Helena Hamerow

Helena Francisca Hamerow, FSA (born 18 September 1961) is an American-born archaeologist, best known for her work on the archeology of early medieval communities in Northwestern Europe. She is Professor of Early Medieval archaeology and former Head of the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford.

Helena Hamerow

Born1961 (age 60–61)[1]
  • Archaeologist
  • professor
Academic background
EducationUniversity of Oxford
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Academic work
Notable worksThe Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (2011)

Early life and educationEdit

The daughter of Theodore S. Hamerow, Hamerow attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1979 to 1983, where she earned a BA in Anthropology. She continued her education at the University of Oxford, where she completed her PhD in 1988.[2][3]

Academic careerEdit

She was a Mary Somerville research fellow at Somerville College until 1990. In 1991, she was appointed as a lecturer in Early medieval archaeology at Durham University. In 1996, Hamerow returned to Oxford as Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology, where she continues today. She is also a Fellow of St Cross College, where she was Vice-Master from 2005 to 2008. She was Head of the School of Archaeology from 2010 to 2013.[2]

Hamerow an elected member of the Council of the University of Oxford.[4]


Hamerow's research centres on the archaeology of rural communities during the Anglo-Saxon era, specifically the impact on farmers and the early medieval settlements by the founding of monasteries, kingdoms and towns.[5] She has researched and written on the settlement archaeology of the North Sea regions from the period 400—900 AD. She has participated in several projects on the Upper Thames Valley during the Anglo-Saxon period, notably at Sutton Courtenay and Dorchester-on-Thames.[6] Hamerow is currently leading a four year project funded by the European Research Council (ERC): Feeding Anglo-Saxon England: The Bioarchaeology of an Agricultural Revolution. The project's aim is to investigate the "agricultural revolution" that occurred in Europe between 800 and 1200 AD, as a result of the expansion of cereal farming.[7]

Hamerow is co-Director of the ongoing excavation at Dorchester-on-Thames, the Discovering Dorchester research project. She was instrumental in the project's design in 2007 and has continued to co-lead the project since the beginning. The project is sponsored by three co-partners: Oxford's School of Archeology, Oxford Archaeology, and the Dorchester Museum. The site is notable for the large quantity of important archeological remains dating from the prehistoric period to the medieval era.[8]

Hamerow is Principal Investigator (PI) of the multi-disciplinary project, Origins of Wessex, which has been investigating the development of the kingdom of Wessex in the Upper Thames Valley. The area is renowned for its heavy concentrations of Anglo-Saxon archaeology. The project team is currently excavating a large Anglo-Saxon settlement at Long Wittenham in Oxfordshire. The site is well known for having an exceptionally furnished Anglo-Saxon cemetery and many large Anglo-Saxon buildings.[9]


British televisionEdit

Hamerow has appeared on BBC Four's Digging for Britain in 2010 and King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons in 2013.[5] From 2008 to 2010, she appeared on two episodes of the long-running archaeology TV series, Time Team.[10]

Open letter to the GuardianEdit

In 2008, the British government announced that all human remains uncovered during archaeological excavations in England and Wales were to be reburied within two years.[11] In 2011, Hamerow was one of forty leading archaeologists who published an open letter to the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke in the Guardian, asking for more time to study ancient human remains found in archaeological excavations. Later that year, in response to the letter, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) began issuing licences to museums, allowing them to keep human remains for analysis. They also renewed negotiations with representatives of English Heritage and the Institute for Archaeologists to develop a new policy for the retention and burial of human remains.[11]

Awards and honoursEdit

Hamerow was elected as a Fellow to the Society of Antiquaries of London in May, 1996.[12] She is a Commissioner of Historic England, a former President of the Society for Medieval Archaeology and Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute. .[3]

Selected publicationsEdit


  • Hamerow, Helena; MacGregor, Arthur, eds. (2001). Image and Power in the Archaeology of Early Medieval Britain: Essays in Honour of Rosemary Cramp. Oxford: Oxbow. ISBN 978-1842170519.
  • Hamerow, Helena (2002). Early Medieval Settlements: the Archaeology of Rural Settlements in Northwest Europe 400-900. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199273188.
  • Hamerow, Helena; Hinton, David; Crawford, Sally (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (Oxford Handbooks). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199212149.
  • Hamerow, Helena (2012). Rural Settlements and Society in Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199203253.



  1. ^ "Birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media. 18 Sep 2014. p. 39.
  2. ^ a b About the Author. ISBN 0198723121.
  3. ^ a b "Professor Helena Hamerow". Historic England. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Members of Council". Univ. of Oxford Governance and Planning. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Professor Helena Hamerow". Univ of Oxford News and Events. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  6. ^ "Helena Hamerow". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Feeding Anglo-Saxon England (FeedSax): The Bioarchaeology of an Agricultural Revolution". University of Leicester. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Discovering Dorchester-on-Thames". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  9. ^ "The Origins of Wessex". University of Oxford School of Archaeology. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Helena Hamerow". IMDB. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  11. ^ a b Pearson, Mike; Schadla-Hall, Tim; Moshenka, Gabe (2011). "Resolving the Human Remains Crisis in British Archaeology". Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. 21: 5. doi:10.5334/pia.369. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Helena Francisca Hamerow". Society of Antiquaries London. Retrieved 22 May 2020.