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News 2021

Threatened closure of the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield:

#SaveSheffieldArchaeology - take the link to sign an online petition.

Emeritus Professor John Collis has contacted the Hampshire Field Club to seek support in saving Archaeology as a subject at the University of Sheffield. He explains the situation below:

Professor John Collis

Many of you will have already come across the furore of the threatened closure of the Archaeology Department at Sheffield University (imagine the closure of, say, the Southampton or Reading departments).  It defies logic to close one of the top departments in the world, but we represent a big headache for the university, a famous department with, according to the university, big financial problems, though it depends how you do the accounting, and we may actually be making a profit rather than a loss!  The ways of accounting used in Sheffield make us look bad compared with departments elsewhere, but it is also connected with the threatened cuts in the funding of archaeological courses by the Westminster Government, and Sheffield is not the only archaeology department to be in trouble.  Having suffered for years from a lack of ,or poor, investment, we were given five days’ notice of a vote by the University Executive Board whether or not to close us.  Our petition to avert it reached over 30,000 signatures within the five days, and now stands at just over 40,000 and still climbing.  The decision still has to be agreed by the Senate and the Council of the University, and, though revolts against the Executive have occurred in the recent past, these are normally rubber-stamping bodies so the danger is very real.  We are appealing to everyone with an interest in archaeology to sign – if Sheffield can be destroyed like this then no archaeology department is safe.  Our only hope is to try to shame the university into reversing the decision, and to educate the Board about what we actually do and what they are about to destroy.  The plans they have put forward to save the good bits are ridiculous and would see the complete demise of Archaeology at Sheffield in 3-4 years. Their claims to have consulted the staff and students are fallacious, it was diktat, not dialogue.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am Professor emeritus at Sheffield (I taught there from 1972 to 2005).  Winchester is my home town and I started digging there is 1955 as a schoolboy, and have published some of  the excavations there from the 1950s.  My largest excavation in Hampshire was at the Iron Age and Roman farming settlement at Owslebury when I was a student at Cambridge in the 1960s.  I have kept up my Winchester and Hampshire contacts as a member of the Hants Field Club, Wessex CBA, WARG and Hyde900 (where I went to Primary School and was a choir boy) and the Symondians Association.

The threatened closure has hit the national press, and we have received strong support from all across the world, all the major archaeological organisations in Britain, as well as from the local press in Sheffield for the many initiatives we have taken with the communities in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and the Peak Park.  I don’t have a list of our many graduates who have worked in Hampshire, but some of them will be very familiar to you like Mark Maltby, Dick Whinney and Frank Green, as well as Barry Cunliffe’s successor at Oxford, Chris Gosden; Colin Renfrew started his lecturing career in Sheffield.  The main spokesman for the Sheffield Department is Prof Umberto Albarella who recently completed a comparative study of animal bone assemblages across western Europe looking at the impact of the Roman conquest on animal husbandry, and because of the size of the collection (over 100,000), its high quality and its date range, Owslebury was one of the sites he selected (the bones are stored in Chilcomb House).  He and his team are working with me to get his and Mark Maltby’s original report published (they look at different aspects of the bone collection like deposition), but the closure of the department could scupper that.  We are also involved in the study of the animal bones from around Stonehenge with Mike Parker Pearson, another former lecturer.

We are still collecting signatures and hoping to get over 50,000 in time for the vote by Senate on June 21st, so please sign, or even write to the Vice Chancellor.  Details at:

#SaveSheffieldArchaeology - take the link to sign an online petition.



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