Oxford Archaeology has been awarded a prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship research grant for a project entitled ‘Rewilding’ later prehistory: Bronze and Iron Age ecologies from the perspective of the wild. Oxford Archaeology’s Anwen Cooper was among 84 new Fellows announced by the UKRI, all based at UK universities and businesses. The new Fellows will be supported through a total investment of £98 million, with individual researchers and their host organisations receiving up to £1.5 million over four years.

The ‘Rewilding’ later prehistory project – a collaboration between Oxford Archaeology, the Universities of Oxford, Exeter and Toulouse, the Archaeology Data Service, Historic England and Knepp Estate rewilding hub – will trial a new mode of industry-led, cross-sector research in exploring later prehistoric wildlife and its relevance to current ecological debates. The Oxford Archaeology team will include an exciting mix of existing staff and new researchers.

The period from 2500 BC to AD 43 (the Bronze and Iron Ages) is a key tipping point in the transition from ‘wild’ to ‘farmed’ landscapes in Britain. Existing plant and animal remains data for this period will be collated from diverse study areas: the Upper Thames Valley, the Fen Basin and Northumberland. The Oxford Archaeology team will work with the Archaeology Data Service, Historic England and specialists from across Britain to develop centralised digital repositories (OASIS+ modules) so that in future, data about excavated plant and animal remains will be logged routinely in one place for everyone to access and explore. Together with colleagues from the Universities of Oxford and Exeter we will build a multi-stranded toolkit for investigating archaeological wildlife, bringing together cutting-edge scientific methods and emerging interpretative ideas.

Overall, ‘Rewilding’ later prehistory will showcase Oxford Archaeology’s capacity to spearhead an ambitious interdisciplinary research programme. Through our research, we hope to build stronger and more dynamic relationships with nature conservationists, and with university-based researchers in Oxford and beyond, including at Oxford’s new Leverhulme-funded Nature Recovery Centre.

Follow us on twitter (@RewildArch) and watch out for updates on the Oxford Archaeology website from September 2022.

‘Rewilding’ project lead, Anwen Cooper, with colleagues from Historic England and ecologists from Knepp Castle Estate