Dr Alison Sheridan is Principal Archaeological Research Curator.

Alison SheridanDr Alison Sheridan, Principal Curator, heads the Early Prehistory section of the Scottish History and Archaeology Department and specialises in the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland. She is also currently President of the Prehistoric Society; was a co-chair of the ScARF (Scottish Archaeological Research Framework) Neolithic Panel; is an Honorary Research Fellow in the University of Edinburgh School of History, Classics and Archaeology; is Museum Mentor for Bute Museum; and is Co-ordinator for Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands in the international research project, Projet JADE2.

Dr Sheridan studied Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, where she also received her PhD, on ceramic production, exchange and social organisation in Neolithic Ireland, in 1985. She has been an archaeological curator in National Museums Scotland, in various capacities, since 1987. 

She was part of the curatorial team that created the Early People gallery in the National Museum of Scotland; was lead curator of the Millennium exhibition, Heaven and Hell – and Other Worlds of the Dead; and is co-curator of Amazing Amber (May – September 2013).

Her research interests span the Neolithic and Bronze Age and extend beyond Britain and Ireland into Continental Europe. She has investigated the Neolithisation of Britain and Ireland, and subsequent developments in that archipelago, specialising in the study of Neolithic pottery, jewellery of jet and amber, stone axeheads, and interactions between different areas. She has co-edited and contributed to an influential book on the Chalcolithic of Britain and has researched Chalcolithic and Bronze Age jewellery and dress accessories, especially those of jet and jet-like materials, faience and amber, as well as studying the pottery used during those periods. She has been responsible for the National Museums Scotland archaeological programmes of radiocarbon dating since the 1990s, and also curates the National Museums Scotland collection of archaeological human remains from Britain.

She has collaborated on numerous national and international research projects, most recently Professor Mike Parker Pearson’s Beaker People Project; Professor Pierre Pétrequin’s international Projet JADE and Projet JADE2, investigating Neolithic axeheads made of Alpine rock including jadeitite; Professor Richard Evershed’s NERC project, Changing patterns of marine product exploitation in human prehistory via biomarker proxies in archaeological pottery; Professor John Hunter and Dr Ann Woodward’sRitual in Early Bronze Age Grave Goods Project; Dr Linda Hurcombe’s REACT (Research and Enterprise in Arts and Creative Technology)-funded Touching the Past project; and the Gristhorpe Man Project, led by Drs. Chris Knüsel, Nigel Melton and Janet Montgomery. She works closely with French colleagues and is currently helping to bring to publication the results of the late Ian Kinnes’ excavations at Les Fouaillages on Guernsey.

Committed to the dissemination of the results of her research, she has published widely, lectured in Europe and the USA, and appeared on numerous television and radio programmes. The apogee of her televisual career has been as ‘TV Expert of the Week’ on Harry Hill’s TV Burp in February 2011, explaining to Neil Oliver how we know that there were toilets in the Late Neolithic settlement at Skara Brae.

Her full list of publications can be accessed here [PDF 155KB]. Highlights are as follows:

Selected publications

  1. Ross, A. and Sheridan, J.A. 2013. Amazing AmberHighlights of the Exhibition. Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland.
  2. Allen, M.J., Gardiner, J. and Sheridan, J.A. (eds.) 2012. Is there a British Chalcolithic? People, Place and Polity in the Later Third Millennium. Oxford: Oxbow/Prehistoric Society (Prehistoric Society Research Paper 4).
  3. Pétrequin P., Cassen, S., Errera, M., Klassen, L. and Sheridan, J.A. (eds.) 2012. Jade. Grandes haches alpines du Néolithique européen. Ve et IVemillénaires av. J.-C. Cahiers de la MSHE C.N. Ledoux, Besançon, Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté et Centre de Recherche Archéologique de la Vallée de l’Ain.
  4. Gibson, A.M. and Sheridan, J.A. (eds.) 2004. From Sickles to Circles: Britain and Ireland at the Time of Stonehenge, 243–67. Stroud: Tempus.
  5. Sheridan, J A (ed.) 2000. Heaven and Hell – and Other Worlds of the Dead. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland.
  6. Sharples, N. M. and Sheridan, J.A. (eds.) 1992.  Vessels for the Ancestors: Essays on the Neolithic of Britain and Ireland in Honour of Audrey Henshall. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.
  7. Bailey, G. and Sheridan, J.A. (eds.) 1981. Economic Archaeology. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (International Series, 96).
  8. Sheridan, J.A. 2010. The Neolithisation of Britain and Ireland: the Big Picture, in B. Finlayson and G. Warren (eds.), Landscapes in Transition, 89–105. Oxford: Oxbow.
  9. Baker, L., Sheridan, J.A. and Cowie, T.G. 2003. An Early Bronze Age ‘dagger grave’ from Rameldry Farm, near Kingskettle, Fife. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 133, 85–123. Winner of the R.B.K. Stevenson Prize.
  10. Sheridan J.A. and Shortland A. 2004. ‘…beads which have given rise to so much dogmatism, controversy and rash speculation’: faience in Early Bronze Age Britain and Ireland, in I.A.G. Shepherd and G. J. Barclay (eds.),Scotland in Ancient EuropeThe Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Scotland in their European Context, 263–79. Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
  11. Sheridan, J.A. 2007. Dating the Scottish Bronze Age: “There is clearly much that the material can still tell us”, in C. Burgess, P. Topping and F. Lynch (eds.), Beyond Stonehenge: Essays on the Bronze Age in Honour of Colin Burgess, 162–85. Oxford: Oxbow.
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