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The Development of Computer Archaeology at North Staffordshire Polytechnic, Staffordshire Polytechnic and Staffordshire University, Stafford 1969 - 2012.

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The Development of Computer Archaeology at North Staffordshire Polytechnic, Staffordshire Polytechnic and Staffordshire University, Stafford1969 - 2012


1966 John Wilcock began to use computers for computer archaeology applications. A Martin-Clark resistivity meter was used with a square array configuration, particularly at South Cadbury (“Camelot”) for Leslie Alcock (1925 – 2006). Alcock’s methodology made headlines within the archaeological community for the use of geophysical survey, which in those days was an unusual and experimental method. John Wilcock processed some of these readings on a KDF9 computer, and the results were then transmitted back to the team. This was possibly the first UK transmission of archaeological survey readings by computer.

Proton gradiometers were developed at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art at Oxford (Martin Aitken & Edward Hall), and also in an old silk mill at Leek, and these were employed on various sites for Francis Celoria, Arnold Mountford and the Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society.


In 1969 John Wilcock decided that he would like to do computer teaching in an academic background

01.05.69: Appointed Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire College of Technology, which was heavily sponsored by English Electric. In 1970 this became part of the new North Staffordshire Polytechnic. The Department of Computing originally had 10 lecturers and one technician. This rapidly grew to 100 lecturers in computing, 30 technicians, and a throughput of 2000 computing graduates per year.

North Staffordshire Polytechnic inaugurated 1970

The name was changed to Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1991

Staffordshire University was inaugurated in 1994


Keele Summer School in Archaeology

15 – 29.08.1970, with permission (initialled) by the North Staffordshire Polytechnic Head of Computing, Dr H.L.W. Jackson


1970 Computing in Archaeology Conference, Mamaia, Romania – the first international conference for mathematics and computer science applications in the historical and archaeological sciences (a joint British – Romanian conference, held while Ceaucescu was in power). It was this conference which really inspired John Wilcock to do research into Computer Archaeology.

Adamclisi - Roman monument similar to Trajan’s Column.

Histria – Greek and Roman site on the shores of the Black Sea.

Constanta – Glykon Snake, 3rd Century BCE, a protective goddess of the Constanta Roman Port where Ovid was exiled.


After Francis Celoria left the University of Keele to become Curator of the Gladstone Pottery Museum, the Research Centre for Computer Archaeology was involved in several projects there.


The former Staffordshire College of Technology at Beaconside (photo is dated 1964), and the Blackheath Lane site, which became the Department of Computing of North Staffordshire Polytechnic. It was here that John Wilcock had access to hundreds of computers, and to Research Grants. The Research Centre for Computer Archaeology was founded, which trained archaeologists in computing.


03.06.81 Visit of Prince Charles to Blackheath Lane site of North Staffordshire Polytechnic. Since Prince Charles had studied Archaeology at Cambridge, he was shown archaeological programs running on the Research Machines 380Z.


1984 Julian D. Richards, PhD student, programming the Research Machines 380Z for pottery profile analysis. He is now at the University of York.


The Royal Institution, London

The Research Centre for Computer Archaeology was honoured to be invited to make a Presentation and Exhibition 08.03.1985


1985 Gary Lock’s PhD graduation, with mathematician Mike Fletcher on the left, and John Wilcock on the right.


AERE Harwell, where students were placed in their industrial sandwich year. Also Terry Short was a research assistant at the Harwell Radiocarbon Laboratory. The large chimney marks the BEPO reactor, whose brickwork was used to shield cosmic rays from the radiocarbon measuring equipment. A RML 380Z was used to process the results. The lower photos show the demolition and the razed site.


CAA92 Aarhus, PhD students with Mike Fletcher and John Wilcock 25.03-01.04.1992

Lindholm Hǿje ship burials; Fyrkat Viking longhouse, with Torsten Madsen from Aarhus, Denmark and Hans Kamermans from Leiden, Netherlands.

Of course, the Research Centre for Computer Archaeology supported the Computer Applications in Archaeology (CAA) conferences from their inauguration in 1973. PhD students presented papers at CAA, and several have been involved in the management of CAA up to the present. Gary Lock is the current Chairman (2012).


