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 and became Professor of Medieval Archaeology in 2008. 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. I have been awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2015–2018) to write a book on Life in Early Medieval Wales.

  • Fellow of the British Academy
  • Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries

Areas of Teaching & Supervision

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

N.B. Owing to the award of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, I will not be teaching 2015–2018 but am continuing to take on and supervise research students and would welcome enquiries.

Modules 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

Postgraduate: 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
  • Image and reality in medieval warfare: Wales c.1100–1450
  • Saints’ cults in early medieval Wales
  • Pilgrimage landscapes in early medieval Wales and Ireland
  • The Cistercian abbey of Valle Crucis in context


My research, much of which is multi-disciplinary, focuses on the archaeology of Britain and Ireland c AD 400–1100. I am particularly interested in all aspects of the archaeology of early medieval Wales. I have recently completed a major research project on the early medieval inscribed stones and stone sculpture in Wales. I have also carried out research on the archaeology of early medieval Ireland. I have 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.

Life in Early Medieval Wales

I have been awarded a three year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2015-2018) to research and write a book on Life in Early Medieval Wales to be published by Oxford University Press. The period from the collapse of Roman rule to the coming of the Normans was formative in the evolution of Wales, its language and identity. Yet we know less about Wales c. AD350–1050 than any other part of Britain and Ireland. To enable wide-ranging comparison the research will be set within the broader framework of recent developments in early medieval European archaeology. The growing body of archaeological evidence for Wales will then be interrogated alongside the sparse written sources in order to analyse how people lived – their settlements, economy, society and beliefs, and how these changed over time.

Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales

This major research project focused on the completion of A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales, the final volume of which on north Wales, was published by University of Wales Press in 2013. This part of the project was funded by the British Academy, the AHRC and the Cambrian Archaeological Association and was in partnership 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 (University of Chester) 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 and probably functioned as an assembly and/or royal inauguration site (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 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. Post-excavation funded by Cadw is now complete and will lead to full publication of the results. For short interim reports see Archaeology in Wales 50 (2010-11), 57-9; 52 (2013), 199-201; 53 (2014), 186-9. For further information, see and Project Eliseg on Facebook and YouTube.

Assembly Sites of Wales

Although considerable recent advances have been made in understanding these sites elsewhere in Britain and north-west Europe, they are currently very poorly understood in Wales, where early medieval written sources are sparse and non-specific. This pilot project (with Rhiannon Comeau, University College London; Heather James, Cambrian Archaeological Association; Marion Shiner, Dyfed Archaeological Trust) aims to identify and evaluate examples of these important but archaeologically elusive sites in Wales. For further information see

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 edited a book The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Celtic Churches (2009) and am part of a Leverhulme funded network investigating the Conversion of the Isles ( I am co-editing a book arising from this network with Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (University of Cambridge) and Dr Roy Flechner (University College Dublin) to be published by Brepols.

The Early Medieval Wales Archaeology Research Group

This group, which I co-ordinate with Marion Shiner (Dyfed Archaeological Trust), 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’. For news of meetings, events and discoveries, find us on facebook.

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 have published various articles on his antiquarian contribution. I have also curated, with Emeritus Professor Brynley Roberts, an exhibition with accompanying catalogue to celebrate his diverse achievements at the National Library of Wales in summer 2009.

Key & Recent 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, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, xx + 524 pages, numerous illus.

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 illus. 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, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, xix + 568 pages, 403 illus. Prize:G. T. Clark Prize, Cambrian Archaeological Association.

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, Oxford, Oxbow Books, ix + 284pp, numerous illus., 22 colour plates.

1997      Edwards, N., (ed.) Landscape and Settlement in Medieval Wales, Oxford, Oxbow Monograph 81, vii + 166pp, 51 illus. Includes ‘Landscape and settlement in medieval Wales, an introduction’, 1–11.

1992      Edwards, N. and Lane, A. (eds) The Early Church in Wales and the West, Oxford, Oxbow Monograph 13. Includes (with A. Lane) ‘The archaeology of the early church in Wales: an introduction’, 1–10.

1990      Edwards, N., The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland, London, Batsford, Pensylvania, University of Pennsylvania Press, 229pp, 95 illus. 

1996 paperback edition. 1999, 2001, 2004 reprints published by London, Routledge, now print on demand.

1988      Edwards, N. and Lane, A.(eds) 1988 Early Medieval Settlements in Wales AD 400–1100, Bangor, Research Centre Wales and Cardiff, Dept of Archaeology, UC Cardiff, 157pp. Includes (with A. Lane) Introduction, 1–15, + 20 gazetteer entries. Prize: G. T. Clark Prize, Cambrian Archaeological Association.


2015 Edwards, N. The Early Medieval Sculpture of Wales: Text Pattern and Image, Kathleen Hughes Memorial Lectures 13, Cambridge, Hughes Hall and Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 40pp.

Exhibition Catalogue

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


2016.     Edwards, N., Davies, T. and Hemer, K. E., ‘Research framework for the archaeology of early medieval Wales c. AD 400–1070’,

2016      Edwards, N., ‘New discoveries of early medieval carved stones in Wales’, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 165, 187–99.

