Our research debates human-thing relations drawing upon material culture studies and in particular the new materialities.

Much of our research focuses on the many ways in which objects and materials are manipulated and shape human experiences. We are increasingly interrogating the privileged role of the human agent within the material world.

We explore how the world is composed of diverse interacting materials to develop narratives that are less concerned with peoples and objects, but rather how materials and matter (including humans) interact to create the world we live in.

In so doing we demonstrate the various ways in which earthly substances provoke human behaviours, thereby encouraging a rediscovery of the world as one of materials in relationship with each other.

Research Activities

University of Wales Press has commissioned a new book series: Materiality in Anthropology and Archaeology, with series editors Luci Attala and Louise Steel. The first two volumes have just been published:

2019 L. Attala, How Water Make Us Human: Engagements with the Materiality of Water

2019 L. Attala and L. Steel (eds) Body Matters: Exploring the Materiality of the Body (Including papers by Luci Attala, Janet Burton, Ros Coard, Eloise Govier, Louise Steel and Harriett Webster)

Our recent research outputs are making a significant contribution to the ongoing debate on materialities within the Humanities:

2019 Scott, A. The ‘Missing Link’ Between Science and Show Business: Exhibiting Gorillas and Chimpanzees in Victorian Liverpool. Journal of Victorian Culture, vcz015, https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcz015

2018  K. Erickson. The Early Seleukids, their Gods and their Coins. London, New York: Routledge.

2018  L. Steel. "Shifting Relations in Bronze Age Gaza: An Investigation into Egyptianizing Practices and Cultural Hybridity in the Southern Levant During the Late Bronze Age." Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 20: 15-30.

2018 L. Steel. "Another look at Red Lustrous arm-vessels," in L. Crewe, L. Hulin and J. Webb (eds) Structures of Inequality on Bronze Age Cyprus. Studies in honour of Alison K. South. SIMA PB 187, 197-210. Astrom Editions.

2018 L. Steel. "Watery entanglements in the Cypriot hinterland." Land 7(3)  Special Issue Central Places and Un-Central Landscapes: Political Economies and Natural Resources in the Longue Durée https://doi.org/10.3390/land7030104  http://www.mdpi.com/2073-445X/7/3/104

2017 E.-J. Abbots, The Agency of Eating, London: Bloomsbury.

2017 L. Attala, “Do plants communicate with humans? Exploring the chemistry of plant-human relationships and the benefits of being a hallucinogen”, Radical Anthropology 7/3:125-145. Astrom Editions.

2017 Exploring the Materiality of Food ‘Stuffs’: Transformations, Symbolic Consumption and Embodiments. Edited by L. Steel and K. Zinn, London; New York: Routledge (including chapters by several faculty staff: L. Attala, T. Jansen, E. Forde, L. Steel, K. Zinn)

2016 Gastronomica 16(3). Special Issue on Food “Stuffs” edited by E.-J. Abbot

2016 L. Steel, “Kitchenalia in Bronze Age Cyprus”, Gastronomica 16(3): 77-88

2016 L. Steel, "The Social and Economic Roles Played by the Women of Alashiya", in S.L. Budin and J. MacIntosh Turfa (eds) Women in Antiquity: Real Women Across the Ancient World, 386-98. London; New York: Routledge

2016 The Materiality of the Sky, edited by Fabio Silva, Kim Malville, Tore Lomsdalen and Frank Ventura, London: Sophia Centre Press

2015 E.J. Abbots, A. Lavis and L. Attala (eds) Careful Eating: Bodies, Food and Care. London: Ashgate.

2015 E.-J. Abbots, “The intimacies of industry: consumer interactions with the 'stuff' of celebrity chefs”, Food, Culture & Society 18(2): 223-43

2014 E.-J. Abbots and L. Attala, “It’s not what you eat but how and that you eat: social media, counter-discourses and disciplined ingestion among amateur competitive eaters”, Geoforum, Special issue on Food/Space/Media. Doi: 10:1016/j.geoforum.2014.11.004

2014 P. Dransart, “Thoughts on productive knowledge in Andean weaving with discontinuous warp and weft”, in Textiles, Technical Practice and Power in the Andes, edited by D.Y. Arnold. London: Archetype Publications

2013 P. Dransart, “Dressed in furs: clothing and Yaghan multispecies engagements in Tierra del Fuego”, in Living Beings: Perspectives on Interspecies Engagements, edited by P. Dransart, London: Bloomsbury

2013 L. Steel, “The social world of Early-Middle Bronze Age Cyprus: rethinking the Vounous Bowl”, Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 26(1): 51-73

2012 L. Steel, Materiality and Consumption in the Bronze Age Mediterranean, London; New York: Routledge.

Our ground-breaking, interdisciplinary research is reflected by the various papers presented by colleagues at conferences and public lectures at academic institutions both in the UK and overseas.

