Professor Mark Horton


Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research & Enterprise.


I am an archaeologist with global interests and a passion to understand and to communicate how the modern world was formed through historical process. My research employs field and scientific methodologies, and an eagerness to discover new information through investigation. I believe that as scientists, we have a mission to inform, communicate, educate, and through our research make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. 

My research as an archaeologist has taken me on fieldwork to East Africa, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, the Caribbean, Panama, Eastern US, France and the UK. I have a keen interest in field methods, especially in extreme and difficult environments, and to work with archaeological scientists to generate new data from often hard to reach locations.

I also specialise in landscape approaches to archaeology, to look beyond the site, to develop ways of recording and understanding the wider context. In this work, I have been an early adopter of UAV/drone technology and exploring the potential new imaging methods, both in the UK and overseas.

Throughout my career, I have been a passionate advocate for the public understanding of the past – through TV, radio and media. I was closely involved in the early series of Time Team (Channel 4), and presented Time Flyers (BBC2, 2002-4), and Coast (BBC2 2005-2016) and have worked with the History, National Geographic and Discovery channels. I am currently appearing on Science Channel’s What on Earth.

As Director of Research for the RAU, I am passionate about preserving our environment (both green and historic) and rural communities while we move towards a more resilient and sustainable system of food production.  My hope is that the research that we do at the RAU will help make the world a better place for humans and animals in the uncertain future of climate change and biodiversity loss.


Research Projects

  1. The Scottish Darien Colony (1979, 2004). Field-survey and excavation of the site of the Darién colony (1698-1700) in Panama, locating fort, settlement and shipwrecks as well as early Spanish colonial settlement and pre-Columbian archaeology (project director)
  2. Shanga Project (1980-1988). Six seasons of excavations of a major Swahili town in the Lamu archipelago (Kenya, East Africa), revealing urban and Islamic origins, long distance trade and Swahili ethno-genesis (project director)
  3. Origins of Islam in East Africa project (1988-1992). Investigation of numerous sites in the Zanzibar Archipelago, with excavations at Ras Mkumbuu, Tumbatu and Mtambwe Mkuu (Leverhulme Trust funded, project director)
  4. Qasr Ibrim project (1988-1996). Excavation of Egyptian Nubian site dating from the New Kingdom to 1812, with exceptional preservation of organic remains, and important early Christian and Meroitic level. (Egypt Exploration Society, dig director)
  5. L’Abbaye de Grosbot project (1998-2004). Investigation of French Cistercian Abbey and its landscape, through annual excavations uncovering aristocratic mausoleum and infirmary dating to the twelfth century (project director).
  6. Caribbean Research (2000-5). Investigation of pioneer English colonial settlements and sugar plantations at Balembouche (St Lucia), Old Road (St Kitts), St Georges (Bermuda) and Grand Cayman (project director)
