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Past Cultural Change (PCC)

Director: Dr Mark Gardiner
Telephone: +44 (0) 28 90 973447

About us

Our research explores the material manifestation of cultural change through time and space. Our members combine innovative scientific methods with theoretically-informed analyses to understand past human experience, bringing together the humanities and the sciences. Archaeological research on the Palaeolithic through to the modern era is strategically linked through a shared, key intellectual concern: understanding processes, mechanisms, and expressions of cultural change. All members are actively engaged in field and laboratory work, with current projects in Africa, the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic, Russia, North America, Scotland, and throughout Ireland, from prehistory to the present. The cluster is also host to the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF) a leading archaeological research unit carrying out projects on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and other public and private sector bodies. CAF staff are actively involved in research and teaching, and students at all levels benefit from the ample opportunities for hands on experience. Members of the cluster take pride in our student-centred learning, with emphasis on small group teaching and intensive practical education. We offer a range of masters-level teaching capitalising upon our unique blend of scientific and cultural archaeology, and an innovative four year undergraduate MSci degree programme. We have an active group of research students, and we welcome a wide range of visiting scholars to our seminar series.

Research projects

PCC research is supported by the European Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the (US) National Endowment for the Humanities, the Polish National Science Centre, the Heritage Council of the Republic of Ireland, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and a range of commercial and non-profit partners. Some of our current research projects include the European Research Council funded FRAGSUS project, which is exploring fragility and sustainability in prehistoric Malta; an examination of human evolution and adaption in the Western Rift of Eastern Africa; two AHRC-funded collaborative projects exploring the cultural links between the north of Ireland and the Scottish Isles carried out through the Integrating Archaeology and Sustainable Communities (IAASC) network; the People of Prehistoric Ireland, a major-INSTAR funded project compiling and analysing data on human remains from prehistoric Irish sites; a collaborative project with the University of Vienna examining Hanseatic and English trade in the North Atlantic; a British-Academy funded project exploring Early Mining in the Lower Segura valley of SE Spain; the INSTAR-funded Early Medieval Archaeology Project synthesising and formulating new directions for understanding early medieval settlement in Ireland; an exploration of the beginnings of the Early Iron Age in South-Western Iberia funded by the Polish National Science Centre (Narodowe Centrum Nauki); the Ballyhanna Research project supported by the National Roads Authority; and a National Endowment for the Humanities multi-institutional collaborative research project exploring Native and European relations in the early colonial Chesapeake.

Research Activities

In 2013-14 PCC members organized a joint conference with the National University of Ireland (Galway) entitled Becoming and Belonging in Ireland, c. 1200-1600, Buildings and Society International  and a conference on Human Osteoarchaeology.

Professional links

Members of the cluster hold elected leadership positions in international learned societies and organisations, including the Bronze Age Studies Group; the Society for Medieval Archaeology; Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, the Lithic Studies Society; the Society for Historical Archaeology, Ruralia, the Irish Zooarchaeology Working Group, the Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group, the Discovery Programme, and the Royal Irish Academy. Members also serve on the editorial boards of the following journals: Childhood in the Past, Journal of the North Atlantic, Historical Archaeology.

Public engagement

PCC members enjoy working with the public and sharing the excitement of archaeological research. Community involvement is emphasised in many of our projects; our members work closely with local and international media, and the cluster also supports a very active branch of the Young Archaeologists Club.