September 2019

  • Body Matters: Exploring the Materiality of the Medieval Human Body: session at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds, chaired by Louise Steel with papers by Janet Burton (All Fingers, No Thumbs: The Materiality of a Medieval Relic), Harriett Webster (The Resuscitation of the Twice-Hanged Man: Miracles and the Body in Medieval Swansea) and Erica Blair O'Brien ('My Precious Body': The (Im)Materiality of the Body in Margaret of York's Manuscripts). Followed by a book launch on 3 July for Body Materrs (edited by Luci Attala and Louise Steel) hosted by UWP.

June 2018

July 2017

  • Universal Exhibitions, Municipal Ambitions: The 1851 Great Exhibition and the Origins of Liverpool Public Museum, Alex Scott. In The Evolution of the Museum (Universal Histories and Universal Museums project), Blythe House and the Science Museum, London.
  • Sleeping Hard on your Headrest? – Egyptian Objects Under the Lens of New Materialisms, Katharina Zinn. In Egyptology and Anthropology: Historiography, Theoretical Exchange, and Conceptual Development, University of Cambridge.

February 2017

  • Exploring the Materiality of Water in Bronze Age Cyprus, Louise Steel. In the Environment, Landscape and Society conference, CAARI, Nicosia.

July 2016

  • Decomposition, memory, permanence and plastic: exploring how materiality alters practice, Luci Attala. In the Decomposition: Materials and Images in Time panel, ASA2016, Durham University.

Feb 2016

  • Materiality, Sustainability, Advocacy, Luci Attala, at the HEA conference, Brighton.

Dec 2015

  • Bodies of Water: Exploring Water Flows in Rural Kenya, Luci Attala at Cardiff University Guest Lecture Series.

November 2015

  • Enchanting Objects: Exploring the Biography of Gaming Stones at Arediou, Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age, Louise Steel in Object Biography for Archaeologists II: The Object as Magnet, ASOR Annual Meeting, Atlanta.
  • From Being an Overseer of Cattle in Egypt to Shaping Welsh Identity: Tangible Objects and Their Biographies As medium of Intangible Heritage, Katharina Zinn in Object Biography for Archaeologists II: The Object as Magnet, ASOR Annual Meeting, Atlanta.

June 2015

  • Embodying Plants, Luci Attala, in the Interdisciplinary Research Forum: The Body at Swansea Met.

May 2015

  • The Importance of Being Eaten: Edibility, Blending Boundaries and the Porosity of Relationships Between and Across Species, Luci Attala at the Society of Ethnobiology, Santa Barbara.

April 2015

  • Teaching Anthropology panel, at ASA2015, Exeter University. Panel organised by Luci Attala, with papers by Luci Attala: “Engaging Anthropology: The Importance of ‘Doing’ for Teaching Anthropology”, Eloise Govier: “Vital Material Engagements: Interactions, Participation and the ‘Ticker-Tape’ Art Installation” and Louise Steel: “Experiential Learning: Exploring the Body”

November 2014

  • Isis, Horus and Osiris - a Divine Family in Wales? Object biographies of un-provenanced Egyptian artefacts OR How to create a narrative of objects in the Egyptian collection of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum, Merthyr Tydfil, Katharina Zinn, in Object Biography for Archaeologists I: A Practical Workshop, ASOR Annual Meeting, San Diego.


Our vibrant research culture encompasses numerous conferences and workshops at Lampeter and book launches for our most recent publications. We also have weekly seminars where staff and post-graduate students present their ongoing research alongside invited speakers from the UK and overseas.

5 June 2019

  • Book launch of How Water Makes Us Human: the Materiality of Water (UWP) by Luci Attala and Body Matters: Exploring the MAteriality of the Human Body (Uwp) edited by Luci Attala and Louise Steel in our “Past Peoples” Seminar Series.

29 May 2019

  • Book launch of The Early Selukids, their Gods and Their Coins (Routledge) by Kyle Erickson in our “Past Peoples” Seminar Series.

4-8 September 2017

  • Postgraduate Summer School: ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Materiality, Meaning and Accessibility of Chinese Objects in Local Collections’, organised by Thomas Jansen for the European Association for Chinese Studies.

May 2017

  • “No, I cannot give you ready answers”: Students as Researchers in Embedded Teaching, at the Wales Nexus Conference 2017, The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea. Panel organised by Katharina Zinn, with papers by Luci Attala: ‘Raising the Bar: How Allowing Students to Deliver Lectures Helps Them Academically’; Ros Coard: ‘People, Archaeology of the Dead and how to Bury Yourself Properly: Enriching the archaeology Syllabus with Difficult to Deal with Archaeologies’; Louise Steel: ‘Making Miniature People’; Katharina Zinn: ‘“And What Is This Scrap of Wood …?” OR “How Did the God Lose His Beard?” Inspiring Undergraduate Students for Primary Research and Community Engagement’.