  7. Digitisation of the papers of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (2004-6). Project recording the surviving papers on this 19th c. engineer and linking them to surviving works. Further work has involved the location of the grounding of the SS Great Britain in Dundrum Bay and of the scrapping of the Great Eastern at New Ferry, Birkenhead (AHRC funded, P-I)
  8. Bishops Palace, Wells (2004-6). Investigation of the medieval palace using geophysics and excavations (project director and board member)
  9. Chwaka Project, Pemba island (2004-7) examining this 15th century Swahili town and two mosques (NSF funded, contributing expert)
  10. Berkeley Project (2006-2018). University of Bristol training excavation, investigations of the Saxon origins of Berkeley, its castle and medieval and post-medieval occupation (project co-director)
  11. Queen Eadgyth (2008-12). Investigation of bones from Magdeburg Cathedral (team member)
  12. Upper Kherlen Valley Survey, Mongolia (2010-). Working with the National University of Mongolia, surveys to investigate multi-period occupation along the Steppe route across central Asia with focus on the Hunnu sites, and the early Buddhist monastery of Dzuun Khuree (project co-director, British Academy and NGS fnded)
  13. Hatteras Project, North Carolina (2010-2018). Survey and excavation of native American sites, and investigation of the fate of the 1587 English colonists who settled there (NGS with Croatoan Archaeological Society, project director)
  14. Songo Mnara Project, Tanzania (2012-16). Participation over three seasons, in investigation of urbanism in the Kilwa archipelago, with the excavation of two mosques and a deep sondage at Kilwa Kisiwani, previously excavated in the 1960’s (AHRC funded, expert).
  15. Sealinks Project (2011-15). Working on over 20 excavations on Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia, Madagascar and Sri Lanka, to investigate Indian Ocean connections during the 1st millennium CE, between East Africa and Asia, developing micro-archaeological techniques (ERC funded, excavation director)
  16. Winchester Cathedral Mortuary Chests Investigation (2015-) Ongoing investigation of the contents of the mortuary chests that are purported to contain the remains of the Saxon and Norman kings and Wessex and England, between the 8th - 11th century. The project in the reassembly of the co-mingled bones, scientific analysis (isotopes, C14, aDNA), and historical research (board member and part of the investigation team)
  17. Sealinks 2 (2016-). Investigation of connections between SE Asia and East Africa, focussing on the Comoros - Membeni and Sima sites - employing archaeological, botanical and aDNA evidence (NGS and Max Planck Society funded, excavation co-director)
  18. Zanzibar and the Gulf project (2016-2018). Investigation of the later interaction between Zanzibar and the Gulf region, focussing on the excavation of the Old Fort, Zanzibar stone town, and 19th c. occupation at Unguja Ukuu (project co-director, funded by Zayed University, UAE)
  19. Repton revisited (2016- ). Re-investigation of sites excavated in the 1970s/80s, and the location the Viking winter camp of 873-4 (project co-director)
  20. East Pemba Project (2019 -). GCRF project, from Rising from the Depths network to examine maritime cultural heritage using archaeology, ethnography, oral history, and to contribute to the area’s economic development (Project director and P-I) 


