Dr Kenny Brophy
- Senior Lecturer (Archaeology)
My primary research interests lie in the British Neolithic, both in terms of studying that period in itself, but also in the impact that Neolithic sites, monuments and discoveries have on contemporary society. I also have a passion for research and activities that impact on the wider public, and strongly believe that our prehistoric heritage has contemporary relevance and can benefit society. All of my projects are now developed with social impact in mind. My key research interests can be summarised under several headings:
Scotland 4000BC - 2000BC
The Neolithic period, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age of Scotland was a period of dynamic change and great diversity, and I have been studying various aspects of these periods for over 20 years. I have always had a deep interest in marginal or understudied areas of study, whether in terms of geographical areas, or site and monument types. Hence my focus over the years on topics as diverse as cursus monuments, multiple stone rows, settlement sites and pits, and my particular research and fieldwork focus has been mainland Scotland. I have also spent much effort interpreting and excavating a wide range of cropmark sites across eastern and southern Scotland.
In the 2000s I directed or co-directed a number of important excavations, including Claish early Neolithic timber hall in Stirling (with Gordon Barclay and Gavin MacGregor), Carsie Mains late Neolithic rectangular timber setting (with Gordon Barclay) and Brownsbank hengiform, South Lanarkshire (with Gordon Noble). During this period two major fieldwork projects emerged. Firstly, the Multiple Stone Rows of Northern Scotland project (in collaboration with Amelia Pannett, Andrew Baines, Steve Mills and Alex Carnes) which focused on a much neglected and remarkable series of stone rows in Caithness and Sutherland. This project has included the first excavation of a set of multiple stone rows in northern Scotland since 1865, at Battle Moss, as well as the discovery and excavation of a kerb cairn / beaker burial. A monograph on this project is in preparation, and further fieldwork is planned.
From 2006 onwards, I have co-directed (with Steve Driscoll, Ewan Campbell, Tessa Poller and Gordon Noble) the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot (SERF) Project in Perth and Kinross. This internationally renowned project has a landscape and multi-period scale, and for my part work has focused on the massive monument complexes of Forteviot and Leadketty, as well as a cairn at Millhaugh. This has resulted in one of the most comprehensive radiocarbon dating sequences for any prehistoric complex in mainland Scotland, and the project has made some significant discoveries, notable a Bronze Age cist found at Forteviot in 2009, which contained Meadowsweet flower heads. A number of papers in peer-reviewed journal have reported on the project to date, and two monographs are in preparation.
The publication of my book Reading between the lines: the Neolithic cursus monuments of Scotland (Routledge, 2015) reflects, in a sense, the closure of my engagement (for the time being at least) with Neolithic ceremonial enclosures. Over the past few years I have increasingly focused on the everyday in Neolithic life, with thorough reviews of settlement evidence and Neolithic pits published, and projects in development reflect this shift in my focus.
I have long held an interest in the ways that Neolithic sites, monuments and traces manifest themselves in our modern landscapes, and in particular the juxtaposition when these occur in urban landscapes. These offer wonderful opportunities for community and public engagement, and since 2012 I have been developing a broad range of projects and approaches that I have labelled Urban Prehistory. My main portal for disseminating my thoughts on this topic is the Urban Prehistorian blog which has over 1000 followers, and my twitter feed (@urbanprehisto). As well as documenting examples of urban places with prehistoric aspects, I have also embarked on a number of projects, from fieldwork and excavation, to educational work, to community engagement. For instance, since 2014 I have been working with teachers at St Mungo’s High School, Falkirk, to deliver teaching People and Society modules on decision-making with relation to urban prehistory sites, while I am also working with Education Scotland to develop teaching resources for secondary school teachers across Scotland in relation to a Neolithic monument complex in a housing estate in Fife, Balfarg. Excavations at the buried Cochno Stone (in an urban park in West Dunbartonshire), and ongoing activities at the Sighthill stone circle, Glasgow, are two further ongoing projects.
In no small part, this research strand has developed due to my fruitful collaboration with various colleagues in a group we call Cycletree (Chris Dalglish, Helen Green, Gavin MacGregor, Alan Leslie and Aphrodite Sorotou). We are founder member of the European Network for Archaeology and Integrated Landscape Research, a network of researchers and practitioners from across Europe with an interest in developing projects in which the past of landscapes can help shape the future of landscapes for people across Europe.