1993 The Roman Conquest of Britain

BBC Model B software developed for English Heritage for Key Stages 2 and 3 school use – written by John Wilcock with the collaboration of two primary school teachers


Computer Applications in Archaeology 96 Conference, Iaçi, Romania 24-29.03.1996

Iaçi University; Bucovina painted church and fresco; church in Iaçi


In retirement John Wilcock has been involved in the COST European Projects

COST G2 Action:

Brussels 28.11 – 01.12.1997

Barcelona & Ampurias 21-24.05.1998

Ghent (Gand), Ename, Furfooz, Jemelle, Velzeke 21-25.10.1998

Ljubljana, Kropa, Stara Sava, Lake Bled 18-20.12.1998

Norwich 14-16.05.1999

Las Medulas 14 – 17.10.1999

Athens & Laurion 25 – 28.05.2000

Naples, Pozzuoli, Fregellae, Elea Velia 29.11 – 03.12.2000

Bornholm 15 - 20.05.2001

Cyprus, Nicosia & Paphos 10 – 15.10.2001

COST A27 Action: “Understanding pre-industrial structures in rural and mining landscapes (LANDMARKS):

Brussels, Belgium 24.06.2004

Madrid, Spain 28 – 31.10.2004

Copenhagen & Funen, Denmark 27 – 30.05.2005

Naples, Italy 03 - 05.11.2005

Aberystwyth UK meeting 19.01.2006

Samos, Greece 03 - 07.05.2006

Ghent, Belgium 21 - 24.09.2006 (JDW did not attend this meeting)

Le Mans Conference 07 - 09.12.2006 (JDW did not attend this additional conference)

Bochum, Germany 05 – 11.06.2007

Aberystwyth, UK 06 – 13.09.2007

Thingvellir, Iceland 04 – 07.09.2008


The extent of the Co-operation in Science and Technology (COST) Organisation, which includes Canada and Iceland


COST A27 final meeting Iceland and car tour of southern Iceland 03-15.09.08 (Keflavik; Thingvellir; Geysir; Gullfoss; Skalholt; Kerid crater; Hverargerdi; Sjeljalandsfoss; Skagafoss; Vik; Myrdalsjokull; Eldhraun; Geirland; Kirkjugolf; Systrafoss; Dwarf Rocks; Vatnajokull turf church; Svartifoss; Hundafoss; Skaftafell; Jokulsarlon (DKW trip); Hofn; Skaftafell; Vik; Hvolsvollur; Selfoss; Hveragerdi; Reykjavik; Perlan exhibition and dining; Blue Lagoon)

Thingvellir, Iceland 06.09.08 (for COST A27 John Wilcock was a member of the Core Management Group, Chair of Working Group 4, and also Webmaster


Staffordshire University Computing Futures Museum, a largely virtual museum of the development of computing, but with about 30 cases of antique computer hardware.

Try typing “Staffordshire University Computing Futures Museum” into Google!


13.04.11 BBC filming in the Octagon at Staffordshire University concerning the resurrection of the hardware of the 1986 BBC Domesday Project. The contents of the optical discs have now been saved from the “Digital Dark Age” and are archived for posterity.


March 2012 Southampton. Computer Applications in Archaeology 2012, 40th Anniversary of the Conference John Wilcock helped to found. John is being interviewed by the roving TV team at the CAA2012 registration (and was referred to as “Father of the Conference” – perhaps justified because around 20 of his PhD students had attended the series of conferences over the years)


CAA2012 Plenary Session keynote presentation by Jeremy Huggett, University of Glasgow, John’s former PhD student


The Personal Histories panel at CAA2012, Gary Lock (Chair), Paul Reilly, John Wilcock, Nick Ryan, Hans Kamermans, Sue Laflin, Phil Barker, and Clive Orton. Gary, Paul, John and Nick were all at RCCA, Stafford


Former PhD students Paul Reilly (IBM), Jeremy Huggett (University of Glasgow) and Research Assistant Kath Baker (Jeremy Huggett’s wife)


Personal Histories Session: Former PhD students Nick Ryan (University of Canterbury) and Gary Lock (University of Oxford; Chairman of CAA)