Dr. Duncan Sayer

Dr. Duncan Sayer

Reader in Archaeology

School of Forensic and Applied Sciences

Maudland Building, MB134

+44 (0) 1772 89 4175


Subject Areas: Archaeology

Duncan is Honorary Treasurer for the Society of Medieval Archaeology and is Vice Chair for the advisory panel of the CIfA. He is primarily an historical archaeologist with an interest in early medieval society and post-medieval religion. He has published on ethics and burial archaeology, kinship systems, generational time, and mortuary practice. His Bones Bodies and Burials campaign was influential in preventing the destruction of archaeological collections. Duncan recently directed a major research excavation at Oakington, investigating an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery and landscape. This project is now complete and Duncan is working on a new project at Ribchester with Dr James Morris.

Full Profile

Duncan has a background in commercial archaeology, academic archaeology and interdisciplinary. He has a particular interest in using modern sociology and science together to understand past societies and believes archaeologist must be aware of the wider social landscapes within which they work, both ancient and modern. He has an interest in public communication, and deliberately excavated human remains at Oakington without screens so that anyone can witness the professional treatment of ancient skeletons by archaeology students. He has been interviewed on a number of BBC Radio programmes, including BBC Radio 4’s flagship social science programme 'Thinking Allowed' and ‘Material World'. 

Duncan has a number of research interests that result from his work with early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. These include: Anglo-Saxon artefacts and metal recycling, ancient DNA, the effects of reburial on human remains, maternal mortality, generational chronologies and the human experience. He is also interested in post-medieval religion as it manifests in cemetery space, particularly religious conflict and identity.

Duncan has taught at the Universities of Reading, Chester, Oxford and Bath and won a School of Forensic and Applied Sciences award for excellence in teaching and learning in 2011. He is an associate of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath and has an undergraduate degree in 'Archaeology and Prehistory' from the University of Sheffield (2000), a masters in 'Death and Society' from the University of Reading (2002) and a PhD in archaeology from the University of Reading (2007). Before coming to UCLan Duncan worked as a senior commercial archaeology in London, Yorkshire, East Anglia and the Home Counties. He has excavated a number of notable cemetery sites and has been teaching field archaeology for over 12 years.

Duncan was invited to partake in a podcast for The Conversation in December 2017, debunking myths about the Anglo Saxons that some present-day alt-right movements still hold true.  The podcast is entitled ‘Anthill 20: Myths’. The text version was published under the title ‘Why the idea that the English have a common Anglo-Saxon origin is a myth’


Journal publications

Sayer, D. (2014) ‘Sons of athelings given to the earth’: infant mortality within Anglo-Saxon mortuary geography. Medieval Archaeology 58: 83-109

Sayer, D. (2013) Two Viking ship burials and the transience of situational ethics: Comments on Asgeir Svestad: What happened in Neiden? Norwegian Archaeology Review 46(2): 9-11

Sayer, D. & Dickinson, S.D. (2013) Reconsidering Obstetric Death and Female Fertility in Anglo-Saxon England World Archaeology 45(2): 285-297

Sayer, D. & Dickinson, S.D. (2013) Death and the Anglo-Saxon Mother. British Archaeology 132: 30-35.

Sayer, D. & Wienhold, M. (2013) A GIS-investigation of Four Early Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries: Ripley’s K-Function analysis of spatial groupings amongst graves. Social Science Computer Review 31(1):70-88


King, C. & Sayer, D. (eds) (2011). The Archaeology of Post-Medieval Religion. Woodbridge, Boydell.

Sayer, D. (2010) Ethics and Burial Archaeology. London, Duckworth.

Sayer, D. & Williams, H. (eds) (2009). Mortuary Practice and Social Identities in the Middle Ages. Exeter, The Exeter University Press.

More publications


Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
Member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists
Founding member and Officer for the Association for the Study of Death and Society
Council Member of the Society of Medieval Archaeology
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Research Activities


Oakington early Anglo-Saxon cemetery
Bones with out Barriers
Archaeology Family and Funerary Space


Duncan is module tutor for: 'Professional Practice', 'Roman and Post-Roman Archaeology', 'Bones Bodies and Burials' and 'Life and Death in the Middle Ages'. He contributes to the 'History of Archaeological Thought', 'Thinking about the Past' and 'Introduction to Archaeology'.

External Activities

Associated with the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.


Duncan regularly contributes to international conferences including Sachensymposium, the European Archaeology Association, Society for American Archaeology and the European Society for Anthropological Sciences. He has also contributed to Current Archaeology Live, The Higher Education Academy training workshops and the Theoretical Archaeology Group.