Shutting Sheffield is a Disgrace

The decision of the University of Sheffield to close its world-leading department of archaeology can only be described as short-sighted.


The UK has long been regarded as a pioneer of archaeological practice and technology, with universities often being at the forefront of new research.


At a time when funding for archaeological research and for the heritage sector in general is tight, willingly abdicating a world-class reputation, facilities and academic knowledge risks the future of countless research projects at sites of tremendous historical importance - the (at times literally) ground-breaking study being undertaken Sheffield Archaeological Department at Stonehenge being but one.


Archaeology is one of our most powerful tools for understanding who we are and where we come from. It is not about treasure hunting or harking back to the past. From studying social change and standards of living to learning how societies coped with the challenges of pandemics and climate change, by understanding the journey from the past to the present, archaeology compels us to consider our own decisions as we journey from the present to the future.

Archaeology is one of our most powerful tools for understanding who we are and where we come from.

It is a discipline that inspires and it is one of human connection. Through archaeology we can reach out and literally touch the world of our ancestors. In doing so, it puts our lives in context. We do not live in temporal isolation anymore than we live in geographic isolation. Severing the links to the past cuts ties to cultures and ideas different from but deeply rooted in our own.


The University of Sheffield’s decision to close a highly esteemed department is not only a grotesque act of academic self harm that has already caused international outrage. It underlines a hubris that we have nothing to learn from our past.


First published in Current Archaeology, July 2021.