15 February 2017

  • Book launch of Exploring the Materialities of Food‘Stuffs’: Transformations, Symbolic Consumption and Embodiments, edited by Louise Steel and Katharina Zinn (London, New York: Routledge) in our “Past Peoples” Seminar Series.

23 November 2016

  • Hands in Context: Gesture, Communication, and Meaning in Ancient Maya Art and Culture, Dr Amy Maitland, UCL, in our “Past Peoples” Seminar Series.

9 November 2016

  • Materialities, Wrappings and Colours, Dr Lucila Bugallo, Universidad de Buenos Aires & Universidad Nacional de Jujuy, in our “Past Peoples” Seminar Series.

January 2016

  • Vibrant Materialisms in the Ancient Near East, BANEA 2016 @ Lamp. Panel organised by Eloise Govier, with papers by Luci Attala: “An introduction to New Materialisms”, Eloise Govier: “Vital Materialisms at Çatalhöyük”, and Louise Steel: “Mind, Body, Object”.

Autumn Semester 2015

  • “Material Worlds” Seminar Series, Archaeology, History and Anthropology. Papers by Emma-Jayne Abbots, Luci Attala, Penny Dransart, Quentin Drew, Elaine Forde, Eloise Govier, Alex Scott, Louise Steel, Harriett Webster, Katharina Zinn.

May 2014

  • Embodied Encounters: Exploring the Materialities of Food‘Stuffs’, UWTSD Lampeter. Workshop organised by Emma-Jayne Abbots, Louise Steel and Katharina Zinn, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation

May 2011

  • Diwylliant Pethau: The Culture of Things”, UWTSD Lampeter. Workshop organised by Louise Steel and Eloise Govier. 

We work hard to engage audiences not only from our student body and the wider public with our research. Examples of our impact include:

Bore Forest Research Project: A recent student campaign at Lampeter ‘Change 4 Change’ has raised nearly £13,000 towards this project to bring alternative livelihoods to the locals.

In 2015 this project received funding from the Size of Wales tropical reforestation charity to implement a reforestation initiative “Half a Million Trees for Schools” project, working in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Education, the Kenya Forest Service and Aberystwyth University.

In 2014 it was the winner of the UN Gold Star Award in Environmental Impact Category and in the same year received a Welsh Government Grant from the GwirVol International Volunteer Scheme to mount a Wales/Kenya Volunteer Expedition.

In 2013 and 2011 it received funding from the Welsh Government Clean Energy Grant scheme to continue monitoring climate change and the implementation of a women’s forestry project in rural Kenya and in 2010 was funded by the Welsh government’s Wales/Africa Community Links.

Arediou Hidden Pasts Project: as part of this project we have run a number of hands-on interactive sessions looking at artefacts from the excavations at Arediou with the local school. We have also developed teaching materials about the archaeological site and excavations for use in teh local school.

Cyfarftha Castle Egypt Project: Welsh Heritage and the Regional Community Museum

Annual exhibitions of material from the Southey and his “Oriental Collection” at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum have been run in Lampeter (Roderic Bowen library) and at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum museum since 2012.

These run in conjunction with public lectures and workshop activities with the local secondary schools in Lampeter and Merthyr Tydfil. A centenary exhibition for the arrival of the collection at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum is planned for March 2017:

  • March 2017. Harry Hartley Southey and his “Oriental Collection”, Cyfarthfa Castle Museum, Merthyr Tydfil (in preparation)
  • May / June 2016. Six feet under? Funerary aspects of Egyptian culture, Roderic Bowen Libraries and Archive, UWTSD
  • May 2014. FoodStuffs – Food in time and space: Egypt – China – Wales - Roderic Bowen Libraries and Archive, UWTSD (in conjunction with the Embodied Foodstuffs workshop)
  • July 2013. History, Politics and Kingship: Ancient Egypt and China in Merthyr Tydfil” - Roderic Bowen Libraries and Archive, UWTSD
  • June 2012. Scarabs and Dragons – A taste of Ancient Egypt in Lampeter, Roderic Bowen Libraries and Archive, UWTSD

Our research is embedded in our teaching and several modules incorporate practical engagement with Materialities theory through seminars and workshops.

Here students have the chance to experience and reflect upon making ancient bread, Bronze Age wine ceremonies, making figurines, creating Minoan wall paintings, hands-on engagement with ancient Egyptian artefacts and making/shaping plastics, to highlight but a few.

Our materially-engaged modules include:

  • Interactions with the Environment: Making Things, Transforming Things
  • Thinking Through Archaeology
  • Thinking with Things
  • Materialities in Anthropology
  • Funerary Beliefs in Ancient Egypt

Yilan Pot

Cypriot Copper Slag

Kenya Water