Yesterday night we heard some very disturbing news about the possible closure of the Department of Archaeology at Sheffield. This morning we started receiving messages through all types of private and social media platforms coming from all sectors of or related to our discipline. One particular message needs to be reproduced here:
"In a meeting yesterday Sheffield Archaeology staff were told that the University is considering three options: (A) support and invest in the department to ensure the future of archaeology at Sheffield; (B) discontinue archaeology as a subject at Sheffield and make all the staff redundant; (C) discontinue archaeology as a department, but retain aspects of archaeological research and education (human osteology and cultural heritage), and make remaining staff redundant. The accompanying data strongly suggest that the preference is NOT for option A. Options B and C are ± the same. The University Executive Board (UEB) will make its decision at a meeting next Tuesday (25th May). The department is calling for messages of solidarity from as far and wide as possible. We need to act very swiftly to make our voice heard before that meeting. As you can imagine it is a hugely stressful situation, in which staff are confronting the potential loss of their jobs as well as all that they have built in many years of love and dedication. The department is asking people to email: 1. the University Executive Board (UEB) - firstname.lastname@example.org; 2. the Vice chancellor (Professor Koen Lamberts) - email@example.com; 3. and the Deputy Vice Chancellor - firstname.lastname@example.org; and based on the reputation of the department in sheffield and the importance of archaeology and osteology, request they vote in favour of option 1. Please do make sure that all messages are also sent to the department, so that we can keep track of them: email@example.com"
During the last ten years many archaeology and related humanities departments in the UK have been closed, merged or otherwise reduced. Birmingham was a terrible example but by no means was the only one. Some members of GIAP have lived through these stressing situations such as the merging of the dept. of Archaeology with that of Classics at Nottingham. Only recently the staff delivering the heritage and archaeology programmes at the dept. of History and Archaeology at Chester were sent ‘at risk’ notifications for redundancies. Many of us have been following developments in other British Universities, such as Leicester or Kent, where colleagues and friends, particularly in the humanities, are being threatened by forced redundancies.
This is a direct consequence of the radical reduction of the UK’s investment in the arts and humanities but also of the basic for-profit nature of British universities which have been evolving during the last decades towards a strongly business-oriented model. A model that treats students as customers and degrades the once top-of-the-world teaching and research quality of British higher education institutions.
While Sheffield does not face disappearance alone we would like to stress the importance of this particular department for the discipline as a whole.
In this department Colin Renfrew wrote his seminal work on the Emergence of Civilisation. The dept. has hosted the most innovative research in archaeology for the last 50 years with figures (in alphabetical order) such as Umberto Albarella, John Barrett, John Bennet, Keith Branigan, Maureen Carroll, Peter Day, Dawn Hadley, Paul Halstead, Caroline Jackson, Glynis Jones, John Moreland, Colin Renfrew, Sue and Andrew Sherrat, Mike Parker-Pearson, Marek Zvelebil and many others. Younger teaching and research staff currently direct world-leading research at the Black Sea, Turkey, Greece and many other cultural cradles that help us understand the past and by doing so be conscious of the present to be able to shape our futures.
Sheffield has been at the forefront of the discipline for the last 50 years and its contributions have strongly shaped it in many ways. Zooarchaeology, material culture studies and archaeometry, archaeobotany and palaeoenvironment, landscape archaeology, heritage, you name it! The Sheffield center for Aegean Archaeology with its annual round-tables and book series, Sheffield Studies in Aegean Archaeology, has had a profound influence in Greek archaeology with a huge number of Greek students having been trained there, who are now leading the discipline from Greece and elsewhere. The importance of the reference collections at Sheffield (zooarch., osteology, pottery, seeds, etc.), which are a basic knowledge generation resource in archaeology, cannot be stressed enough. What will happen to them? These have always been open to the larger research community, their potential loss, lack of maintenance or restricted access will affect the whole of the discipline.
Sheffield’s dept. influence is global, its strength and leadership have enormously contributed to shape GIAP and many other teams and departments across the globe. Here is Sheffield’s “footprint” on GIAP:
- Hector Orengo, co-director of GIAP and International Coordinator of ICAC was a Marie Curie International Fellow at Sheffield.
- Alexandra Livarda, head of GIAP’s archaeobotany line, did her MSc in Environmental archaeology and palaeoeconomy at Sheffield and later had a postdoctoral fellowship there.
- Alexandra Kriti, which recently started her PhD with us, also did the MSc in Environmental archaeology and palaeoeconomy at Sheffield.
- Lídia Colominas, head of GIAP’s zooarchaeology line, and Abel Gallego, PhD researcher in zooarchaeology, both had research stays at Sheffield.
- Toby Wilkinson, Marie Curie International Fellow at GIAP did his PhD at Sheffield.
- Efrosiny Boutsikas, Senior lecturer at Kent and Marie Curie International Fellow at GIAP (from 2022) obtained her undergraduate degree from Sheffield.
- Charlotte Diffey, Marie Curie International Fellow at GIAP (from September 2021) did her PhD at Oxford supervised by Amy Bogaard, who did her PhD at Sheffield.
Many of us still actively collaborate with Sheffield’s department members. Only recently we had Dr Jane Rempel giving a research seminar in our Ancient Mediterranean webinar series, which just yesterday hosted Nancy Krahtopoulou, who did her PhD at Sheffield. Veronica Aniceti, who gave the first seminar in the series, did her MSc and PhD at Sheffield.
In short, Sheffield has acted and still acts as a central node in worldwide archaeology networks. Without it GIAP would probably not exist today as it is and we suspect this is true for many other academic institutions and for the discipline in general. Under these circumstances we have to wonder, what will archaeology lose during the next years without Sheffield there to help steer it and shape it?
What can you do to help:
The department is asking people to email:
1. the University Executive Board (UEB) – firstname.lastname@example.org;
2. the Vice chancellor (Professor Koen Lamberts) – email@example.com;
3. and the Deputy Vice Chancellor – firstname.lastname@example.org;
and, based on the reputation of the department in Sheffield, request they vote in favour of option A (support and invest in the department to ensure the future of archaeology at Sheffield).
Please do make sure that all messages are also sent to the department, so that they can keep track of them: email@example.com
Considering signing the petition at change.org: