Dr Ruth Nugent

Research Associate and Visiting Lecturer

I am an archaeologist specialising in the various mortuary cultures of England since the 5th century AD through to the modern day.


I have a passion for collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and digital humanities in my research, as well as new and engaging teaching methods in archaeology and related fields. I have been a visiting lecturer at the University of Chester since 2010/2011, and at the University of Manchester since 2012.


I have contributed to the teaching of the following modules:

  • Debates in World Archaeology

  • Introduction to Archaeological Practice

  • The Archaeology of Cult and Belief

  • The Archaeology of Human Remains / Death and Burial

  • Archaeology and Contemporary Society

  • The Shaping of Britain

  • The Mystery of History

  • Europe and the Wider World: turning points in history 1000-2000


My main research focus is mortuary archaeology, especially in England, from the Anglo-Saxon period to the modern day. My MPhil thesis explored the many ways in which the abject nature of the dead body in early Anglo-Saxon England (5th-7th centuries AD) was mediated by mourners through artefacts, textiles, microboundaries, bodily positions and gestures (etc.) as a way of coping with the grief and inevitable decay or destruction of someone they loved.

My doctoral thesis (funded by the Leverhulme Trust Speaking with the Dead project) expanded on this theme of the bodiliness and corporeality of the dead by examining how human remain, burial spaces, tombs and monuments have been physically encountered by the living inside English cathedrals, from the 7th century to the present day.  It is particularly concerned with the nature of touching and handling the dead and their monuments, which included case studies on tangible interactions with medieval saints’ remains; early modern iconoclasm, theft, and graffiti of the dead; 18th and 19th century tomb openings and ‘death tourism’; and modern-day strategies for commemorating and encountering the known and unknown cathedral dead.

Thus, the infinitely variable and complex perceptions of the human body, both living and dead, is at the centre of my mortuary research:

  • How the absence or presence of the dead in different mortuaryscapes has been navigated by different generations over long periods of time

  • How the living have attempted to orchestrate inherited mortuaryscapes, with reference to the past, present, and future as they understood it;

  • How different types of haptic (touch-based) culture has influenced how, why, and by whom the dead are handled

  • How and why built spaces (from buildings to burials) express, facilitate, or deny the (in)tangible nature of bodies and the myriad beliefs surrounding them


Published work

Nugent, R. & Williams, H. (2012). ‘Sighted surfaces: ocular agency in early Anglo-Saxon cremation burials’. In I-M Back Danielsson, F. Fahlander & Y. Sjöstrand (Eds.) Encountering Imagery. Materialities, Perceptions, Relations (pp. 187-208). Stockholm: Stockholm Studies in Archaeology 57.

Nugent, R. (2012). Feathered Funerals: Birds in Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Rites Medieval Archaeology 55.

Forthcoming Work

Murietta-Flores, P., Nugent, R., & Pop, S. (Forthcoming). ‘Developing Computational Approaches for Historical Graffiti’ Antiquaries Journal.

Nugent, R. (Forthcoming). ‘Emotion and the Senses’. In J. Day & R. Skeates (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. London: Routledge.

Nugent, R. (Forthcoming 2018). ‘Navigating Tensions and Terrains of the Dislocated Cathedral Dead’. In P. Schwyzer (Ed.) Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space.

Nugent, R. (Forthcoming 2018). ‘Graffiti in English Cathedrals: A Photo Essay’. In P. Schwyzer (Ed.) Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space.

Nugent, R. & Murietta-Flores, P. (Forthcoming 2017). ‘English Cathedral Monuments over the longue durée’. In P. Schwyzer (Ed.) Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space.

Nugent, R. (In Press, 2017). ‘Two of a Kind: Conceptual Similarities between Cremation and Inhumation in Early Anglo-Saxon England.’ In J. I. Cerezo-Román, A. Wessman & H. Williams (Eds.) Cremation in European Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

B. Jervis, B. Hausmair, R. Nugent & E. Williams (Eds.) (In Press, 2017). Archaeologies of Rules and Regulations. Oxford: Berghahn.

Nugent, R. (In Press, 2017). ‘Shakespearian Space-Men: Spatial Rules in London’s Early Playhouses’. In B. Jervis, B. Hausmair, R. Nugent & E. Williams (Eds.), Archaeologies of Rules and Regulations. Oxford: Berghahn.

Book Reviews

Nugent, R. (Forthcoming 2017). Book Review: Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia, edited by Michael D.J. Bintley and Thomas J.T. Williams. Antiquaries Journal.

Nugent, R. (2012). Book Review: ‘The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology’, edited by Helena Hamerow, David A. Hinton and Sally Crawford. Archaeological Journal, 169

Nugent, R. (2012). Book review: ‘Re(Thinking) the Little Ancestor: new perspectives on the archaeology of infancy and childhood’, edited by Mike Lally and Alison Moore. Archaeological Journal, 169.

Nugent, R. (2012). Book Review: ‘The Archaeology of the East Anglian Conversion’, by Richard Hoggett. Archaeological Journal 167.