The Archaeology of the Invisible

Date: Now on display - from June 2024!

‘The Archaeology of the Invisible’ is a bio-archaeology project designed by Norton Priory Museum and Gardens and the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham.

We wanted to find out if we could answer questions about archaeological deposits and artefacts using the relatively new scientific field of palaeoproteomics; the study of ancient proteins.

Palaeoproteomics 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 display has been produced by the participants who posed the questions using the results from the scientific analysis. The results are now on display on the first floor gallery at the museum.

Image caption: Professor Rob Layfield from the palaeoproteomics team at the University of Nottingham with the new temporary exhibition.

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