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Dr Matthew Knight

Dr Matthew Knight
Dr Matthew Knight
Senior Curator, Early Prehistory
Responsible for: Chalcolithic and Bronze Age collections
Research interests: The production, use and deposition of Bronze Age material culture particularly metalwork; the deliberate destruction of Bronze Age objects; the relationship between memory and material culture in prehistory.

Matthew is a Senior Curator of Prehistory responsible for the Scottish Chalcolithic and Bronze Age collections. He is also responsible for the Scottish archaeological human remains collections.

His research is largely focused on Bronze Age material culture, predominantly metalwork and depositional practices. He is interested in how people engaged with their materials in the past, particularly the treatment of objects before and during deposition. He has explored this in his research through the themes of memory, identity, and object biography, as well as undertaking experimental activities to better understand prehistoric processes.  

As part of his responsibility for the archaeological human remains collections, Matthew regularly engages with research undertaking radiocarbon dating, isotopic analysis and ancient DNA analysis, publishing annual results in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland. 

His current research focuses include: 

  • Interactions with the past in the past, particularly rediscovered and curated objects 
  • The collection and treatment of objects prior to deposition, particularly focusing on hoards 
  • Reconsidering older discoveries in light of new data and new perspectives 
  • Burial practices in Bronze Age Scotland 

Matthew completed his BSc and MA at the University of Exeter between 2009 and 2014, during which he explored links between Bronze Age metalworking evidence, settlement activities and the landscape setting of metalwork hoards in Devon and Cornwall, as well as the phenomenon of older Bronze Age objects found in later Bronze Age hoards and settlements across southern Britain. This latter research has recently expanded to incorporate heirlooms and other ‘out-of-time’ objects from across Britain and Europe and throughout prehistory, resulting in an edited volume published in 2019: Objects of the Past in the Past. 

In 2018, he submitted his PhD thesis to the University of Exeter: The Intentional Destruction and Deposition of Bronze Age Metalwork in South West England. This research involved an experimental programme analysing the deliberate destruction of swords, spears and axeheads to better understand what skills and equipment were necessary to undertake this practice. This allowed Matthew to reconsider and reinterpret a range of artefacts from a practice-based perspective, to better understand why objects were treated in this way. Several articles have been published from this PhD, as well as a monograph on this topic in 2022, entitled Fragments of the Bronze Age. 

From 2018-2019, Matthew was involved in the international collaborative project led by National Museums Scotland and Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museums Wales: Gold in Britain's auriferous regions, 2450-800 BC, contributing to the corpus of Chalcolithic and Bronze Age gold artefacts and regularly posting on key finds from the region. 

He is currently working on newly found metalwork hoards, as well as reanalysing historic discoveries of hoards from Scotland. He is currently working towards the publication of the Duddingston Loch weapon assemblage, the first donation to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 

Matthew is keen to make his work publicly available and disseminates regularly through blog posts, as well as speaking at local and international societies and conferences. 

Knight, M.G. 2022. Fragments of the Bronze Age. The Destruction and Deposition of Metalwork in South-West Britain and its Wider Context (Prehistoric Society Research Paper Series No.13). Oxford: Oxbow Books   

Knight, M.G. 2022. “Practices of metalwork deposition in Late Bronze Age Scotland” in Doyen, J.-M., Cattelain, P., Delvaux, L. et de Mulder, G. (eds) De L’escaut au nil. Bric-à-brac en hommage à Eugène Warmenbol à l’occasion de son 65e anniversaire, p.289-292. Treignes: Éditions du Cedarc.   

Knight, M.G. 2022. “Accumulations over time. Recognising time-depth in Bronze Age and Iron Age metalwork hoards in Britain.” In Bertrand, I., Durham, E., Hall, J., Keily, J. and Knight M.G. (eds) 2022. Hoarding and deposition in Europe from later prehistory to the medieval period – finds in context, 97-107. Chauvigny: Instrumentum H.S. 2022, Association des Publications Chauvinoises - A.P.C.  

Knight, M.G., Oakden, V.A., Jones, B. & Brandherm, D. 2021. “A Late Bronze Age Carp’s-Tongue Sword from Swettenham, Cheshire.” Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society 91, 89-101  

Mörtz, T., Knight, M.G., Cowie, T. & Flint, J. 2021. “Peelhill Farm: a possible Late Bronze Age weapon sacrifice in Lanarkshire.” Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 150, 355–384. Awarded the Chalmers-Jervise prize by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland  

Knight, M.G., Boughton, D. & Northover, J.P. 2021. “Poolewe: The last Bronze Age hoard in Scotland?” Archaeological Journal 178(1), 1-31. 

Knight, M.G. 2021. “There’s method in the fragments: A Damage Ranking System for Bronze Age metalwork.” European Journal of Archaeology 24(1), 48-67. 

Knight, M.G. 2019. “Going To Pieces. Investigating the Deliberate Destruction of Late Bronze Age Swords and Spearheads.” Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 138: 251–72.  

Knight, M.G. 2019. “Doubtful Associations? Assessing Bronze Age ‘Multi-period’ Hoards from Northern England, Scotland and Wales,” in M.G. Knight, D. Boughton and R.E. Wilkinson (eds) Objects of the Past in the Past. Investigating the significance of earlier artefacts in later contexts. Oxford: Archaeopress (Access Archaeology): 19–41. Free to download.

Knight, M.G. 2017. “The Deliberate Destruction of Late Bronze Age Socketed Axeheads in Cornwall.” Cornish Archaeology 56: 203–24. 

Knight, M.G., Ormrod, T. & Pearce, S. 2015. The Bronze Age Metalwork of South-Western Britain. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports British Series 610.

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