‘The Archaeology of the Invisible’: A collaborative project with the University of Nottingham

Published: 14/10/2023

During May this year Norton Priory Museum and Gardens joined forces once again with the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham to run an archaeological dig; with a twist!

‘The Archaeology of the Invisible’ is a bioarchaeology project designed to answer questions about archaeological deposits and artefacts using the relatively new scientific field of paleoproteomics.

Paleoproteomics is the analysis of ancient protein sequences preserved within or on the surface of archaeological material. It’s a branch of bioarchaeology that recognises the potential of ancient remains to hold ‘invisible’ molecular information that could reveal secrets about their identity, composition, handling and use.

The project was also unusual in its approach to creating the research questions. Each participant was encouraged to create a list about what they wanted to know about the artefact or archaeological ‘feature’ (wall, ditch, floor etc.), they had discovered, which the ancient protein analysis might be able to answer: making the invisible, visible.

The Nottingham scientists are now busy working through the samples and the results will be in soon. Once they have been interpreted, the dig participants will be helping to create a temporary exhibition at Norton Priory Museum to showcase the project and its results which is due to open in Spring 2024.