I am a archaeologist working on the epigraphy and material culture of religious practice in the Roman world (generally, but not exclusively...); pilgrimage, sacred landscapes and the natural world; mobility and migration; emotion and experience; and interconnectivity, social networks and network analysis.
- mobility, pilgrimage and migration in the ancient world.
- landscape, religious experience and spirituality.
- emotion in archaeology.
- social network analysis and connectivity.
My current research is taking me in a number of new directions.
I'm particularly interested in exploring religion and the natural world in Classical antiquity. I am co-founder of a new research network, Environment and the Sacred, which operates as a series of online dialogues with international scholars to discuss ‘natural’ places and aspects of sacred encounter in the ancient world. Bringing together scholars of diverse time-periods captures different cultural responses to the same landscapes, foster comparative work beyond traditional disciplinary divides and reattach chronologies that enable such divisions. The scholarly network is in its early stages, but we are planning an edited volume for Bloomsbury's Ancient Environments series, and there are tangible impacts aready becoming apparent, with members starting to build projects and conferences from our discussions.
Numen: Natural Places, Religious Experiences and the Politics of the ‘Wild’, is a future project which aims to develop the new sub-discipline of cultural ecology in Classics/Archaeology. Numen will investigate the intense spiritual magnetism of certain natural places (e.g. Mount Lykaion, Corycian Caves, Turkey, Avebury). Collating and analysing material culture, architecture, artefacts, landscapes and texts, we will investigate: 1) diachronic experiences of these locations, 2) natural places as loci of religious, political and emotional expression, and 3) how reverence for/in natural places contributes to reification of 'the wild'. This is an ambitious project which will advance discussion in Classics, offer deeper temporal context for the concept of ‘rewilding’, and reflect on contemporary (western?) separation from 'the wild’.
Mobility and Place
The diverse mobilities of the contemporary world have brought migration, diaspora and religious placemaking into sharp relief, with the development of new theoretical ways of analysing and understanding them. The rich archaeological and epigraphic material of the Roman world offers huge scope for new interpretation through analyses using these lenses of mobility and placemaking, and in the immediate future I will continue to press this through the development and completion of my current major research project, Mobility and Place. Syrian migrants and the new religions of the Roman world.
The book is a bottom-up exploration of Syrian migration in the Graeco-Roman world through the framework of religion: examining the evidence for Syrian communities, the beliefs they took with them; and the different ways that these diaspora communities established places and relationships for themselves in new contexts. This discussion is framed by the perspective of the New Mobilities Paradigm to think about mobility and migration in the archaeological record, balanced by theories from sociology of religion and human geography regarding place attachment and ritual in generating social cohesion. Phenomenological landscape analysis offers contextualised accounts of Syrian places of worship and the behaviours were enacted there, through three diverse cultural case studies: the Tyrian trading station at Puteoli, Italy; the military-civilian town of Carnuntum, Austria; and the international slave markets at Delos, Greece. This book will bring a robust theoretical approach to push the study of migration in antiquity to a necessary higher level.
Current PhD Students
Previous PhD Students
External roles and responsibilities
I studied Classical Civilisation and Philosophy as an undergraduate at Manchester, during which I was lucky enough to attend the British School at Athens’ undergraduate summer school. Visiting the incredible sites of prehistoric and Classical Greece fired my passion for the ancient world, and I went on to study for an MPhil in Classical Art and Archaeology at Cambridge, before moving to Exeter to write my PhD as part of Stephen Mitchell’s Pagan Monotheism in its Intellectual Context research project. I revised my PhD and published it with Cambridge University Press in 2013 as Religious Networks in the Roman Empire: The Spread of New Ideas. The book was a finalist in the American Academy of Religion’s book prize, Best First Book in the History of Religions 2014.
I moved to Aarhus, Denmark, in 2014 to take up an Assistant Professorship in Classical Archaeology, and to work with Troels Myrup Kristensen on the Emergence of Sacred Travel research project, and in 2018, I moved back to the UK to join the Department of Archaeology at Southampton.