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Ceri Ashley


Research Development


Ceri is a Professor in Cultural Heritage in the Nottingham Trent University Research Peak in Cultural Heritage. Based in the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, Ceri is responsible for developing new heritage-based research across the University, supporting collaborations within NTU and internationally, and supervising research projects and students. Appointed in 2021, she works one day a week at NTU, and at the British Museum the rest of the week.

Career overview

In addition to her appointment at NTU, Ceri is also the Head of the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme at the British Museum. Launched in 2018, this programme supports global research and documentation of material practices and knowledge systems, and makes them available through an open access digital repository (

Prior to joining the British Museum Ceri was an Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, where she also served as the Head of Archaeology. During this time Ceri was responsible for revising the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum, and established teaching/student exchanges with Sweden and Spain. She led archaeological research excavations in Botswana and South Africa, with a focus on early state formation and political economies of Mapungubwe, and the impact of the London Missionary Society on the material lives of communities in the Kalahari.

Ceri has held postdoctoral positions in the UK and USA; she was the Cotsen Visiting Scholar at UCLA and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, where she led projects in Uganda and Botswana on the topic of migration. Ceri’s PhD is also from UCL Institute of Archaeology, and was on the transition to agriculture in the Great Lakes region of eastern Africa

Ceri was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in 2016, an Honorary Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge (2017-2020) and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter (2020-2024).

Research areas

Ceri’s research interest centres around material culture and material knowledge, and how these create and affect social relationships and communities. This extends from early doctoral research on the transition to farming and the means by which ceramics helped anchor disparate communities and forge alliances, to how modern communities of practice are threatened by changing ecological, political and economic factors. She is also interested in the historical contexts of research and the impact of changing theoretical and political factors on the creation of research agendas and interpretation.

Ceri is currently involved in a number of ongoing projects:

Imagining Futures through un/archived pasts ( is a GCRF Network+ funded programme that employs egalitarian archiving practices as a means to explore hidden and silenced voices in post-conflict and reconstruction landscapes in Tanzania, Ghana, Syria and Lebanon and the UK. Ceri is part of the London Lab who are working on children's heritage and using archaeological approaches to create archives of playgrounds and memory.

Narratives of cultural endangerment – this is a new research direction under development, and will focus on historical endangerment narratives, particularly within ethnography and museums. Current concerns over the loss of culture and tradition are not unique, and come from a long history of episodes of anxiety and interventions intended to stem the loss of knowledge. This work will explore such episodes and place them in their larger epistemic and historical context, focusing on particular events and case-studies.

Archaeology of state formation in southern Africa – As part of a long-running project, in collaboration with Dr Xander Antonites (University of Pretoria) Ceri has been working on the archaeology of hinterland communities in the first state system in southern Africa – Mapungubwe – challenging ideas of how metropole/hinterland relations are politically articulated, and re-directing focus to local expressions of power and social dynamics.

Ceri is interested in supervising PhD students in the following areas:

  • Material culture studies, especially material practice and craft
  • Cultural heritage loss and narratives of endangerment, including museum collecting and salvage ethnography
  • Childrens heritage and play
  • Missionary archaeology and heritage
  • Later archaeology of eastern and southern Africa, especially as related to material culture, material science applications and social organisation.

External activity


Steering Committee, Imagining Futures through Un/Archived Pasts (GCRF Network + Grant)

Governing Council, British Institute in Eastern Africa

Editorial Board, Azania, Archaeological Research from Africa

Honorary Research Fellow, University of Exeter


Sponsors and collaborators

Sample of Recent Funded Research Projects include:

Our Heritage, Our Stories: Linking and searching community-generated digital content to develop the people's national collection (project partner on the AHRC’s ‘Towards a National Collection’ Programme)

Imagining Futures through Un/Archived Pasts (Project Partner on GCRF Network + Grant)

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award (Jointly awarded with Dr Chris Wingfield, UEA)

