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The University of Southampton
Archaeology for the Creative Industries
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Professor Joanna Sofaer 

Professor, PGT Co-ordinator

Professor Joanna Sofaer's photo

Professor Joanna Sofaer (FSA) is a Professor of Archaeology within Archaeology at the University of Southampton.

I am Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fellow (2017-2021), Director of Archaeology for the Creative Industries, and Co-Director of the research at the important Bronze Age tell settlement at Százhalombatta, Hungary. I am PI for Places of Joy: Heritage After Lockdown and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie (MSCA) project Women at the Edge of Empire. I was a partner in the Culture Europe project Journey to the Beginnings and previously led the HERA-Funded Project Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe (CinBA) (09-HERA-JRP-CI-FP-020). I was a partner in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks Forging Identities: Mobility of Culture in Bronze Age Europe (ITN 212402) and Emergence of European Communities  (RTN2-2001-00366), and was a partner in the AHRC-funded interdisciplinary PARNASSUS project.

I am internationally known for my innovative research focusing on creativity, craft and innovation in the European Bronze Age; archaeology for social benefit including the past as inspiration for contemporary creative practice; archaeologies of social identity including archaeologies of the body, age, gender and bioarchaeology. I have published widely on these topics and have engaged in collaborative work with diverse partners in the UK and across Europe including universities, museums, cultural heritage organisations, NGOs, businesses, arts organisations, the Crafts Council, schools, and major infrastructure projects. National and international research and industry collaborations range from architecture and engineering to contemporary craft, performance art, and dance. I have developed highly successful, novel archaeology-based Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for the creative and cultural sectors.

I have given invited lectures and keynote presentations in many countries including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Sweden and the USA, as well as in the UK. I sit on the International Scientific Advisory Board for the Institute of Archaeology, Zagreb, Croatia, steering committees for a range of international projects and research groups, and regularly review for a number of European research councils. I sit on Advisory Boards for Norwegian Archaeological Review and Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. I engage in advocacy for the Arts and Humanities at the highest levels. I am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research interests

Current research falls into two main areas. The first explores the relationship between creativity, craft and material culture, particularly in the European Bronze Age. The second involves developing novel, evidence-based roles for archaeology that benefit contemporary society. In addition to these concerns, I have a longstanding interest in the archaeology of the body and social identity linked to the development of archaeological theory and practice.

Creativity and material culture in the European Bronze Age 

The Bronze Age was a period that saw the development of crafts that we take for granted today, as well as elaborately decorated objects with developments such as colour, pattern and texture in a range of materials using new and established technologies. I look at attitudes to technology and innovation, and study the connection between shifts in social structure, social identities, the introduction of new technologies and changes in artefact form through research into ceramics, as well as other materials and objects. I also explore relationships between different crafts. My work concentrates primarily on material from Central Europe and the Balkans although I have also worked on material from Britain and Atlantic Europe. I collaborate widely with colleagues in a number of European universities, museums, institutes and academies of science. Current collaborations include colleagues in Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Serbia, and Romania, as well as in the UK.

I co-direct the major international excavation project at the Bronze Age tell settlement at Százhalombatta, Hungary. I have worked at the site since 2000 and co-ordinate the study of the rich and complex ceramic assemblage. Every year I lead a team of students from the University of Southampton to excavate at the site.

Archaeology for Social Benefit

I am interested in developing novel, evidence-based applications of archaeology that are grounded in research. I am PI of Places of Joy: Heritage After Lockdown, a collaboration between researchers at University of Southampton, University of Cambridge and University of Surrey, supported by Historic England and The Heritage Alliance. The project investigates whether and why heritage appears as a joyful space at a time of national crisis, and thus to understand the specific characteristics of heritage sites that contribute to wellbeing and resilience.

I explore the ways that the past can act as inspiration for contemporary creative practice in a wider range of creative industries and the experience economy, including the Culture Europe project Journey to the Beginnings. I have an excellent track-record of working with artists in practice-based research and previously worked with the Crafts Council and contemporary designers / makers to research the link between ancient and modern creativity through engagements with Bronze Age objects. I also worked with students and staff from 5 Higher Education institutions in England running contemporary craft courses, which resulted in the CinBA Live Project Exhibition. I apply my research-based expertise and experience in archaeology-industry collaborations in my role as Director of Archaeology for the Creative Industries, delivering expert archaeological advice and solutions to the creative industries.

I have a strong commitment to Knowledge Exchange and Impact. I am Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fellow (2017-2021), working with HERA-funded projects, 24 European Research Councils, and engaging in advocacy for the Humanities at the highest levels across the continent.

