Growing up in Sussex, Miles Russell had a very distinct ambition. “I never wanted to be an astronaut, footballer or soldier. I always wanted to be an archaeologist”.
“At school I was quite surprised, contrary to the advice supplied by my careers teacher, to discover that you could actually be paid for moving dirt from one place to another and finding things that people had previously thrown away”.
In 1985 he set off to the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, graduating with a BA in Roman Archaeology. He then went on to work as a field officer for the UCL Field Archaeology Unit, and then as project manager for the Oxford Archaeological Unit working on numerous sites across central and southern England. Having received his PhD with a thesis on Neolithic Monumental Architecture in 2000, Miles was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2006.
Joining BU back in 1993, Miles fills the position of Senior Lecturer in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology in the School of Applied Sciences, where his research ambitions and interests have continued to develop. “Of all aspects of the human past, the Neolithic (c. 4000 - 2500 BC) and Roman (c. 50 BC - AD 450) interest me the most. A curious combination of time-periods perhaps, but both represent points of radical change in the cultural and archaeological database”.
Miles is also fascinated by fakes and forgeries in historic archaeology - something of a niche interest in the field. “I’m intrigued not only by their investigation and exposure, but also the examination of why certain people sometimes find the need to fabricate finds when evidence of the human past is extraordinary enough.” He continues, “investigating the Piltdown Man hoax, the supposed ‘missing link’ between ape and man found in the early 20th century, was a real eye-opener, as over 30 previously unknown forgeries came to light at the same time”.
In a general sense, archaeology has taken Miles all over the world, from Russia, Italy and Germany to Greece, and he feels that he has benefited from “essential experiences” by travelling and learning different archaeological techniques and customs. The opportunities to travel, discover and communicate ideas are, he believes, the best parts of his job. “Every archaeological site is a challenge, from the variability of the weather and geology, to the unexpected discoveries that all sites possess, but nothing compares to the thrill of discovery, being able to contribute to the story of our shared human past. Finding something that has lain undiscovered for generations, sometimes millennia, is something that certainly has to be experienced”.
Miles is currently director of Regnum and co-director of the Durotriges Project, both investigating the transition from the Iron Age to Roman period across SE and SW Britain from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD. He has written extensively on British prehistory and Roman archaeology (details of his most recent books can be found here and his expertise has been called upon for a number of TV programmes, most recently Time Team, The One Show, Timewatch and The Seven Ages of Britain.
You can read more about his research and interests at Miles’ blog.