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.

Elected 2007

Fellow type
UK Fellow
Year elected

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

University of Exeter Emeritus Professor

2008 -

University of Exeter Emeritus Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology

2008 -

University of Exeter Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology

1996 -

University of Exeter Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology

1996 - 2008

University of Exeter Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology

1996 - 2008

University of Exeter Reader in Prehistoric Archaeology

1990 - 1996

University of Exeter Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology

1972 -


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

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