I have been appointed to be part of the new RAU Cultural Heritage Institute. Here we will be offering MSc programmes in archaeology and cultural heritage, from 2020 onwards, at the Swindon Hub, as well as CPD and day schools. I will be closely involved delivering these programmes

  • MSc Conservation and Management of Historic Buildings



  • Quintana Morales, E. M. and Horton, M. (2014). 'Fishing and Fish Consumption in the Swahili Communities of East Africa, 700-1400 CE. 'Human Exploitation of Aquatic Landscapes' special issue (Ricardo Fernandes & John Meadows, eds.), Internet Archaeology. https://doi.10.11141/ia.37.3.
  • Crowther, Alison, Mark Horton, Anna Kotarba-Morley, Mary Prendergast, Eréndira Quintana Morales, Marilee Wood, Ceri Shipton, Dorian Q Fuller, Ruth Tibesasa, William Mills & Nicole Boivin (2014) 'Iron Age agriculture, fishing and trade in the Mafia Archipelago, Tanzania:
new evidence from Ukunju Cave', Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 49:1, 21-44, https://doi.10.1080/0067270X.2013.878104
  • Horton, Mark and Forest-Hill, Lynn, ‘The Inspiration for Tolkein’s ring’ History Today 64.


  • Crowther, Alison, Margaret-Ashley Veall , Nicole Boivin  Mark Horton, Anna Kotarba-Morley  Dorian Q. Fuller  Thomas Fenn, Othman Haji, Carney D. Matheson (2015) 'Use of Zanzibar copal (Hymenaea verrucosa Gaertn.) as incense at Unguja Ukuu, Tanzania in the 7e8th century CE: chemical insights into trade and Indian Ocean interactions' Journal of Archaeological Science  53, p 374 -390, https://doi. 10.1016/j.jas.2014.10.008
  • Fleisher, Jeffrey, Paul Lane, Adria LaViolette, Mark Horton, Edward Pollard, Erendira Quintana Morales, Thomas Vernet, Annalisa Christie, and Stephanie Wynne-Jones (2015) 'When Did the Swahili Become Maritime? ' American Anthropologist, vol. 117 issue 1, pp.100–115, March
  • Horton, Mark, Peccia, V, Parkes, G & Myagmar, E (2015) ‘Survey results at Dzuun Khuree monastic site’, in Proceedings of Ⅵ International Academic Conference: “Ancient Cultures of Mongolia, Baikalian of Siberia and the Northern Area of China: (Huhhot Inner Mongolia, People’s Republic of China) 12th - 16th of October, 2015.
  • Kourampas, N, Shipton, C, Mills, W, Tibesasa, R, Horton, H, Horton, M, Prendergast, M, Crowther, A, Douka, K, Faulkner, P, Picornell, L & Boivin, N 2015, 'Late Quaternary speleogenesis and landscape evolution in a tropical carbonate island: Pango la Kuumbi (Kuumbi Cave), Zanzibar' International Journal of Speleology, vol 44, pp. 293-314, https://doi. 10.5038/1827-806X.44.3.7
  • Horton, M., Bentley, A, Langton, P., ‘A history of sugar – the food nobody needs, but everyone craves’ The Conversation October 30th 2015.
  • Horton, M. ‘History wars: archaeologists battle to save our heritage from the nighthawks’ The Conversation October 15th 2015.
  • Horton, M. ‘Six tools that are revolutionising archaeology by helping us find sites without digging’ The Conversation December 7th 2015.


  • Crowther, A, Lucas, L, Helm, R, Horton, M, Shipton, C, T Wright, H, Walshaw, S, Pawlowicz, M, Radimilahy, C, Douka, K, Picornell-Gelabert, L, Fuller, DQ & Boivin, N (2016), 'Ancient crops provide first archaeological signature of the westward Austronesian expansion' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 113, no. 24, pp. 6635-6640, https://doi. 10.1073/pnas.1522714113
  • Crowther, A, Faulkner, P, Prendergast, M, Quintana Morales, E, Horton, M & Wilmsen, E. (2016), 'Coastal Subsistence, Maritime Trade, and the Colonization of Small Offshore Islands in Eastern African Prehistory', Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 211-237,
  • Horton, M.  2016, ‘East Africa and Oman c.600-1856'. in Abdullah al-Salimi & E Staples (eds), The Ports of Oman. Georg Olms, Hildesheim, pp 255-279
  • Shipton, C, Kourampas, N, Prendergast, M, Horton, M & Douka, K 2016, 'Reinvestigation of Kuumbi Cave, Zanzibar, reveals Later Stone Age coastal habitation, early Holocene abandonment and Iron Age reoccupation' Azania, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 197-233, https://doi. 10.1080/0067270X.2016.1173308
  • Wood, M, Panighello, S, Orsega, E, Robershaw, P, Elteren, JTV, Crowther, A, Horton, M & Boivin, N 2016, 'Zanzibar and Indian Ocean trade in the first millennium CE: the glass bead evidence' Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, pp. 1-23, https://doi. 10.1007/s12520-015-0310-z2017
  • Horton. M. ‘Meet Lidar: the amazing laser technology that’s helping archaeologists discover lost cities’ The Conversation June 14th 2016.


