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UK Fellow, Archaeology, elected in 2007

Professor Bryony Coles FBA

Prehistoric archaeology; wetlands, environmental change and human responses, landscapes of the North Sea Plain, the European beaver, anthropomorphic wooden figurines, the heritage management of wetlands.
Bryony Coles profile picture

About this Fellow

After A-Levels in Biology, French and History, I read history at Bristol University, and volunteered on several archaeological excavations (1965-68). I then took a postgraduate diploma course at the London Institute of Archaeology, followed by an MPhil in Anthropology at UCL. In 1972 I was appointed Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at Exeter University. My first major research project, co-directed with Prof John Coles FBA, was based in the peatlands of the Somerset Levels, investigating the well-preserved archaeological and environmental evidence of the wetlands ahead of peat extraction. The exceptional preservation of organics enabled new areas of research, such as prehistoric woodland exploitation and wood-working. The results were published in Somerset Levels Papers (1975-1989), and Sweet Track to Glastonbury. From 1986 onwards we co-ordinated WARP, an international network of wetland archaeologists and, with English Heritage, contributed to the development of wetland heritage management in the UK and mainland Europe. In the mid 1990s a British Academy Research Readership led amongst other publications to 'Doggerland: a speculative survey'. Following this, I embarked on a series of beaver-related projects which combined fieldwork in present-day beaver territories in mainland Europe with archaeology, ecology, history and palaeo-environmental studies. This research is on-going, increasingly multi-disciplinary, and attracting new audiences thanks to current public interest in beaver re-introductions.


Current post

  • Emeritus Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Exeter

Past Appointments

  • Reader in Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Exeter, 1990 - 1996
  • Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Exeter, 1996 - 1970
  • Emeritus Professor, University of Exeter, 2008 - 1970
  • Emeritus Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Exeter, 2008 - 1970
  • Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Exeter, 1996 - 2008
  • Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Exeter, 1972 - 1970
  • Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Exeter, 1996 - 2008


Wetland Management: a survey for English Heritage WARP Occasional Paper 9. 1995


Anthropomorphic Wooden Figurines from Britain and Ireland. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 1990, vol.56, 315-333


Anthropology for Archaeologists 1981


Sweet Track to Glastonbury 1986


Doggerland: a speculative survey Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 64, 45-81 1998


Beavers in Britain's Past 2006


Other Archaeology Fellows

Professor Susan Alcock

Classical archaeology; the material culture of the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia, particularly in Hellenistic and Roman times; archaeologies of landscape, imperialism, sacred space, and memory

Dr Leonardo López Luján

The politics, religion, and art of Pre-Columbian urban societies in Central Mexico; the history and development of Mesoamerican archaeology

Professor Charlotte Roberts

Studies archaeological human remains; her key research interests are contextual approaches to past human health (palaeopathology); ethical considerations and and human remains; the relevance of past health to contemporary health; evolutionary approaches to the origin and history of infectious diseases; big data projects in palaeopathology; public engagement

Professor Matthew Collins

Biomolecular archaeology; interdisciplinary approaches for the recovery and interpretation of molecular signals from ancient materials, with a specific focus on proteins and their breakdown products