Dr Antonia Thomas

Lecturer in Archaeology content

Lecturer in Archaeology

Antonia Thomas

I have been a professional archaeologist since 2001 and have worked on a wide range of archaeology and heritage management projects across the UK and in Iceland. I started teaching part-time at the Institute in March 2012 whilst I was undertaking my AHRC funded PhD research titled ‘Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney: Process, Temporality and Conext’, supervised by Professor Jane Downes (UHI) and Professor Mark Edmonds (University of York). This comprised the cataloguing and analysis of more than 700 decorated stones from Neolithic contexts at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney (the largest decorated stone assemblage in the UK). My doctoral research also included a programme of survey work at Maeshowe and Skara Brae and led to the identification of over 50 examples of probable Neolithic art from those sites. My thesis was published in 2016 as the first monograph in the UHI Archaeology Institute Research Series.

Following my PhD I worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of York on the Leverhulme Trust funded ‘Working Stone, Making Communities: Technology and Identity in Prehistoric Orkney’ project, led by Professor Mark Edmonds with Hugo Anderson-Whymark and Ann Clarke. This involved the detailed analysis of prehistoric stone tools and other artefacts relating to Orkney and was innovative in combining a biographical approach to objects, people and collections, with a rigorous recording methodology which made extensive use of digital technology such as 3d modelling. The project culminated in the creation of an extensive and richly-illustrated ‘virtual museum’ (www.orkneystonetools.org.uk) and a three-centre exhibition entitled 'Conversations with Magic Stones' held at the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney Museum in Kirkwall and Stromness Museum. I am passionate about artefacts and the stories they have to tell, and the role that museums can play in this process. I presently serve as a Trustee for the Orkney Natural History Society Museum (Stromness Museum).

I am currently continuing my research into Neolithic decorated stonework through specialist post-excavation work on the Ness of Brodgar assemblage, and survey work at other sites in Orkney. Through this work I have developed further research interests in stone-carving, graffiti, and architecture of all periods in Orkney and beyond. I have also undertaken various collaborative projects with visual artists and other creative practitioners over the last 15 years and continue to explore the commonalities between archaeology and art.

I returned to the Archaeology Institute as a part-time lecturer in September 2017 and currently act as Module Leader for post-graduate modules in ‘Cultural Heritage Management’ and ‘Art and Archaeology: Contemporary Theory and Practice’.


PURE profile edu profile


BSc Hons. Archaeological Science (University of Sheffield 2001)

MA Archaeology and Prehistory (University of Sheffield 2003)

PhD Archaeology (University of Aberdeen 2016)

Research Interests

My research explores various aspects of visual and material culture, and includes stone-carving and sculpture, vernacular buildings, prehistoric art and architecture, graffiti and mark-making, museum studies, ways of seeing in archaeology, and the commonalities between archaeology and art practice. 


I currently teach on the following modules:

  • Art and Archaeology: Contemporary Theory and Practice (SCQF 11)
  • Cultural Heritage Management (SCQF 11)
  • Archaeology of the Highlands and Islands (SCQF 11)

Recent and in press publications


Edmonds, M., Anderson-Whymark, H., Clarke, A. & Thomas, A. 2017. Conversations with Magic Stones. Orkney: Group VI press.

Thomas, A. 2016. Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney: Process, Temporality and Context. UHI Archaeology Institute Research Series: 1. Oxford, Archaeopress.

Journal Articles

Thomas, A., Lee, D., Frederick, U. & White, C. in press. (expected 2017). ‘Beyond Art/Archaeology: Research and Practice after the ‘Creative Turn’’. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 4(2).

Farrell, M., Bunting, M. Jane, Lee, D.H.J. & Thomas, A. 2014. ‘Neolithic settlement at the woodland’s edge: palynological data and timber architecture in Orkney, Scotland’. Journal of Archaeological Science 51, 225-236.

Book Chapters

Thomas, A. in press. (expected 2018). ‘Duration and representation in archaeology and photography’. In L. McFadyen & D. Hicks (eds.), Archaeology and Photography: Time, Objectivity and Archive. London, Bloomsbury.

Thomas, A. in press (expected 2018). ‘Mobiliary art’. In S. Taylor (ed.) Down the Bright Stream: the Prehistory of Woodcock Corner and the Tregurra Valley. Leiden, Sidestone Press.

Anderson-Whymark, H., Clarke, A., Edmonds, M. and Thomas, A. 2017. Process, Form and Time: maceheads in an Orcadian context. In R. Shaffrey (ed.) Written in Stone: Function, form, and provenancing of a range of prehistoric stone objects, pp. 10-34. Southampton: The Highfield Press.

Card, N., Downes, J., Richards, C., Jones, R., Challands, A., French, C.A.I. & Thomas, A. 2016. ‘The settlement of Crossiecrown: the Grey and Red Houses’. In R. Jones & C. Richards (eds.), The Development of Neolithic House Societies in Orkney, pp.160-195. Oxford, Windgather.

Thomas, A. 2014. ‘Creating contexts: between the archaeological site and art gallery’. In A. Cochrane & I.A. Russell (eds.) Art and Archaeology: Collaborations, Conversations, Criticisms, pp.141-155. One World Archaeology Series, Volume 11. New York, Springer-Kluwer.

Downes, J. & Thomas, A. 2013. ‘Where mythical space lies: land ownership versus land use in the northern Bronze Age’. In M. Relaki & D. Catapoti (eds.), An Archaeology of Land Ownership, pp.70-92. London, Routledge.

Card, N. & Thomas, A. 2012. ‘Painting a picture of Neolithic Orkney: decorated stonework from the Ness of Brodgar’. In A. Cochrane & A. Jones (eds.), Visualising the Neolithic, pp.111-124. Oxford, Oxbow Books.

Magazines and Newsletters

Thomas, A. 2016. ‘Written in stone: graffiti and geology in Orkney’. Stravaig 5, pp.40-42.

Lee, D. & Thomas, A. 2015. ‘Walking (in)visible lines: archaeologies in between’. Flettverk 2, pp.6-15.

Thomas, A. 2014. ‘Art and Architecture at the Ness of Brodgar’. British Archaeology 138 (September/October 2014), pp.16-21.

Lee, D. & Thomas, A. 2012. ‘Orkney’s First Farmers: Early Neolithic Settlement on Wyre’. Current Archaeology 268 (July 2012), pp.12-19.

Loveday, R., Anderson-Whymark, H., Card, N. & Thomas, A. 2012. ‘Chiselling marks at Maeshowe’. PAST 72 (November 2012), pp.5-7.

Ongoing projects

Ness of Brodgar: specialist work on the decorated stone assemblage (2010 – present)

Braes of Ha’Breck, Wyre: fieldwork and excavation of a Neolithic settlement (2007-present)

Art and death in Neolithic Orkney: recording and analysing mark-making and stonework in Orkney’s Neolithic tombs (2016 – present)

External roles and responsibilities

Orkney Natural History Society (Stromness Museum), Trustee

Scotland’s Rock Art Project (ScRAP), Member of Advisory Panel