  • Horton, M, Boivin, N, Crowther, A, Gaskell, B, Radimilahy, C & T Wright, H 2017, 'East Africa as a Source for Fatimid Rock Crystal: workshops from Kenya to Madagascar'. in A Hilgner, DQ & S Greiff (eds), Gemstones in the first Millennium AD: Mines, Trade, Workshops and Symbolism. vol. Tagungen 30, RGZM Tagungen 30, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz, pp 103-118
  • Prendergast ME, Buckley M, Crowther A, Frantz L, Eager H, Lebrasseur O, Rainer Hutterer, Ardern Hulme-Beaman, Wim Van Neer, Katerina Douka, Margaret-Ashley Veall, Eriéndira M. Quintana Morales, Verena J. Schuenemann, Ella Reiter, Richard Allen, Evangelos A. Dimopoulos, Richard M. Helm, Ceri Shipton, Ogeto Mwebi, Christiane Denys, Mark Horton, Stephanie Wynne-Jones, Jeffrey Fleisher, Chantal Radimilahy, Henry Wright, Jeremy B. Searle, Johannes Krause, Greger Larson, Nicole L. Boivin (2017) Reconstructing Asian faunal introductions to eastern Africa from multi-proxy biomolecular and archaeological datasets. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0182565.
  • Prendergast, M, Quintana Morales, E, Horton, M, Crowther, A & Boivin, N 2017, 'Dietary diversity on the Swahili coast: the fauna from two Zanzibar trading locales.' International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, vol. 27.4, pp. 621-637,
  • Horton, M. (2017) ‘Early Islam on the East African Coast (750 -1200).’ in F Flood & G Necipoglu (eds.), Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture. New York: Blackwell, pp.250-274
  • Horton, M., Crowther, A., & Boivin, N. (2017). Ships of the Desert, Camels of the Ocean, in D. Mattingly, V. Leitch, C. Duckworth, A. Cuénod, M. Sterry, & F. Cole (eds.), Trade in the Ancient Sahara and Beyondm Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.131-155) https://doi.10.1017/9781108161091.006
  • Horton, M 2017, ‘Islamic architecture on the Swahili coast’. in A LaViolette & S Wynne-Jones (eds), The Swahili World. Routledge, London, 487-499.
  • Horton, M & Chami, F 2017, Swahili Origins. in A La Violette & S Wynne-Jones (eds), Swahili World. Routledge, London pp 135-146
  • Horton, M. (2017) ‘Shanga’ in A LaViolette & S Wynne-Jones (eds), The Swahili World. Routledge, London, 214-219
  • Horton, M, Fleisher, J & Wynne-Jones, S 2017, 'The Mosques of Songo Mnara in their Urban Landscape' Journal of Islamic Archaeology, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 163-188, https://doi. 10.1080/00766097.2017.1295911
  • Blinkhorn, P, Cramp, L, Prior, S, Glass, E & Horton, M. (2017), 'Fiat Lux: functional analysis of three Saxo-Norman Pottery lamps from Berkeley, Gloucestershire' Medieval Archaeology, 61, pp. 104-116,
  • Skoglund, Pontus; Thompson, Jessica C.; Prendergast, Mary E.; Mittnik, Alissa; Sirak, Kendra; Hajdinjak, Mateja; Salie, Tasneem; Rohland, Nadin; Mallick, Swapan; Peltzer, Alexander; Heinze, Anja; Olalde, Iñigo; Ferry, Matthew; Harney, Eadaoin; Michel, Megan; Stewardson, Kristin; Cerezo-Román, Jessica I.; Chiumia, Chrissy; Crowther, Alison; Gomani-Chindebvu, Elizabeth; Gidna, Agness O.; Grillo, Katherine M.; Helenius, I. Taneli; Hellenthal, Garrett; Helm, Richard; Horton, Mark; López, Saioa; Mabulla, Audax Z.P.; Parkington, John; Shipton, Ceri; Thomas, Mark G.; Tibesasa, Ruth; Welling, Menno; Hayes, Vanessa M.; Kennett, Douglas J.; Ramesar, Raj; Meyer, Matthias; Pääbo, Svante; Patterson, Nick; Morris, Alan G.; Boivin, Nicole; Pinhasi, Ron; Krause, Johannes; Reich, David (2017), ‘Reconstructing prehistoric African population structure’, Cell, vol 171.1, P59-71.E21,
  • Webber, Henry, Volker Heyd, Mark Horton, Martin Bell, Wendy Matthews, Amanda Chadburn (2017) ‘Precision Farming and Archaeology’ Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 1-8. https://