2016      Edwards, N., ‘The inscribed stone’ in J. Hedges, ‘Bronze Age settlement and early medieval cemetery at Arfryn, Bodedern, Anglesey’, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 165, 171–5.

2015 Edwards, N., ‘Christianising the Landscape: The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Church in Wales’, in P. S. Barnwell (ed.), Places of Worship in Britain and Ireland, 300-950, Rewley House Studies in the Historic Environment 4, Donington, Shaun Tyas, 33–55

2015 Tong, J., Evans, S., Williams, H. Edwards, N. and Robinson, G., ‘Vlog to death: Project Eliseg’s video-blogging’, Internet Archaeology, 39

2014      Edwards, N. and Vousdon, N., ‘A rediscovered piece of early medieval sculpture from Silian, Ceredigion’, Archaeology in Wales, 53, 125–30.

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. ‘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. ‘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.

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, Cambridge University Press, 244–8.

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

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

2007      Edwards, N. ‘Edward Lhuyd and the origins of early medieval Celtic archaeology’, Antiquaries Journal, 87, 165–96.

2007      Edwards, N. ‘The early medieval inscribed stones and stone sculpture in south-west Wales: the Irish Sea connection’, in R. Moss (ed.) Making and Meaning. Proceedings of the 5th International Insular Art Conference, Trinity College Dublin 25-28 August 2005, Dublin, Four Courts Press, 184–97.

2007      Ghey, E., Edwards, N., Johnston, R. and Pope, R. 2007 Characterising the Welsh Roundhouse: chronology, inhabitation and landscape Internet Archaeology 23, 3.4

2006      Edwards, N. ‘The early medieval sculpture of Bangor Fawr yn Arfon’ in M. Meeke (ed.), The Modern Traveller to our Past. Festschrift in honour of Ann Hamlin, Dublin, DPK, 105–11.

2005      Edwards, N., ‘The archaeology of early medieval Ireland, c.400-1169: settlement and economy’, in D. Ó Crónín (ed.), A New History of Ireland, I Prehistoric and Early Ireland, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 235–300.

2005      Edwards, N., Lane, A. Bapty, I. and Redknap, M., ‘Early medieval Wales: a framework for archaeological research’, Archaeol. Wales, 45, 33-46.

2002      Edwards, N., ‘Celtic saints and early medieval archaeology’, in A. T. Thacker and R. Sharpe (eds), Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 225–65.

2001      Edwards, N., ‘Early medieval inscribed stones and stone sculpture in Wales: context and function’, Medieval Archaeology, 45, 15–39.

2001      Edwards, N., ‘Monuments in a landscape, the early medieval sculpture of St David’s’, in H. Hamerow and A. MacGregor (eds), Image and Power in the Archaeology of Early Medieval Britain, Essays in Honour of Rosemary Cramp, Oxford, Oxbow Books, 53–77.

2001      Jones, N., Silvester, B. and Edwards, N., ‘St Cyngar’s Church, Hope’, Archaeology Wales, 41, 42–50.

2000      Edwards, N., ‘New research on stone sculpture in Wales’, Church Archaeology, 4, 60-2.

1999      Edwards, N., ‘Viking-influenced sculpture in north Wales, its ornament and context’, Church Archaeology, 3, 5–16.

1999      ‘Adnabod yr eglwys ganoloesol gynnar yng Ngwynedd’, in W. Griffith (gol.), ‘Ysbrud Dealltwrus ac Enaid Anfarwol’, Ysgrifau ar Hanes Crefydd ac Enwardaeth yng Ngwynedd, Bangor, Prifysgol Cymru, 15–36.

1998      Edwards, N., ‘The Irish connection’, in S. Foster (ed.), The St Andrews Sarcophagus, a Masterpiece and its International Connections, Dublin, Four Courts Press, 227–39.

1998      Edwards, N., ‘Early medieval Munster: summary and prospect’, in M. A. Monk and J. Sheehan (eds), Early Medieval Munster, Archaeology, History and Society, Cork, Cork University Press, 200–5.

1998      Edwards, N., ‘A group of shafts and related sculpture from Clonmacnoise and its environs’, in H. King (ed.), Clonmacnoise Studies, Volume 1, Dublin, Dúchas, the Heritage Service, 101–18.

1997      Edwards, N., ‘Two carved stone pillars from Trefollwyn, Anglesey’, Archaeolgical Journal, 154, 108–17.

1996      Edwards, N., ‘Identifying the archaeology of the early church in Wales and Cornwall’, in J. Blair and C. Pyrah (eds), Church Archaeology, Research Directions for the Future, York, CBA res. rep. 104, 49–62.

1995      Edwards, N., ‘11th-century Welsh illuminated manuscripts: the nature of the Irish connection’, in C. Bourke (ed.), From the Isles of the North, Early Medieval Art in Britain and Ireland, Belfast, HMSO, 147–55.

