Coast’s Mark Horton recruited to new Cultural Heritage Institute

Leading archaeologist, TV presenter and writer Professor Mark Horton has joined a project which will see a range of new heritage-based degrees taught in Swindon.

BBC2’s Coast presenter becomes a Professorial Research Fellow at the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) Cultural Heritage Institute (CHI), following the appointment of Dr Geraint Coles, as Director.

The CHI, which opens later this year, will offer an MBA in Cultural Heritage Leadership in September 2019 and, from January 2020, MSc degrees including Archaeological and Heritage Practice, Historic Environment Management, Landscape Archaeology and Historical Archaeology. All are designed to prepare students for careers in heritage.

A renowned historical archaeologist, Professor Horton joins the RAU (whose main campus is based in Cirencester) from the University of Bristol where he was an academic for 25 years.

Mark has presented the BBC programmes Coast and Time Flyers and was involved in the early series of Time Team. His maritime interests include research on Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and he was involved in the digitisation of his private papers, now held at the Brunel Institute at the SS Great Britain.

After graduating with a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1984, Mark’s early work included an archaeological project that located and excavated the failed Scottish Darien colony in Panama (1698-1700).

He has a long-term involvement in the archaeology of the East African coast and the Swahili port-cities that are located between Kenya and Madagascar. He excavated the town of Shanga, demonstrating the African origins of the Swahili, as well as their ancient Islamic roots.

He is currently working with Dr Cat Jarman on the Viking army site at the Saxon monastery in Repton, Derbyshire – a site he first worked on as a student in the early 1980s. This research will feature in a major documentary, entitled the Lost Viking Army, to be screened on Channel Four on 21 April.

Mark said: “I have a passion for the environment especially that of our coasts, and it is so exciting to be joining the RAU at this time, helping to train a new generation in the conservation and enjoyment of our heritage.

“We’re especially looking forward to welcoming students to our exciting new purpose-built learning centre in the former Great Western Railway Carriage Works later this year.”

Led by the RAU in partnership with other academic and commercial partners, the CHI is a response to a national skills gap across the historic environment sector. 

Dr Lucy Meredith, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the RAU said: “The Cultural Heritage Institute is central to our commitment to developing a thriving, dynamic school for exploring the human past and to support the Borough Council in its ambitions to increase the higher education options available in Swindon.

“The RAU has a long history of engagement with the land, landscape and wider environment; Professor Horton’s appointment emphasises our commitment to multi-disciplinary research and to the growth of the CHI.” 

In addition to Masters level degrees the CHI will also offer a range of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses targeted at areas identified by our industry partners as critical shortages.

All courses and programmes are taught by a combination of class-based and online learning and are designed to be taken flexibly to fit around busy working lives. 

For those seeking to rapidly enter the archaeological profession the CHI will, from September 2020, offer an accelerated two-year BSc Honours degree programme in Archaeology & Heritage.