  • Horton, M, Crowther, A & Boivin, N 2017, ‘Facing Mecca from Africa: Islam and globalization on the Swahili coast during the first millennium CE and beyond, in Krish Seetah (ed.), Connecting Continents.  Athens: Ohio State University Press, pp.  68-91.
  • Myagmar, E., Webber, H., Parkes, G., Pecchia, V., & Horton, M. 2018. A Buddhist monastery revealed by UAV survey and ground-penetrating radar in eastern Mongolia. Antiquity, 92(363), E11. Https://
  • Faulkner, P, Crowther, A, Harris, M, Horton, M & Boivin, N 2018, 'Characterising marine mollusc exploitation in the eastern African Iron Age: Archaeomalacological evidence from Unguja Ukuu and Fukuchani, Zanzibar' Quaternary International, 471 A p.  66-80, https://doi. 10.1016/j.quaint.2017.08.051
  • Wynne-Jones, S, Horton, M. Fleisher J and Olsen, J. 2018, ‘Dating Kilwa Kisiwani’ in R Raja and S Sindbaek (eds.) Urban Network Evolutions, Aarhus U. Press. 277-286
  • Horton, M. 2018. ‘The Swahili corridor revisited’ African Archaeological Review, 35, 2, p. 341-346, https://doi.10.1007/s10437-018-9294-2
  • Murphy, Charlene, Alison Weisskopf, Wijerathne Bohingamuwa, Gamini Adikari, Nimal Perera, James Blinkhorn, Mark Horton, Dorian Q. Fuller, Nicole Boivin (2018). ‘Early agriculture in Sri Lanka: New Archaeobotanical analyses and radiocarbon dates from the early historic sites of Kirinda and Kantharodai (Kandarodai)’, Archaeological Research in Asia,
  • Horton, M. ‘East Africa the Global Gulf and the New Thalassology of the Indian Ocean’ in A Fromherz (ed.), The Gulf in World History. Arabia at the Global Crossroads. Edinburgh UP, Edinburgh. 160-181.
  • Horton. M. ‘Returning looted artefacts will finally restore heritage to the brilliant cultures that made them’ The Conversation November 23rd 2018.


  • Patrick Faulkner, Matthew Harris, Othman Haji, Alison Crowther, Mark C. Horton, Nicole L. Boivin, ‘Towards an Historical Ecology of Intertidal Foraging in the Mafia Archipelago: Archaeomalacology and Implications for Marine Resource Management’ in Journal of Ethnobiology 39 (2), 182-203, /10.2993/0278-0771-39.2.182
  • Tierney, A & Horton. M. ‘As archaeologists, it was our duty to take on Cadbury over ads encouraging kids to dig up ‘treasure’ – and we won’. The Conversation March 21st 2019.

In press

  • Horton. Mark ‘Beyond Eurasia - the African contribution to the pre-modern world: Examining the global and the local in the Kilwa Sultanate, East Africa’ in Christoph Mauntel, Klaus Oschema (eds.) Order in Action. Brepols.
  • Horton, Mark ‘Eastern and Southern Africa and Madagascar’ in Erik Hermans (ed.) Companion to the Early Middle Ages. ARC humanities Press
  • Basell, Laura Sophie, Ali, Abdullah, Firoozi-Nejad, Behnam, Egberts, Ella, Mellor, Nicholas and Horton, Mark ‘‘Shihrazad’s Baths: 1001 Tales of Zanzibar Nights’, Antiquaries Journal
  • Shevan Wilkin, Alicia Ventresca Miller, William Taylor, Bryan K. Miller, Richard Hagan , Madeleine Bleasdale , Ashley Scott  , Sumiya Gankhuyag, Abigail Ramsoe , Christian Trachsel , Paolo Nanni , Jonas Grossmann , Ludovic Orlando, Mark Horton, Philipp Stockhammer, Erdene Myagmar, Nicole Boivin, Christina Warinner, Jessica Hendy, ‘Dairy pastoralism sustained Eastern Eurasian steppe populations for 5000 years’ Nature Ecology and Evolution.