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Department of Archaeology



I am an environmental archaeologist who began my career here at the Department of Archaeology, Cambridge. Childhood passions for nature and holes-in-the-ground became an enduring fascination in human diversity over deep time, particularly in the British Isles.

Happiest when outdoors, my career has frequently spanned both the academic and developer-funded spheres of archaeology. A master’s degree in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy at the University of Sheffield was preceded by employment at Birmingham University Field Archaeological Unit and, afterwards, by several years with Cambridge Archaeological Unit. The latter role grew into a PhD supervised by Prof Martin Jones on the archaeobotany of the Roman fen-edge in Cambridgeshire. I’ve since worked with research projects in Orkney, Croatia and Italy, alongside many collaborations with the CAU. The scientific strategy for the excavation and analysis of the Must Farm pile-dwelling settlement has dominated my work in recent years.


Direct biological evidence for prehistoric lifestyles, economy, and environments, in particular at stunningly preserved wetland settlements.

I am leading the palaeoecological strand of a new, fens-focused research initiative hosted and funded by the McDonald Institute. The project aims to generate innovative and accessible perspectives on the long-term trajectories of habitats and species, including humans, in the Fens. Alongside the core role of collating the very extensive pre-existing data for the region, the project will consider new analyses, and act as a networking hub for the wider research community.

Close collaborations also continue with the Must Farm project team, and with archaeobotanical analysis of the pile-dwelling settlement at Lin, Albania as a team member of EXPLO. This ERC-funded project is investigating early farming communities in south-eastern Europe, led by Prof Amy Bogaard at the University of Oxford.

Key Publications

Key publications: 

Knight, M., Ballantyne, R., Robinson Zeki, I. and Gibson, D. 2019. The Must Farm Pile-dwelling Settlement. Antiquity 93(369), 645–63.

O’Connell, T.C., Ballantyne, R.M., Hamilton-Dyer, S., Margaritis, E., Oxford, S., Pantano, W., Millett, M. and Keay, S. 2019. Living and Dying at the Portus Romae. Antiquity 93(369), 719–34.

Ballantyne, R., Lightfoot, E., Macheridis, S. and Williams, A. 2017. ‘Biological remains at Avaldsnes’ in D. Skre (ed.) The Royal Manor Project, Avaldsnes. Berlin: De Gruyter, 455–509.

Other publications: 

Martínez-García, L. et al. 2021. Historical demographic processes dominate genetic variation in ancient Atlantic cod mitogenomes. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9.

Ferrari, G. et al. 2021. The preservation of ancient DNA in archaeological fish bone. Journal of Archaeological Science 126, 105317.

Ballantyne, R. and de Vareilles, A. 2019. ‘Plant macrofossils’, in C. Cessford and A. Dickens. Medieval to modern suburban material culture and sequence at Grand Arcade, Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, pp.199–205.

Ledger, M.L., Grimshaw, E., Fairey, M., Whelton, H.L., Bull, I.D., Ballantyne, R., Knight, M. and Mitchell, P.D. 2019. Intestinal parasites at the Late Bronze Age settlement of Must Farm, in the fens of East Anglia, UK (9th century B.C.E.). Parasitology 146(12), 1583–94.

Ballantyne, R. 2018. ‘Mollusc shell’, in C. Evans, S. Lucy and R. Patten. Riversides. Neolithic Barrows, a Beaker Grave, Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon Burials and Settlement at Trumpington, Cambridge. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, pp.73, 265–67.

Ballantyne, R. and de Vareilles, A. 2018. ‘Plant macrofossils’, in C. Evans, S. Lucy and R. Patten. Riversides. Neolithic Barrows, a Beaker Grave, Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon Burials and Settlement at Trumpington, Cambridge. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, pp.255–64.

Ballantyne, R. and Doshi, N. 2017. ‘Environment and fuel’, in R. Ferraby, P. Johnson, M. Millett, and L. Wallace. Thwing, Rudston and the Roman-period exploitation of the Yorkshire Wolds. Leeds: Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society, pp.181–97.

Ballantyne, R. 2016. ‘Environmental bulk samples,’ in C. Evans with J. Tabor and M. van der Linden. Twice-crossed river. Prehistoric and palaeoenvironmental investigations at Barleycroft Farm/Over, Cambridgeshire. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, pp.184–96, 269–75, 545–53.

Ballantyne, R., Bellini, G., Hales, J., Launaro, A., Leone, N., Millett, M., Verdonck, L., & Vermeulen, F. 2016. Interamna Lirenas and its territory (Comune di Pignataro Interamna, Provincia di Frosinone, Regione Lazio). Papers of the British School at Rome 84, 322–25.

Ballantyne, R., Bellini, G.R., Launaro, A., Leone, N. and Millett, M. 2015. Interamna Lirenas and its territory (Comune di Pignataro Interamna, Provincia di Frosinone, Regione Lazio). Papers of the British School in Rome 83, 299–302.

