The Studentship:  ‘Army communities at Roman Richborough: an analysis of the Roman military assemblage’

The Richborough archive collection, held by English Heritage, is one of the most important and extensive assemblages of Roman material in Britain, yet since excavation in the early twentieth century it has been very little studied. The studentship provides an opportunity to research this material, focusing on the military assemblage, but including everyday objects as well as specifically military equipment.

The key research question is as follows: How does the artefact assemblage of small finds from Roman Richborough contribute to our understanding of the military site, its occupants, and the wider nature of the Roman military in the NW provinces of the empire? There is scope to develop the project according to the student’s particular interests for instance by focusing on particular methodological approaches or categories of material.

The student will also participate in the redisplay project at Richborough site museum during the course of the PhD.

At the end of the 3-Year studentship period there will be a six-month placement with English Heritage Dover. The student will work on an access display to complement the redisplay at the Richborough site museum and participate in other relevant public engagement activities. The placement thus provides an opportunity for the student to gain hands-on experience in relevant work-based skills for a career in heritage.

The studentship will be supervised by Dr Ellen Swift (Senior Lecturer, University of Kent) and Joanne Gray (Collections Curator, English Heritage Dover)


Due to restrictions on the funding this studentship is open to UK/EU students who meet the residency requirements set out in the RCUK Conditions of Research Council Training Grants.

The successful candidate will have:

  1. a First Class or 2.1 degree at undergraduate level in an appropriate subject such as Archaeology, History, or Classical Studies
  2. a recognised postgraduate qualification (e.g. M.A. or M.Sc.) in Archaeology, normally at distinction level, or equivalent programme of research training/substantial relevant experience
  3. proven research ability in archaeology
  4. a track record of strong academic performance
  5. strong motivation, and potential for ongoing intellectual development
  6. an ability to work both independently, and as part of a team
  7. potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in the areas of heritage and museums.

How to apply

Candidates will need to apply for a PhD at the University of Kent, clearly indicating that the application is for the AHRC/Historic England Collaborative Doctoral Award (Richborough). 

As part of your application, you will need to include

  • An individualised research proposal, in which you amplify the proposal set out below. You should set out your contribution to the project research design and how the project topic will be tailored to your particular strengths and research interests.
  •  two references from external referees.
  • a writing sample.

Application deadline: 12 May 2016

Interviews will take place on 23 May 2016

Details of award

The award pays fees up to the value of the full time home/EU rate for PhD degrees as well as full maintenance (UK citizens and residents only). The value of the stipend is yet to be confirmed, however for 2016/17 it is likely to be £14,296 plus an additional £550 stipend payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students. For more information see

The student is eligible to receive up to £6000 for additional travel and related expenses during the course of the project (£2000 per year) and full maintenance will also be paid during the 6 month placement at the end of the project.

Research Proposal

Aims and Objectives: the project will

  1. transform our understanding of Richborough fort, its community and activities, and its diverse cultural influences and connections across the Roman Empire
  2. contribute significantly to the documentation of the EH collections from Richborough
  3. enhance visitor and stakeholder experience and knowledge of Richborough through contributions to the site redisplay, access display at Dover, and other impact activities.

The key research question is as follows: How does the artefact assemblage of small finds from Roman Richborough contribute to our understanding of the military site, its occupants, and the wider nature of the Roman military in the NW provinces of the empire?

Outline of research methodology: the student will:

1) Undertake a thorough literature review of relevant material including the published excavation reports and other mentions of Richborough artefacts in published literature. [Year 1].

2) Compile a detailed and scholarly catalogue of selected small finds categories including accurate artefact identification, photographs, and catalogue entries. In this the student will be aided considerably by a basic summary list of the material already extant. Military artefacts will form a substantial part of the study, but the student will also include artefacts relating to everyday army life at Richborough, such as craft tools from relevant contexts/locations within the site. [Year 1]. 

3) Undertake analysis and interpretation of the material using appropriate and up-to-date research methodologies such as contextual analysis, spatial analysis, 3-D scanning, XRF analysis, investigation of reuse and repair, consideration of wear marks, and analysis of functional features. [Years 2-3].

4) Write up results and set the artefact assemblage within its wider context by making comparisons with other sites, especially those with detailed and well-published studies of military assemblages, such as Dura Europos (James 2004). [Year 3].

Scope for contribution by student to project design:

Following preliminary research the student will have significant input into the particular types of objects studied, and will have scope to develop their own analytical framework incorporating relevant specific research methodologies as outlined above.

Please ensure you submit your application in good time so that your referees can complete their references by the deadline date.