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Michael Copper

Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Faculty/Dept/School School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences
(Faculty of Life Sciences)


After graduating in Archaeology from the University of Southampton in 1984 and subsequently working as a field archaeologist, and later as a teacher, I joined the University of Bradford in 2011 as a Masters student in Archaeology before going on to complete my PhD on the Neolithic pottery of the Outer Hebrides in 2015. Since then, my research has focussed primarily on Neolithic pottery, in particular from Scotland.

I have been a long-time member of the excavation team at the world-renowned Ness of Brodgar excavations in Orkney and am presently engaged in work on the Neolithic pottery from the Western Isles as part of the Islands of Stone project. In addition, I have a strong interest in ceramic technology and have undertaken extensive experimental work on the manufacture and firing of replica prehistoric pottery.


My research primarily concerns the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland with a focus on pottery and other aspects of material culture. My PhD research looked at the Neolithic ceramic traditions of the Outer Hebrides within their national and international settings. In particular, the research related to a very large assemblage of elaborately decorated pottery from the artificial islet of Eilean Dòmhnuill on the Isle of North Uist. Since then, I have been continued to work on Neolithic pottery, completing a two year Historic Environment Scotland-funded project on the dating of Late Neolithic Grooved Ware in 2019. At present, I am working as a ceramic specialist for the on-going project Islands of Stone, which is investigating a series of recently discovered artificial islets on the Isle of Lewis, a number of which have produced large assemblages of pottery dating to the 4th millennium BC. My interest in pottery is largely driven by what this can teach about social processes in prehistory, and I have recently turned my attention to the ways in which variations in technical behaviours can reflect aspects of social practice and identity that are hard to ascertain from form and decoration alone.

As part of my on-going research I regularly undertake experimental firings of replica prehistoric pots that I have built myself using techniques and materials that we know were used in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Together with my Bradford colleagues Dr Cathy Batt and Dr Gregg Griffin, I will be beginning work in early 2021 on a series of experiments using dung as a pot-firing fuel to investigate whether this is likely to have constituted a significant resource in prehistoric Britain and Ireland. This project—Dung and Dusted—is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

I have, for a number of years, been a member of the supervisory team at the internationally renowned Ness of Brodgar excavations in Orkney, and in 2021 I hope to return to the Western Isles to assist with the excavation of one of the newly discovered Neolithic islets.