Ballantyne, R. 2013. ‘Charred plant remains and small artefactual debris’, in C. Evans, G. Appleby, S. Lucy and R. Regan (eds.) Process and History. Romano-British Communities at Colne Fen, Earith. Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp.391–413.

Petrie, C.A., Sardari, A., Ballantyne, R., Berberian, M., Lancelotti, C., Mashkour, M., McCall, B., Potts D.T. and Weeks, L. 2013. ‘Mamasani in the fourth millennium BC’, in C.A. Petrie (ed.) Ancient Iran and its Neighbours: Local Developments and Long-Range Interactions in the Fourth Millennium BC (The British Institute of Persian Studies Archaeological Monographs Series III). Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp.171–94.

Ballantyne, R. 2012. ‘Charred environmental remains’, pp.48–9 in A. Pickstone and R. Mortimer. War Ditches, Cherry Hinton: Revisiting an Iron Age Hillfort. Proceedings of Cambridge Antiquarian Society 101, 31–59.

Ballantyne, R. 2012. ‘Vegetation survey of the Farmer's House enclosed area’, in J. Tipper (ed.) Experimental Archaeology and Fire: The Investigation of a Burnt Reconstruction at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village. (East Anglian Archaeology 146). Bury St Edmunds: Suffolk County Council, pp.114–20. 

Ballantyne, R. 2010. ‘Charred and mineralised biota’, in G. Thomas (ed.) The Later Anglo-Saxon Settlement at Bishopstone: A downland manor in the making (CBA Research Report 163), York: Council for British Archaeology, pp.164–76.

Ballantyne, R. 2010. ‘Plant remains’, in S. Lucy and J. Tipper and A. Dickens The Anglo-Saxon Settlement and Cemetery at Bloodmoor Hill, Carlton Colville, Suffolk. (East Anglian Archaeology 131). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp.305–16.

Ballantyne, R. 2010. ‘Summary of hazelnut shell’, p.52–3 in P. Halkon, T.G. Manby, M. Millett and H. Woodhouse. Neolithic settlement evidence from Hayton, East Yorks. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 82, 31–57. 

Conneller, C., Ballantyne, R., French, C. and Speller, G. 2009. Investigation of a Final Palaeolithic site at Rookery Farm, Great Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 75, 167–87.

Goiran, J.-P., Bravard, J.-P., Salomon, F., Ballantyne, R.M., Margaritis, E. Keay, S., Earl, G.P., Kay, S. and Paroli, L. 2009. Delta du Tibre. Campagne de carrotage 2008. Etude des canaux de Portus. Melanges de l'Ecole Francaise de Rome 121(1), 60–4.

Ballantyne, R. and Ward, M. 2008. Smeircleit (Tipperton), Western Isles (South Uist parish), assessment survey. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 9, 184–5.

Ballantyne, R. 2006. ‘Environmental remains’ in C. Cessford, M. Alexander and A. Dickens Between Broad Street and the Great Ouse: Waterfront archaeology in Ely (East Anglian Archaeology 114). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp.14, 33–6, 75.

Ballantyne, R. and Roberts, K. 2006. ‘Environmental remains’ in D. Garrow, S. Lucy and D. Gibson Excavations at Kilverstone, Norfolk: An episodic landscape history (East Anglian Archaeology Report 113). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp.71, 89, 160–2, 198–9, 206.

Ballantyne, R. 2005. Book review [P. Fowler, 2002, Farming in the First Millennium AD: British agriculture between Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press]. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 20(1), 137–41.

Ballantyne, R. 2005. ‘Plants and seeds’, in R. W. Mortimer, R. Regan and S. Lucy (eds.) The Saxon and Medieval Settlement at West Fen Road, Ely: The Ashwell site (East Anglian Archaeology 110). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp.100–12.

Ballantyne, R. 2004. ‘A cross-disciplinary investigation of Iron Age pit deposition’, pp.53–7 in C. French ‘Evaluation survey and excavation at Wandlebury Ringwork, Cambridgeshire, 1994–7’, Proceedings of Cambridge Antiquarian Society 93, 15–66.

Ballantyne, R. 2004. Islands in wilderness: The changing medieval use of the East Anglian peat fens, England. Environmental Archaeology 9(2), 189–98. 

Ballantyne, R. 2002. ‘Plant remains’, pp.98–9 in A. Hall ‘A late sixteenth century pit group from Pembroke College Library, Cambridge’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 91, 89–101.

Other Professional Activities

  • Member, European Association of Archaeologists
  • Member, Association of Environmental Archaeologists

Job Titles

Senior Research Associate, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Field Methods
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies

Contact Details

rmb51 [a]
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Downing Street


Person keywords: 
Environmental Archaeology
Field Archaeology
Living Space
Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Classical - Roman
Copper/Bronze Age
Iron Age