About our staff
Professor John Hunter
OBE BA PhD FSA FSA(Scot) MCIfA FCSFS
Honorary Professorial Fellow
I was born in Liverpool and read for a degree in Medieval English at Durham University, subsequently carrying out a PhD in Sweden on the physical analysis of ancient glass. I took up a post lecturing in archaeology at Bradford University in 1975 and remained there until becoming Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham in 1996. My research interests have always been in Scotland mostly involving survey and excavation work, especially in the Northern and Western Isles with major interests in Fair Isle and in Scapa Flow from prehistory to the Viking Period. Later I worked on multi-period projects on the island of Harris.
During this time I began to develop the subject of forensic archaeology and, from 1988, became involved operationally throughout the UK, as well as in Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Iraq and the Falklands. I still spend much of my time lecturing to police and forensic professionals.
I helped found the Forensic Search Advisory Group, was a lead assessor for the former Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners (CRFP), and was primary in setting up the current validation system for forensic archaeology within the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. As an active field archaeologist myself I also directed a small commercial organisation (MFL Archaeology) which worked within the development industry.
I was appointed a Royal Commissioner on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland until 2015, and was awarded an OBE for services to scholarship in 2011.
Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee, Worcester Cathedral (appointee of the Cathedrals Fabric Advisory Commission for England).
Scientific Steering Committee, International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP), Sarajevo.
Editorial Board, Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology
Fellow of the Forensic Science Society
National History Museum Scientific Advisory Panel (human remains).
Expert Panel for Forensic Archaeology, Forensic Regulator, Home Office
University programme assessor for Chartered Society for Forensic Sciences
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Britain & Ireland
- Landscapes & Monuments
- Material Culture
- Early Historic
- Eighteenth Century
- Nineteenth Century
Most of my research has been involved in the study of Scottish islands, partly to enhance existing HERs, but mostly to study the character of island landscapes, particularly the extent to which continuity and change over the years might be affected by insularity. I worked initially on the Brough of Birsay, Orkney, a site intended to examine the Pictish/Norse interface but which also contained a substantial underlying Neolithic settlement. I subsequently led a small survey group into the Scapa Flow Islands and became absorbed with military monuments of both World Wars before moving to Fair Isle. There we conducted a complete multi-period island survey, including a number of trial excavations, and a major excavation of the Landberg Promontory fort. Other work in the Northern Isles included excavation of a Neolithic chambered cairn on Mainland Orkney and an early Christian site on Papa Stronsay. This was followed by the examination of two further Early Christian sites on Eigg and Canna in the Western Isles.
Our other work in the Western Isles involved survey transects across Harris and a small number of excavations of Iron Age buildings in the machair. We placed a particular emphasis on studying the fishing industry on the island of Scalpay in the 19th and 20th centuries using archaeological remains, unwritten place-names, reminiscence studies and boat-building history.
In tandem with this I led a series of research programmes in forensic archaeology, developing methods and sequences of clandestine burial detection, and establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for practical application in the recovery of forensic evidence.
Current research activities
At the moment my activities are mostly absorbed with researching a book on the Small Isles (Canna, Eigg, Muck and Rum) to be published in 2016 by Historic Environment Scotland. This draws together many years of survey work undertaken by various bodies and examines the effects of the Clearances on landscape and cultural change.
As part of a wider interests in historic landscapes I am also developing methods of landscape analysis suitable for planning at local community level.
Hunter J.R. 1986. Rescue Excavations on the Brough of Birsay 1974-82, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Monograph Series 4.
Hunter, J.R. and Ralston, I.B.M. 1993. Archaeological Resource Management in the UK, Stroud: Sutton Publishing.
Hunter, J. R., Roberts C, and Martin, A. 1996. A Studies in Crime: an Introduction to Forensic Archaeology, Batsford.
Hunter, J.R. 1996. Fair Isle: the Archaeology of an Island Community, HMSO, 1996.
Hunter, J.R. 1997. A Persona for the Northern Picts, Groam House Lecture, Rosemarkie.
Hunter, J.R. and Heyworth, M. 1998. The Hamwic Glass, CBA Research Report, York.
Hunter, J.R. and Ralston, I.B.M. 1999. The Archaeology of Britain, Routledge.
Hunter, J.R. and Cox, M. 2005. Forensic Archaeology: Advances in Theory and Practice, Routledge
Hunter, J.R. and Ralston, I.B.M. 2007. Archaeological Resource Management in the UK, Stroud: Sutton Publishing. 2nd edition.
Hunter, J.R. 2007. Investigations in Sanday, Orkney. Vol 1. Historic Scotland.
Hunter, J.R. and Ralston, I.B.M. 2009. The Archaeology of Britain, Routledge (second edition).
Woodward, A, and Hunter, J.R. 2011. Prehistoric Stone Bracers from Britain. Oxford: Oxbow.
Hunter, J.R, Simpson, B and Sturdy-Colls, C. 2013. Forensic Approaches to Buried Remains. Wiley.
Woodward, A, and Hunter, J.R. in press. Ritual in Early Bronze Age Grave Goods. Oxford: Oxbow.