History of the Institute of Archaeology

The Institute of Archaeology at Oxford formally came into being in October 1961. However, the story began earlier when, in 1946, the first Professor of European Prehistory, Christopher Hawkes, was appointed at Oxford University. A short time later, he was joined by Ian Richmond, appointed to the newly created post of Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire. They were housed in rooms in Beaumont Street, in one of the three adjacent Regency buildings acquired by the University in 1957/8.

During these early years, the character of the Institute at 36 Beaumont Street began to take shape. A proper Lecture Room, a Seminar Room, the Reading Room and the Common Room were created along with housing space for staff and graduates in European, Roman and Aegean Archaeology. A photographic lab was set up in the basement of the building where it remains today.

Ian Richmond and Christopher Hawkes
Christopher Hawkes & Ian Richmond

Sheppard Frere succeeded Ian Richmond following his early death in 1965. And, in 1972, with the retirement of Professor Hawkes, Barry Cunliffe was appointed as the second Professor of European Prehistory. Beginning in the 1970s, rapid growth of facilities began to take place. First, a conservation lab was created and equipped in the basement of the Institute and the drawing office was established. Along with these improved facilities, there was a greatly increased research programme. The Institute became the base for a number of long-term field projects. The building housed a larger number of research students. And, in 1982, in cooperation with Blackwells, the Oxford Journal of Archaeology was launched.

Further changes took place in the 1990s. The Undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Anthropology was established in 1992, and the Institute became the focus for its archaeological teaching. The following year, Professor Margareta Steinby was appointed the Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire. And late in the decade, the development for the new Sackler Library began at the back of the Institute, demolishing the garden and squash courts (a place once used for spreading, sorting and washing artefacts). Before the foundations were put in, archaeologists from the Oxford Archaeological Unit found Bronze Age ring ditches, a 13th century orchard, and remains of a 14th century Carmelite Friary.

Photo of Institute Garden Before Demolition
Institute Garden and Sackler Library

Now, in the first decade of the new century, further expansion has taken place: there is more storage space for archaeological material, a new archival area, a dedicated GIS computer lab, and increased staff and student work space.

The current Chair of European Archaeology: Professor Chris Gosden

The current Chair of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire: Professor Andrew Wilson