Archaeologies of the Body and Social Identity

I am interested in exploring the relationship between society, culture, and biology through the human body, including the study of social identities such as age and gender. I am also interested in the philosophy and practice of bioarchaeology. Research has included collaborations with colleagues at the University of Leiden (Netherlands), The Francisc Ranier Institute of Anthropology, Bucharest (Romania), English Heritage (UK), and Department of Anatomy, University of Southampton.

Research group

Southampton Ceramics Research Group

Affiliate research groups

Osteoarchaeology, Representation, Visualisation and Politics of Archaeology, Prehistoric Landscapes, Monuments and Materialities

Research project(s)

Százhalombatta Excavation Project

The Százhalombatta Archaeological Excavation (SAX) project is an international co-operation led by Dr Magdolna Vicze, (Director of the Matrica Museum, Százhalombatta), together with Dr Marie Louise Stig Sørensen (University of Cambridge) and Dr Joanna Sofaer (University of Southampton). Excavation is focusing on domestic contexts, revealing a detailed picture of life at the site.

Creativity and craft production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe

Creativity and craft production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe (CinBA) brings together partners from the Universities of Southampton, Cambridge and Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the National Museum of Denmark, the Natural History Museum of Vienna, Zagreb Archaeological Museum, Lejre Archaeological Park (Sagnlandet) and the Crafts Council.

Parnassus Project

PARNASSUS is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the University of Southampton, UCL and the University of Bristol that is investigating the adverse environmental effects and adaptation measures needed for the protection of cultural heritage from climate change impact.

I teach courses at all levels of the curriculum and am keen to develop new and innovative ways of teaching.

Year 1

Arch1047: Introduction to Archaeological Science and Materials

Year 2

UOSM2030: Body and Society (a curriculum innovation module open to students across the University

Year 3

Arch3045: The Archaeology and Anthropology of Adornment

Year 4

Arch6112: Materials, Technology and Social Life
Arch6106: Osteoarchaeology and Palaeopathology in Context

I supervise Undergraduate and MA dissertations. I train students in fieldwork and post-excavation techniques at the Bronze Age tell at Százhalombatta, Hungary.

PhD Supervision

I supervise postgraduate students in the following areas: European Bronze Age; creativity, craft and innovation in material culture; archaeology and contemporary creative practice; archaeology for social benefit; archaeologies of social identity (including archaeologies of the body, gender and age),

I currently supervise the following PhD students:

  • Miriam Andrews: Modelling Tribological Processes to Examine the Use Intensity of Bronze Age Objects
  • Daniel Carpenter: The praxis of traditional craft - exploring skilled practice
  • Joanna Higgins: The Dead Body in Early Bronze Age Britain: A Taphonomical Approach
  • Poppy Hodkinson The Potential of Archaeology for Increasing and Improving STEM Participation in Primary Education
  •  Helen Marton: The Communication of Archaeology through Digital Craft
  • Ferenc Toth: A Bioarchaeological Approach to Masculinity

Past PhD students include:

  • Sandy Budden: Renewal and Reinvention: The Role of Learning Strategies in the Early to Late Middle Bronze Age of the Carpathian Basin
  • Sarah Coxon: Belegiš Ceramics: An Exploration of Bronze Age Creative Process and Material Consequence
  • Carolyn Felton: Sexual Dimorphism and Markers of Occupational Stress in the Spine: a Novel Approach
  • Julieta Fores-Munoz: People on the Move: Exploring Singularity in Central Veracruz, Mexico
  • Sarah Inskip: Islam in Iberia or Iberian Islam? Bioarchaeology and the Analysis of Religious Change
  • Attila Kreiter: Technological Choices and Material Meanings: Analyses of Early and Middle Bronze Age Ceramics from Hungary
  • Robert Lee: Influences of Woodcrafting on Metal Tool Development during the Late Bronze Age in Southern England
  • Argyroula Nafplioti: Population Bio-cultural History in the South Aegean During the Bronze Age
  • Kristin Oma: Human-Animal Relationships: Mutual Becomings in the Household of Scandinavia and Sicily 900-500 BC
  • Sarah Stark: Juvenile Growth: A Geometric Morphometric Approach
  • Eleanor Williams: From Fresh Cadaver to Skeletal Matter. An Archaeothanatological and Anthropological Approach to the Study of Cluniac Funerary Practices.
Body and Society
Professor Joanna Sofaer
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton
Avenue Campus, Highfield
SO17 1BF
United Kingdom

Room Number : 65/2231

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