Psychogeography and other experiential approaches
Over the past few years, I have been increasingly using methods and ideas from psychogeography in archaeology, an innovative extension of the phenomenological research I carried out earlier in my career. This has crystallised through various activities, including urban prehistory but also more performative aspects of my practice. My starting point is that archaeological practice should be predicated on the acknowledgement that our archaeological experiences are mediated through the modern landscape – usually in the form of ruins – as well as our bodily and sensory engagements. Therefore, our interpretations of the past are filtered through the appearance of sites, monuments and other traces of the past, in the present. The juxtaposition of the past in the present is at the very heart of archaeology, and reflects various activities that we regularly undertake as archaeologists – walking, using and making maps, phenomenology and so on. Such embodied approaches are an attempt to deal with our engagements with the ruined traces of the past in the present.
As well as urban prehistory, I am developing more performative and public-facing aspects to my research, notably in collaboration with Gavin MacGregor. The main focus of our work to date has been a series of ‘build and burn’ events, where we combine soft experimental archaeology (building timber structures with Neolithic allusions) and public spectacle (burning down these structures at dusk). Increasingly, these events have drawn on performance theory and practice, and we have built collaborations with musicians, historians and performers. To date we have carried out three events, two in Arran (Burning the Circle) and one in Caithness (Andersonfest) – in each case combining our activities with prehistoric festivals. I have also been experimenting with staged and semi-planned walks, usually connecting two prehistoric sites, in an effort to subvert the order of modern rural and urban landscapes.
SERF (Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot Project)
2006-present: This longterm landscape fieldwork project has received grant support from a wide range of organisations since its inception in 2006, with major funders including Historic Scotland, the British Academy and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. I am co-PI for this project with my colleagues Steve Driscoll and Ewan Campbell, and between 2006-2012 with Gordon Noble (University of Glasgow). Grant capture for this project has to date amounted to some £325,000.
CLE (Sustainable Integration of the Rural Cultural Landscapes of Europe)
2012: AHRC European Proposal Support Fund grant (£9,510) to support development of a proposal for submission for European Commission FP7 funding. Development of the SIRCLE project was led by Chris Dalglish and I (University of Glasgow), Alan Leslie and Gavin MacGregor (Northlight Heritage) and Aphrodite Sorotou (Med-INA, Greece), and involved a further 12 partners in the UK, Greece, Spain, Italy and Malta.
Transforming Practice: inter-disciplinary research into the philosophies, methods and impacts of the ways in which we value landscape
2010-11: Research workshop series funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (£8,250), the Landscape Research Group (£1,530) and the University of Glasgow College of Arts Strategic Research Allocation (£800). This inter-disciplinary workshop series brought together some 60 participants from universities, professional practice, NGOs, government agencies and other public bodies to evaluate trends in landscape research, practice and policy. I co-organised the project with Chris Dalglish (University of Glasgow) and Alan Leslie and Gavin MacGregor of Northlight Heritage.
European Network for Archaeology & Integrated Landscape Research: Knowledge Exchange & Project Development Workshop
2013-14: funding from the University of Glasgow’s College of Arts Strategic Research Allocation and College of Arts Business Development Fund (total: £1,927) to support a three-day workshop. I am co-organising this workshop with Chris Dalglish (University of Glasgow) and Alan Leslie and Gavin MacGregor (Northlight Heritage), on behalf of the European Network for Archaeology & Integrated Landscape Research – a network of archaeologists and others from 11 countries, working in universities, research institutes, SMEs, NGOs, government agencies and other public bodies.
Reading between the lines: the Neolithic cursus monuments of Scotland
2010: A period of funded research leave in 2010, supported by the AHRC to match institutional study leave (PI, £27840), the outcome of this project was the culmination of over a decade of research into Scotland’s early Neolithic cursus monuments, with publication pending.
I am currently supervising the following PhD candidates:
I would welcome applications for PhD and Masters research in the following areas:
- Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Scotland
- Themes related to monumentality and landscape in prehistory
- Aerial archaeology (in particular working with cropmarks)
- The application of experiential approaches to archaeology (such as phenomenology and psychogeography)
- Level 1: Archaeology of Scotland
- Level 2:
- Archaeology in Theory and Practice (convenor)
- Level 2: Archaeology of Europe and the Mediterranean
- Theory and Interpretion in Archaeology
- The British Neolithic (convenor)
- Landscape archaeologies past and present (convenor)
- Portfolio of Practical work
- Archaeological Studies programme (convenor)