School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology

Profile of Professor Nancy Edwards BA (Liv) PhD (Dunelm) FSA FLSW

Image of Dr Nancy Edwards
Professor Nancy Edwards
Professor of Medieval Archaeology
01248 382154
Room T15 Main Arts


I completed my BA in Archaeology, Ancient and Medieval History at Liverpool University in 1976. I then moved to the University of Durham where I gained a PhD in Archaeology. My thesis was on early medieval sculpture in the Irish Midlands. I was appointed a Lecturer in Early Medieval Archaeology at Bangor in 1979. I was awarded a British Academy Research Leave Fellowship (2006–8) to complete my research on early medieval stone sculpture and inscriptions in Wales. I have also been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford and Clare Hall, Cambridge University.

Areas of Teaching & Supervision

Medieval archaeology, especially Britain and Ireland AD 400–1100.

Courses taught:

Undergraduate An Introduction to Historic Archaeology AD 400–1500; Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Art; The Archaeology of Settlement and Economy in Early Medieval Ireland; Warlords and Holy Men: The Archaeology of Early Medieval Wales
Celtic Archaeology MA The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Celtic Churches; Theory and Interpretation in Celtic Archaeology (shared)

Topics of current and recent research students:

  • The evolution and role of burial practice in Roman Wales
  • The origin and development of Insular geometric letters
  • Aspects of Eucharistic symbolism in early Irish high cross imagery
  • The structure of interlace in insular art c. AD 400–1200
  • Enamelled metalwork in Early Anglo-Saxon England
  • Early medieval sculpture in south-east Ireland: context and function
  • Image and reality in medieval warfare: Wales c.1100–1450
  • The history of archaeology in Wales c1846–1939


My research, much of which is multi-disciplinary, focuses on the archaeology of Britain and Ireland c AD 400–1100. Much of my work has been concentrated on early medieval inscribed stones and stone sculpture, mainly in Wales, but also in Ireland. I have also published extensively on aspects of the archaeology of the early medieval church, especially in Wales. As a result of Project Eliseg I have recently become interested in the archaeology of power and authority and monument biography. I also write about the history of archaeology, especially the work of Edward Lhuyd.

Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales

My major research project has been focused on the completion of A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales, Volume III, North Wales, published by University of Wales Press in 2013. This project was funded by the British Academy, the AHRC and the Cambrian Archaeological Association and is in partnershiop with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. This is the last of three regional volumes, I on South-East Wales and the borders (Mark Redknap and John Lewis) and II on South-West Wales (by myself) were published in 2007.

Project Eliseg

This joint research project with Dr Gary Robinson (Bangor University) and Professor Howard Williams (Chester University) in partnership with Llangollen Museum aims to understand the complex historical and archaeological context of the ninth-century Pillar of Eliseg near Llangollen (Denbighshire). The Pillar was formerly a cross and the lengthy inscription is a piece of propaganda associated with the late eighth- and early ninth-century rulers of Powys (See N. Edwards 2009, ‘Rethinking the Pillar of Eliseg’, Antiquaries Journal, 89, 143–78). Three seasons of excavation (2010–12) have taken place funded by Cadw, the Society of Antiquaries, the Prehistoric Society, the Cambrian Archaeological Association, IMEMS, and the universities of Bangor, Chester and Wales. Excavation has concentrated on the mound on which the Pillar stands and has revealed a multi-phase Early Bronze Age cairn, as well as the 1773 ‘excavation’ of part of the mound before the Pillar was re-erected. For more information, see and Project Eliseg on Facebook and You Tube.

The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Church in Britain and Ireland

I am interested in using a multi-disciplinary approach to study early medieval ecclesiastical sites and related Christian monuments, particularly in Wales, but also in other parts of western and northern Britain and Ireland. I have recently edited a book The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Celtic Churches (2009) and am part of a Leverhulme network investigating the Conversion of the Isles (

The Early Medieval Wales Archaeology Research Group

This group, which I co-ordinate, brings together all those with an interest in the archaeology of Wales c. AD 400–1100. It aims to promote research on early medieval Wales and meets annually to discuss new projects, recent excavations and other discoveries. In 2009 it met at Bangor University to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a multi-disciplinary conference on The Archaeology of Early Medieval Wales – IN CONTEXT’.

