Enhancing well-being in general, and mental health well-being in particular, is one of the most significant societal challenges currently facing communities across the world.

Heritage has a key role to play in this, and the work being undertaken at BU is exploring the possibilities and realities of what can be achieved, including the innovative use of archaeological sites, ancient landscapes, and the wider historic environment for what can be called cultural heritage therapy.  

Much of the work is keyed into overarching strategies on health and well-being such as ‘Goal 3 - Good health and well-being’ on the list of Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030 that were adopted at the United Nations General Council in New York in September 2015. One of the specific targets involved promoting mental health well-being.

What our research clearly shows is that much can be achieved through interdisciplinary teamwork combining insights from archaeology, anthropology, healthcare, environmental therapy, and the creative arts are very considerable.  

Human Henge 

BU is a partner in the Human Henge project co-ordinated by the Restoration Trust and also involving Richmond Fellowship, English Heritage, and The National Trust. Using natural and constructed landscapes to promote health and well-being has a long and distinguished history stretching back to the pilgrimages of medieval times. Human Henge takes the idea on step further by combining archaeology and creativity in a World Heritage Site as a way of improving mental health and reaching out to marginalized communities. This innovative work takes participants on journeys of discovery through the Stonehenge landscape. 

Further details of the Human Henge can be found on the project website.

Publications about the Project include: 

  • Darvill, T, Heaslip, V, & Barrass, K, 2018. Heritage and well-being. Therapeutic places, past and present. In K T Galvin (ed), Routledge Handbook of Well-being. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis. [ISBN 978-1-1388-5010-1] 
  • Heaslip, V, Vahdaninia, M, Hind, M, Darvill, T, Staelens, Y, O’Donoghue, D, Drysdale, L, Lunt, S, Hogg, C, Allfrey, M, Clifton, B and Sutcliffe, T. 2020. Locating oneself in the past to influence the present: Impacts of Neolithic landscapes on mental health and well-being. Health and Place [DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.102273]
Historic Landscapes and Mental Well-being cover

Historic landscapes and mental well-being 

As part of Human Henge, a series of conference sessions were organized, including contributions to the Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting in Cardiff in December 2017 and a whole-day multi-disciplinary meeting held in Bournemouth University on the 13 April 2018 entitled Historic landscapes and mental well-being. More than 80 delegates from a wide range of backgrounds — including practitioners, experts by experience, heritage professionals, academics and policy makers — discussed ways of using historic landscapes and heritage resources of various kinds to promote well-being and the boundless potential contribution that the historic environment can make to health-care and wellness initiatives. The papers from these were brought together and published as an edited volume in 2019. 

T. Darvill, K. Barrass, L. Drysdale, V. Heaslip, and Y. Staelens (eds), 2019, Historic landscapes and mental well-being Oxford. Archaeopress.  

Using archaeological sites and historic landscapes to promote mental health well-being represents one of the most significant advances in archaeological resource management for many years. Its potential contribution to health-care and wellness initiatives is boundless. Prompted by the Human Henge project working within the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, this volume provides an overview of work going on across Britain and the near Continent at many different scales. Contributors share experiences, and discuss the outcomes, implications, and theoretical underpinnings of heritage-based well-being projects.  

A fully open-access copy of the book can be downloaded as a PDF (45mb)

Printed copies can be purchased from Archaeopress.

Reviews include: 

SALON 436 (October 2019) 


Current Archaeology 362 (May 2020): 56. 

Review – Historic Landscapes and Mental Well-being - Current Archaeology 

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