Department of Antiquities

Current Research

Rationalisation and Enhancement of Historic British Archaeology Collection

The Alfred Jewel

(Two-year Arts and Humanities Research Council Resource Enhancement grant funded project)

The British archaeological collections at the Ashmolean Museum are central to the history of antiquarianism and archaeology in Britain. Their nucleus is also of national significance as a scientific resource, and includes material resulting from pioneering work carried out in the Thames Valley under the auspices of the Museum up to the 1960s. The project provides a two-year programme of work with the aim of enhancing both physical and intellectual access to the collections by the general public and by researchers alike.

Arts & Humanities Research Council

Archives and Artefacts: Exploring the past through A2A and the work of E T Leeds

Photograph of E T Leeds

(HLF funded project in partnership with the Access to Archives Programme of The National Archives, Oxfordshire Sites and Monuments Record, and the Oxfordshire Record Office)

The project concerns the archive and work of Edward Thurlow Leeds, former Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum and pioneer of landscape archaeology in the Thames Valley, the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, and of the technique of integrating research on documentary archives with archaeological data in investigating the historical past. The project has conserved, organized and for the first time create a catalogue of his papers, which is now universally accessible at Access to Archives (A2A). The project has also involved research and documentation on artefacts in the Ashmolean Museum from sites in Oxfordshire excavated by E T Leeds. More details of Anglo-Saxon and other sites excavated by E T Leeds can be found on this website.

Anglo-Saxon Discovery

Go to Archives and Artefacts: Exploring the past through A2A and the work of E T Leeds web pages

The project has also used the Ashmolean's collection of Anglo-Saxon artefacts as the basis for an educational website aimed at children. This was created with the help of the Ashmolean Education Service and two primary schools in Oxford: Anglo-Saxon Discovery.

Heritage Lottery Fund Access to Archives

Preserving and Enhancing Access to Historic Oxfordshire

(HLF funded project in partnership with the Oxfordshire Sites and Monuments Record, and the Oxfordshire Record Office)

Historic Oxfordshire

At the Ashmolean Museum five documentary archives have been identified, each associated with a major figure in the history of the archaeological investigation of Oxfordshire, about 1870-1950. All of these archives are striking for the importance of the information they contain and for the current lack of knowledge concerning their contents in the public domain. The project will integrate the information with the Oxfordshire Records Office and Oxfordshire Sites and Monuments Record and make the information freely available for local history and other research. An online learning resource will also be created based on these records for educational and recreational use.

Go to Preserving and Enhancing Access to Historic Oxfordshire web pages

Heritage Lottery Fund

The Sir John Evans Centenary Project

The Sir John Evans Centenary Project

Portrait of Sir John Evans

The Sir John Evans Centenary Project was started in 2003 with the aim of fully documenting and cataloguing the collection and archive of this key figure in the history of archaeology, and to make the resulting resource accessible through the Internet by the centenary of Evans's death in 2008. The completion of the project will be marked by both a major exhibition and publication, which will explore his contribution to the development of archaeology with special reference to his international intellectual network.


Current Work: Sir John Evans and the Development of Archaeology in Nineteenth-Century Europe

(Three-year Leverhulme Trust funded project in partnership with the Heberden Coin Room, 9/05-8/08)

The aim of the project is the documentation and development of an accessible body of information concerning Evans' international collecting activities and intellectual networks, with special attention to the cross-national development of ideas regarding antiquity in the late Victorian period. The Leverhulme Trust also funded a one-year project for a multi-lingual Research Assistant to locate, translate and catalogue Evans's correspondence with his international colleagues (2003-2004).

Previous Work: Private Faces in Public Places

Part of 2-year archival project for the South East region funded by the HLF (2002-2003).

As the Ashmolean part of this project, a professional catalogue of the Sir John Evans archive was made and mounted on the Access to Archives website of The National Archives where it is available for consultation.

