3 Prestigious Dissertation Prizes for recent UoG Archaeology Graduates

Published: 19 December 2023

Lena Zimmerman, Jo Jackson and Lorna Cummings.

Lorna Cummings (right) taking part in the Archaeology Scotland excavations at Hampden (photo: The Hampden Collection)

Three of our recent graduates in Archaeology have been awarded prestigious dissertation prizes, for three very different projects: Lena Zimmerman, Jo Jackson and Lorna Cummings.

Lena Zimmermann diss prizeLena Zimmerman was awarded the Society for Medieval Archaeology Undergraduate Dissertation Prize 2023 for her dissertation entitled ‘Cosmopolitan Vikings A comparison between textiles from Hedeby and York in the 9th and 10th century’. Lena’s dissertation was supervised by Dr Susanna Harris.

The dissertation reflected on Hedeby and York, two rich and well-connected early medieval urban trade centres. Excavations in these towns have yielded sizable and well-preserved textile assemblages. This is a rarity in early medieval Northern Europe,  when funerary textiles were the norm. The comparison explored these rich and varied assemblages via the creation of two datasets out of several published catalogues. Consideration of the materials, the weave structures and yarn attributes in context with basic preservation issues, show that the assemblages share more similarities than differences. The dissertation discovered enough evidence for complex relationships between the chronology of the textiles and the individual towns to recommend further study of this topic. Overall, the comparison and the published material have shown more evidence for cosmopolitan textile traditions with intrinsically local trends, than explicitly Scandinavian influences in both Hedeby and York.

(Elizabeth) Jo Jackson was awarded the Association for Environmental Archaeology’s John Evans Dissertation Prize 2023 for her undergraduate dissertation ‘Believe the Leaves; A medium scale synthesis of pollen records covering the Mesolithic of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland’. The John Evans prize is awarded to the best undergraduate and Masters dissertation, which may be on any aspect of environmental archaeology worldwide. Jo’s dissertation was supervised by Prof Nicki Whitehouse

The dissertation was a synthesis of existing pollen records covering the Mesolithic in the Highlands and islands of Scotland. She sought evidence of human interaction within the landscape by looking for tree clearance and plants associated with human activity. During the re-analysis using Bayesian modelling techniques, she found new evidence for chronological patterns and in the types of clearance events and plant species. Her findings suggested possible human disturbances to vegetation occurred between 8200-5900 cal yr BP (before present). She also found that several plant species were frequently present during these disturbances, including umbellifers, bracken, cinquefoils and possibly bramble. Her dissertation highlighted the possible exploitation of these plants and pointed towards new research opportunities in understanding hunter-gatherer plant exploitation.

Lorna Cummings was awarded the Gladys Edith Campbell Prize for Dissertations from the College of Arts, University of Glasgow, for her dissertation on ‘Sporting Heritage: A Healthy Future?  How Sporting Heritage can Support New Forms of Community Identity and Cohesion in a Changing Society’. This prize is given to the student whose Honours dissertation best ‘engages with industry and small business as a way of encouraging graduate attributes and employability’. Lorna’s dissertation was supervised by Dr Kenny Brophy.

The dissertation reflected on the challenging journey taken by the people of Govanhill when the heart of their community was under threat. The Edwardian Baths, which was the only leisure and social amenity in the area was deemed too expensive by the Council to maintain. The struggle, which ensued for over twenty years, ultimately developed strong community identity and cohesion. The second case study illustrated how a unique archaeology project brought together asylum seekers and refugees to ‘Find First Hampden.’ The volunteers not only found the first purpose-built football stadium in the world but also found friends and a welcoming environment in the city which was to be their new home. Sport is embedded in popular culture; it is the perfect arena to show people the local customs and traditions and enhance their cultural knowledge of a community. This research demonstrated how sport and heritage offers opportunities across the social and cultural spectrum, which will improve the quality of life, not just for communities, but society as a whole. 

First published: 19 December 2023

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