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PhD student wins prestigious Roman archaeology conference prize

04 July 2018 @TeesUniNews

 

A PhD student has been awarded a prestigious prize for his research at a Roman Archaeological site at Hadrian’s Wall.

Dr Gillian Taylor, Rhys Williams and Dr Andrew Birley at Vindolanda
Dr Gillian Taylor, Rhys Williams and Dr Andrew Birley at Vindolanda

Rhys Williams completed a poster presentation on his research titled: ‘Bullseye: Analysis of ox skulls used for target practice at Roman Vindolanda’, which he presented at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC) in Edinburgh. The panel awarded Rhys the Sheppard Frere prize including a year’s membership to the Roman Society, a £100 cheque and a £50 book voucher.

It is believed that the Romans used oxen skulls for target practice, but the skulls have not been studied to link to the weaponry used in a way for public outreach – as part of Rhys’ work, he hopes to make archaeology more accessible to everyone. Rhys used a 3D scanner and printer to scan and print the ox skulls found at the site in Northumberland, allowing the public to take a closer look at the evidence for themselves.

'Often items discovered at archaeological sites are behind glass in museums and people are unable to access it. By using 3D printing, we can preserve the original while helping to engage the public better with delicate artefacts,' Rhys explained.

For his PhD study, Rhys is currently researching the processes of diagenesis and preservation in bone, and how skeletons degrade over time. After previously studying forensics and anthropology at undergraduate and postgraduate level at the University of Central Lancashire, Rhys was delighted to now be recognised for his research in the discipline of archaeology.

Rhys, 24, added: 'I didn’t expect to win the prize, and to be recognised by the premier Roman archaeology conference in the world is fantastic.'

The panel judge commented on how striking and well-designed Rhys’ poster was, conveying the research in a simple yet informative manner. Dr Gillian Taylor, who is Rhys’ Director of Studies at Teesside University, was incredibly pleased with the achievement.

This was an international conference for Roman experts from across the globe and it is great to see the research we are conducting is gaining international significance and impact.

Dr Gillian Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Forensic and Analytical Science

'I am extremely proud and delighted that Rhys was awarded the Sheppard Frere prize. This was an international conference for Roman experts from across the globe and it is great to see the research we are conducting is gaining international significance and impact,' Dr Taylor said.

'Our team is working very closely with the Vindolanda Trust to develop methods which help us understand the complex chemical and microbiological environment which preserves artefacts at the site on Hadrian’s Wall.'

Vindolanda is part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage sites. It is a remarkable site where the preservation of artefacts is of international significance, including leather shoes and boxing gloves, writing tablets, children’s wooden toys, cavalry swords and many more.

Dr Andrew Birley, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Excavations at the Vindolanda Trust, said: 'The decision to award the prize to Rhys was a unanimous one by the judges, beating off stiff competition from all over the world. They found his poster presentation innovative and the subject challenging and progressive.

'As the Director of the Vindolanda Trusts research arm I am delighted that Rhys has been given the recognition he deserves for his research, which while at the development stage, shows a great deal of promise and potential.

'The Vindolanda Trust is currently engaged with working with several PhD students from Teesside University on archaeological and scientific projects and we are excited about the future collaborations and what they might bring to the science of archaeology and further our understanding of this important World Heritage Site.'


 
 
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