Edward Lhuyd (c1660–1709) – antiquary, natural scientist and Celtic linguist

Edward Lhuyd and his associates were responsible for recording many early medieval inscribed stones and pieces of stone sculpture for the first time. I am currently researching his antiquarian contribution. I have also curated, with Emeritus Professor Brynley Roberts, an exhibition to celebrate his diverse achievements at the National Library of Wales in summer 2009.

Key & Recent Publications

Read full list of publications


2013 Edwards, N. (with contributions by J. Horák, H. Jackson, H. McKee, D. N. Parsons and P. Sims-Williams), A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales, Volume III, North Wales, University of Wales Press.

2009 Edwards, N. (ed.) The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Celtic Churches, Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 29 / Society for Church Archaeology Monograph 1, Leeds, Maney, xi + 411 pages, numerous black-and-white and colour illustrations. Includes ‘The archaeology of the early medieval Celtic churches – an introduction’, 1–18.

2007 Edwards, N. (with contributions by H. Jackson, H. McKee and P. Sims-Williams), A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales, Volume II, South-West Wales, University of Wales Press.

2001 Redknap, M., Edwards, N., Youngs, S., Lane, A. and Knight, J., (eds), Pattern and Purpose in Insular Art. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Insular art, Oxbow Books.

1997 Edwards, N., (ed.) Landscape and Settlement in Medieval Wales, Oxbow Monograph 81.

1990 Edwards, N., The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland, Batsford/University of Pennsylvania Press.

1996 paperback edition. 1999, 2001, 2004 reprints by Routledge (now print on demand).

Exhibition Catalogue

2010 Edwards, N. and Roberts, B. F. Edward Lhuyd 1660–1709, University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth, 43pp. numerous colour photos (in Welsh and English).


2013 Edwards, N. ‘The early medieval sculpture of north Wales: context, wealth and patronage’, in J. Hawkes (ed.), Making Histories, Proceedings of the 7th International Insular Art Conference, Donington, Shaun Tyas, 50–64.

2013 Edwards, N., and Gould, J. ‘From antiquarians to archaeologists in nineteenth-century Wales: the question of prehistory’, in N. Evans and H Pryce (eds), Writing a Small Nation’s Past: Wales in Comparative Perspective, 1850–1950, Farnham, Ashgate, 143–63.

2012 Edwards, N. ‘Early Medieval Wales Archaeology Research Group “EMWARG” – the first 25 years’, Archaeology in Wales 51, 129–33.

2012 Edwards, N. 2012 ‘Roman Continuity and reinvention: the early medieval inscribed stones of north Wales’, in W. J. Britnell and R. J. Silvester (eds), Reflections on the Past. Essays in honour of Frances Lynch, Welshpool, Cambrian Archaeological Association, 390–405.

2011 Edwards, N. ‘The decoration of the earliest Welsh manuscripts’, in R. Gameson (ed.), The History of the Book in Britain, Volume I c. 400–1100, Cambridge University Press, 244–8.

2011 Edwards, N. ‘Viking-age sculpture in north-west Wales: wealth, power, patronage and the Christian landscape’, in F. Edmonds and P. Russell (eds), Tome: Studies in Medieval Celtic History and Law in honour of Thomas Charles-Edwards, Woodbridge, 73–87.

2010 Edwards, N. ‘Edward Lhuyd: an archaeologist’s view’, Welsh History Review, 25(1), 20–50.

2010 Edwards, N., Lane, A. and Redknap, M. ‘Early medieval Wales: an updated framework for archaeological research’,

2009 Edwards, N. ‘Rethinking the Pillar of Eliseg’, Antiquaries Journal, 89, 143–78.

2008 Edwards, N. ‘An early medieval penannular brooch from Ty’n y Coed, Pentraeth, Anglesey’, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 157, 153–6.

2008 Ghey, E., Edwards, N., Johnston, R. ‘Categorizing roundhouse settlements in Wales: a critical perspective’, Studia Celtica, 42, 1–25.

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