National Research Foundation, South Africa, Human and Social Dynamics platform (PI)

National Research Foundation African Origins Platform (Co-I)

Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Award


Joubert, M., Antonites, A. & Ashley, C.Z. 2021 Berkenrode: Archaeological Insights on the History of a C20th Artisanal Mine in the Limpopo Valley. South African Journal of Cultural Heritage. 35(2): 148-167

Ashley, C.  & Antonites, A. 2020 Art and the Everyday: gold, ceramics and meaning in thirteenth century Mapungubwe. In C. Wingfield, Giblin, J. & R King (eds) The pasts and presence of art in South Africa: Technologies, ontologies and agents. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. 159-166

Ashley, C. 2018 Remaking Landscape and Place: An archaeology of the Lake Ngami Mission (1893-1896), Khwebe Hills, Botswana. Journal of Southern African Studies. Vol 44(4): 703-722.

Ashley, C.Z. Antonites, A. & Fredriksen, PD 2016 Mobility and African Archaeology: An introduction. Azania: Archaeological Research from Africa. Vol. 51 (4): 417-434

Antonites, A. & Ashley, C.Z. 2016 The Mobilities Turn and Archaeology: new perspectives on socio-political complexity in thirteenth century northern South Africa. Azania: Archaeological Research from Africa. Vol. 51(4): 469-488

Diskin, S. & Ashley, C. 2016 Characterisation of Archaeological Ceramics from the Khwebe Hills of Northern Botswana. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 6:      574-583

Ashley, C. & Grillo, K. 2015 Archaeological ceramics from eastern Africa: past approaches and future directions. Azania: Archaeological Research from Africa. 50: 46-480

Ashley, C. 2015 Chess Piece from Lake Ngami Mission, Botswana. In K. Jacobs, C. Knowles & C. Wingfield (eds) Trophies, Relics and Curios? Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific. 167-171. Sidestone Press

Reid, A. & Ashley, C.Z.  2014 Islands of Intensive Agriculture in Victoria Nyanza. In C. Stevens, S. Nixon, M-A. Murray  & D.Q. Fuller (eds) Archaeology of African Plant Use. 179-188. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Ashley, C 2013  Migration in Africa. In P. Lane and P. Mitchell (eds) Handbook of African Archaeology. 77-86. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ashley, C & Boukaze-Khan, D. 2011 Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites in Sub-Saharan Africa. Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites Vol. 13, No. 2-3:95-102.

Insoll, T., MacLean, R., Ashley, C. & Kankpeyeng, B.W. 2011 The Iron Age ceramics from the Tong Hills, Northern Ghana. Sequence and Comparative Perspective. Journal of African Archaeology 9(1): 15-39.

Ashley, C.Z. 2010 Towards a Socialised Archaeology of Great Lakes Ceramics. African Archaeological Review 27: 135-163

Dale, D. & Ashley, C. 2010 Kansyore hunter-fisher-gatherers: New Research from Western Kenya. Azania: Archaeological Research from Africa. 45, 1: 24-48.

Ashley, C. & Reid, A.  2008 A reconsideration of the figures from Luzira. Azania XLIII: 95-123

Reid, A. & Ashley, C.Z. 2008 A New context for the Luzira Head. Antiquity 82: 99-112

P. Lane, Ashley, C., Seitsonen, O.,  Harvey, P., Mire, S. & Odede, F.  2007 The Transition to Farming in Eastern Africa: New Faunal and Dating Evidence from Wadh Lang’o and Usenge, Kenya. Antiquity 81: 62-81

Lane, P., Ashley, C. & Oteyo, G. 2006 New Dates for Kansyore and Urewe Wares from Northern Nyanza, Kenya. Azania XXXXI: 123-138

Posnansky, M., Reid, A. &  Ashley, C. 2005 Archaeology on Lolui Island, Uganda 1964-5. Azania XL: 73-100

See all of Ceri Ashley's publications...