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Dr Jo McKenzie

PositionHonorary Visiting Research Fellow
DepartmentSchool of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences
Blog AddressVisit my blog

Teaching and Supervisory Responsibilities


  • Module co-coordinator: Humans Past and Present (Level 1)
  • Supervision of undergraduate projects


  • PhD student supervision


Currently Project Manager of the Broxmouth Project, funded by Historic Scotland.

Study History

BA Hons Archaeology and Classics, 1994, University of Nottingham

She spent several years in commercial archaeology before coming to Bradford for an AHRB-funded MA (Archaeological Sciences, 2000).

She continued to Scotland to undertake her Ph.D. research (‘Deep anthropogenic topsoils in Scotland: A geoarchaeological and historical investigation into distribution, character, and conservation under modern land cover’: University of Stirling, 2006).

Professional History

Jo returned to Bradford in 2008 after a period of post-doctoral and consultancy work as a geoarchaeologist and soil micromorphologist.

Research Areas

Jo’s Ph.D. research was undertaken at the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Stirling, and focused on past agricultural practices in Scotland and their role in the creation of anthropogenic topsoils; i.e. soils created and/or altered by human activity.

Such soils retain in both their physical and chemical makeup significant indicators for past human activities such as arable cultivation, animal husbandry and specific aspects of land management, such as manuring. Typically located within cultivable land parcels, these soils continue as a natural focus for present-day agricultural activity.

Funded by Historic Scotland, the project focused on the geographical distribution and historical context of anthropogenic topsoils throughout Scotland and the Isles, and used this information to investigate the impact of modern-day land cover and agricultural activity on the archaeo-historical information these soils retain.

The increasing role of environmental, especially soils-based, scientific data in shaping the archaeological narrative prompts continuing debate on the ability of current theoretical frameworks to integrate environmental and historical cultural information at a level necessary not only to construct holistic interpretations of the typically interdisciplinary studies within this research area, but also to frame effective culturally sensitive environmental policies for the future.

The focus of this project upon the role played by the soil cultural resource in shaping both the urban and rural historic landscape contributed to the ongoing debate on how conservation in this area might be more effectively achieved.

Jo is a specialist in geoarchaeological and soil micromorphological techniques, and has contributed to a number of excavation reports and publications in this field.

At Bradford, Jo is Project Manager and Postdoctoral Researcher for the Broxmouth Project, a major Historic Scotland funded research project whose aim is to publish the results of the excavation of Broxmouth Iron Age Hillfort.

Located to the south-east of Edinburgh on the East Lothian plain, the site of Broxmouth was destroyed by quarrying in 1978, after an 18-month rescue excavation which was the biggest of its time and is still the most complete excavation of a Scottish hillfort.

This complex site - a multi-ditched and reworked defensive circuit surrounding a palimpsest of settlement structures - produced a wealth of material. Extensive artefact and environmental assemblages were recovered from both the site interior and the defensive circuit, and a series of inhumation burials coupled with fragmentary human remains from midden contexts confirm Broxmouth as a potentially significant contributor to the meagre evidence for Iron Age burial practice in SE Scotland.

2008 saw the Broxmouth archive come to Bradford for a three-year programme of reassessment, analysis and publication which brings together a wide-ranging team of specialists within Bradford's School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences as well as several of the original field and post-excavation staff, under the Directorship of Professor Ian Armit.

The project is further supported by three AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award projects (Lindsey Buster, Mhairi Maxwell and Rachael Reader), under the supervision of Professor Ian Armit, Dr. Jo McKenzie and Dr. Noel Fojut of Historic Scotland. These projects focus on specific aspects of the site (settlement structures, artefact assemblages, and landscape) to form a coordinated research programme which uses work at Broxmouth and elsewhere as a platform to advance our understanding of the Iron Age in SE Scotland and beyond.

The Broxmouth Project also aims to explore the difficulties inherent in such ‘backlog’ projects, where analysis and interpretation are hampered by relict, often incomplete datasets, and prior, often outdated, methodological approaches. Broxmouth explores the university partnership approach as a model for tackling these projects, as providing increased opportunities for effective research collaboration and enhanced outputs for both individuals and organisations.

Current Projects

She is currently involved in geoarchaeological research as part of:

  • The Dùn Èistean Archaeology Project, Isle of Lewis
  • Contributor to the environmental arm of the Viking Unst Project based in Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford


  • McKenzie, J. in press. Soil Micromorphology. In S. Jones, H. James, S. Foster and I. A. Henderson (ed.) Fragmented Masterpiece: recovering the biography of the Hilton of Cadboll cross-slab: Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
  • McKenzie, J.T. 2009. Soil Micromorphology. In Henderson I., Foster, S., James, H. and Jones, S. A (eds) Fragmented Masterpiece: recovering the biography of the Hilton of Cadboll Pictish cross-slab. Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
  • McKenzie, J. 2008. The Soils. In O. Lelong and G. MacGregor (ed.) The Lands of Ancient Lothian: Interpreting the Archaeology of the A1: Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
  • McKenzie, J. 2007. Manuring practices in Scotland: deep anthropogenic soils and the historical record. In B. Ballin Smith, S. Taylor and G. Williams (ed.) West Over Sea: Studies In Scandinavian Sea-Borne Expansion And Settlement Before 1300: 401-417. Leiden: Brill (Northern World Series)
  • Thomas, J., I. Simpson & D. Davidson 2007. GIS mapping of anthropogenic soils in Scotland: investigating the location and vulnerability of Scottish plaggen-type soils. Atti Societa Toscana Scienze Naturali Serie A 112: 85-90
  • Dercon, G., D. A. Davidson, K. Dalsgaard, I. A. Simpson, T. Spek & J. Thomas 2006. Formation of sandy anthropogenic soils in NW Europe: identification of inputs based on particle size distribution. Catena 59: 341-356
  • Forster, A. K., J. Thomas & S. J. Dockrill 2004. 2 Spatial Analysis and Cultural Indicators; Viking settlers at Old Scatness Broch. In J. Hines, A. Lane and M. Redknap (ed.) Land, Sea, and Home: Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph No. 20. 219-233. London: Society for Medieval Archaeology




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