Leverhulme Trust Access to Archives Heritage Lottery Fund

The Sir Arthur Evans Archive Project

Portrait of Sir Arthur Evans

The Arthur Evans archive consists of the archaeological records and papers of Sir Arthur Evans (Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, 1884-1908). A large part of these relate to his travels in Crete (1894-1899) and his excavations at Knossos (1900-1931).

The Cataloguing Project

The Ashmolean has been working to catalogue and improve public access to this unique archive since 1997, with the assistance of a grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Digital Archives Project (Knossos excavations)

As part of the Oxford Digital Library Project (2005-2006), funded by the Mellon Foundation, a new project was initiated with the aim to digitize large format elements of the Arthur Evans archive. The documents that have been digitized so far (over 800) include both architectural drawings and fresco reconstruction drawings from Evansís work at Knossos. The documents relate both to the site as it was uncovered and to the reconstructions carried out in situ by Evans and his architects. These reveal information not disclosed in the selectively published plans and/or obscured by the restorations. The series of fresco reconstruction drawings, which reveal different stages and versions of reconstruction also have a crucial role in revealing information about the original state of the frescoes lost or obscured in the published reconstructions.

The long-term aim is to create a searchable website that will include these architectural, fresco and object drawings along with the contents of the Knossos notebooks (with transcriptions), an online catalogue of archival photographs and a catalogue of the A.J. Evans correspondence housed at the Ashmolean.

A temporary test database (with about 200 drawings) is available online

Linear B tablets as never before seen

The Ashmolean Museum of the University of Oxford has recently launched a website on the "Sir Arthur Evans Archive" providing a first, basic, overview of its holdings ( Although not to item level, the website is a welcome addition and promises to be a very useful tool for Aegean Archaeology (especially for those interested in Minoan archaeology and its history). The website is based on the work of Dr Yannis Galanakis (formerly the curator for the Bronze Age Aegean collections and the Sir Arthur Evans archive at the Ashmolean and currently Lecturer in Aegean Archaeology at the University of Cambridge). One of the innovations of the website, instigated by Dr Galanakis in collaboration with Oxford's RTI team (Dr Jacob Dahl, Klaus Wagensonner and Nicholas Reid), is the digitization of the museum's small, but representative, Linear B collection from Knossos. The technology applied (RTI: Reflectance Transformation Imaging) allows for the best possible reading of these tablets online as it were under a completely new light:

With the RTIViewer (free to download - following instructions in the webpage given above), you can access the Linear B photographs by cutting and pasting the url into the application (using the globe and folder icon to the right of the main screen of the RTIViewer). The images can be enlarged to magnificent effect and the lighting changed to make readings clearer and to see fingerprints and erasures. This resource should prove extremely useful for teaching and this form of visualisation may pave the way for future research in the field. For comments on the web site please contact the webmaster at

The Oxford-Batumi Pichvnari Excavation

Portrait of Sir Arthur Evans

Since 1998, the Department has participated in the excavation of a Greek/Colchian settlement and necropolis at Pichvnari on the Black Sea coast of Georgia. A monograph on the first five years' work was published in 2004, and can be viewed online on the Reports Page of the Pichvnari Web site.

Go to the Pichvnari Web Site

Reflectance Transformation Imaging for the Study of Ancient Documentary Artefacts (RTISAD)

Clay tablet bearing an administrative text in Sumerian cuneiform

RTISAD is a collaborative pilot project between the University of Oxford (Faculty of Oriental Studies) and the University of Southampton, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The RTI system is being tested on a range of inscribed artefacts from amongst the rich and diverse collections of the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum. The imaging system developed by the project will allow researchers to study documentary and other artefacts remotely (online) in great detail and without being restricted by the fixed lighting angles of traditional photography and scanning where details can be obscured by shadows. In developing the RTI system, the project aims to ensure that high-quality digital images of inscribed artifacts, viewable from multiple light sources, can be consulted by scholars and the general public around the world.

Exploring Ancient Writings at the Ashmolean Museum with Advanced Digital Technologies