1994      Edwards, N., ‘Iconography of the Irish high crosses: Carolingian influence in Ireland in the ninth century’, Early Medieval Europe, 3(i), 63–71 (review article).

1992      Edwards, N. and Hulse, T. G., ‘A fragment of a reliquary casket from Gwytherin, Denbighshire’, Antiquaries Journal, 72, 91–101.

1991      Edwards, N., ‘Dark Age Clwyd’, in J. Manley, S. Grenter and F. Gale (eds), The Archaeology of Clwyd, Mold, Clwyd County Council, 129–41, 240–1.

1991      Edwards, N., ‘The archaeology of the early church in Wales: a review of the evidence’, Logos, 1 (ii), 22–7.

1990      Edwards, N., ‘Some crosses of County Kilkenny’, in W. Nolan and K. Whelan (eds), Kilkenny: History and Society, Dublin, Geography Publications, 33–61, 639–44.

1987      Edwards, N., ‘Abstract ornament on early medieval Irish crosses: a preliminary catalogue, in Ryan, M. (ed.), Ireland and Insular Art A.D. 500–1200, Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 111–17.

1986      Edwards, N., ‘Anglesey in the early middle ages: the archaeological evidence’, Transactions Anglesey Antiquarian Society, 19–42.

1986      Edwards, N., ‘The South Cross, Clonmacnois (with an appendix on the incidence of vine-scroll on Irish sculpture)’, in J. Higgitt (ed.), Early Medieval Sculpture in Britain and Ireland, Oxford, British Archaeological Reports,Brit. ser. 152, 23–48.

1985      Edwards, N., ‘The origins of the free-standing cross in Ireland: imitation or innovation?’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 32, 393–410.

1985      Edwards, N., ‘A possible Viking grave from Benllech, Anglesey’, Transactions Anglesey Antiquarian Society, 19–24.

1984      Edwards, N., ‘Two sculptural fragments from Clonmacnois’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 114, 57–62.

1983      Edwards, N., ‘An early group of crosses from the kingdom of Ossory’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland , 113, 5–46.

1983      Edwards, N., ‘Some observations on the layout and construction of abstract ornament in early Christian Irish sculpture’, in F. H. Thompson (ed.), Studies in Medieval Sculpture, London, Society of Antiquaries, 3–17.

Short Notes and Popular Articles

2014  Edwards, N., Robinson, G. and Williams, H., ‘Llantysilio, The Pillar of Eliseg’, Archaeology in Wales, 53, 186–9.

2013  Edwards, N., ‘Wales after Rome’, Western Mail, 14 May 2013, 19–21.

2013 Edwards, N., Robinson, G. and Williams, H, ‘Llantysilio, The Pillar of Eliseg’, Archaeology in Wales, 52, 199–201.

2010–11  Edwards, N., Evans, D. M., Robinson, G. and Williams, H., ‘The Pillar of Eliseg, Llantysilio, incomplete inscribed cross and cairn’,  Archaeology in Wales, 50, 57–9.

2008      Edwards, N., ‘The Pillar of Eliseg’, in D. H. Evans, Valle Crucis Abbey, Pillar of Eliseg, Cadw guidebook, Cardiff, 53–6.

2006      Edwards, N., ‘Celtic crosses’ in J. Koch (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Celtic Culture and History, ABC Clio.

2006      Edwards, N. and Hall, M. A., ‘Protecting carved stones in Scotland and Wales’, Church Archaeology, 7–9, 127–9.

2004      Edwards, N. revised entry for ‘Sulien’, in H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000 (in association with the British Academy) Oxford University Press, Oxford.

1997      Edwards, N. ‘The early Christian Monuments of Wales’, Archaeology in Wales, 37, 81.

1997      Edwards, N. and Hulse, T. G., ‘Gwytherin (Denbs.). A second fragment of the shrine of Gwenfrewi’, Archaeology in Wales, 37, 87–8.

1994      Edwards, N., ‘Holy wells in Wales and early Christian archaeology’, Source, the Holy Wells Journal, new ser. 1, 9–10. 1993        Edwards, N.  ‘A fragmentary stone crosshead from Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog, Anglesey’, Archaeology in Wales, 33, 65.

1993      Edwards, N. ‘A stone pillar from Capel Heilin, near Llangefni, Anglesey’, Archaeology in Wales, 33, 90.

1987      Edwards, N., ‘Bryn Gwylan inscribed stone’, Archaeology in Wales, 27, 58. 1984               Edwards, N. (ed.), ‘The archaeology of early medieval Wales: conference summary’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 31, 319–20.

1984      Edwards, N., Notes on ‘A possible Viking grave from Benllech’, ‘Ynys Seiriol’ and ‘A motif piece from Aberglaslyn(?)’, Archaeology in Wales, 24, 60–1.

1983      Edwards, N., ‘An early group of crosses from the kingdom of Ossory’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland , 113, 5–46.

1983      Edwards, N., ‘Some observations on the layout and construction of abstract ornament in early Christian Irish sculpture’, in F. H. Thompson (ed.), Studies in Medieval Sculpture, London, Society of Antiquaries, 3–17.