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Department of Archaeology


Congratulations to Charles French, Professor Emeritus in Geoarchaeology, who has been awarded the British Academy's 2022 Landscape Archaeology Medal for a lifetime of innovative and cutting-edge work and global-reaching research, his inclusive approach to teamwork and encouraging the advancement of early career scholars. 

Charly has spent his career analysing and interpreting archaeological landscapes, developing an extraordinary sensitivity to their diversity and processes. His research has been truly global in scope and has significantly advanced knowledge of past landscapes and long-term human-environment relations by pioneering geoarchaeological field and laboratory methods that have now become standard across and beyond archaeology. His contributions have spanned academic, educational, commercial, and professional sectors for over forty years.

He has also reconstructed the landscape history of fundamental periods in the human past across different environments. His work on the Bronze Age chronicled the evolution and exploitation of wetlands and chalk downlands in southern and eastern England, including at Flag Fen and Stonehenge, and in other environments spanning Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia.

As the founding director of the McBurney Laboratory of Geoarchaeology and inaugural Professor of Geoarchaeology at Cambridge, he taught and mentored numerous students and post-doctoral researchers for over thirty years. Most of these are furthering landscape archaeology in universities, research centres and commercial units across the globe.

Under his leadership, the Department of Archaeology expanded its MPhil and field training programs, with a strong emphasis in landscape archaeology, attracting numerous international students and collaborators. Having worked as a professional field archaeologist, Charly has been especially successful at building bridges between academia and commercial archaeology, establishing and maintaining close relations with public and professional institutions in the UK, furthering landscape archaeology for Historic England and with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

The Landscape Archaeology Medal is awarded annually for distinguished achievements in landscape archaeology. The award was created following the decision of Professor John Coles, a Fellow of the British Academy since 1978, to establish an academy medal for this field and was awarded for the first time in 2007.

Prof French said, “This is unexpected and amazing news! It is a great honour to receive the Landscape Archaeology medal in the footsteps of John Coles and in recognition of the great number of fabulous students and researchers that I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 50 years.”

Dr Tamsin O'Connell, Head of the Department of Archaeology, said, "This is a fantastic and well-deserved accolade for Charly in recognition of his work with students, researchers and staff in the McBurney Laboratory for Geoarchaeology and beyond for over several decades. Many congratulations!"

Charles French is Professor Emeritus of Geoarchaeology in the McBurney Laboratory of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge. He began his archaeological career on the Cambridgeshire fen-edge at Fengate (Peterborough) back in 1975 and since then has been the palaeo-environmentalist and assistant director for Fenland Archaeological Trust (1983-1992), and then a lecturer/professor of geoarchaeology in the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge until 2021, where he developed a superb thin section micromorphology laboratory. Charles specialises in the analysis and interpretation of buried landscapes and settlement sites using geoarchaeological and micromorphological techniques, and has undertaken projects in many countries around the world. 


Image information

Prof Charly French on excavation
Image credit: 
Dave Webb