop Big Dig: Interdisciplinary Research Award - Emerald Publishing:
  • 2022: Chair, Archaeology Subject Benchmark Statement for Archaeology :
  • 2019: Winner, Best Archaeological Book of the Year (BAA award) for Lost Lives, New Voices:
  • 2019: Chair, Universities Archaeology UK (UAUK) (2019-21):
  • 2019: Winner, Best performance of the Year, Living North awards:
  • 2019: Shortlisted, North-East Culture Awards:
  • 2018: Excellence in Doctoral Supervision Award, Durham University:
  • 2017: Times Higher Education Awards - Research Project of the Year (Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) shortlist for Scottish Soldiers Project:
  • 2016: Mick Aston Landscape Archaeology Lecture:
  • 2014: Co-author 2015 HEFCE Archaeology Benchmarking statement:
  • 2014: Winner, Best Archaeological Book of the Year (BAA award) for Interpreting the English Village:
  • 2008: Best Archaeological Project (BAA award) highly commended, Shapwick Project 1989-99:
  • 2008: Trustee, Gefrin Trust (2008-):
  • 2002: Series editor for Society for Medieval Archaeology monographs (2002-):
  • 1999: Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries:


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