Staff and Student Profiles

Staff and Student Profiles

Dr Jeff Oliver
T: +44 (0)1224 273191

Jeff is currently a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen. He joined the Department of Archaeology, Britain’s newest, in 2008, shortly after it opened. Originally from Vancouver, on the West Coast of Canada, Jeff studied archaeology and history at Simon Fraser University, where he discovered that he could turn his interests in the historic environment into a career. But it was only after receiving his first pay cheque for documenting endangered archaeological sites on British Columbia’s rugged interior plateau that he decided to turn his back on a more conventional profession. After a brief but exhilarating spell as an archaeological consultant (a job that combined helicopter insertions with keeping black bears at bay), his gaze shifted to the idea of graduate school, foreign shores, and in particular the appeal of the ‘Old World’.

He enrolled in a Master’s programme in landscape archaeology at the University of Sheffield, followed by a PhD at the same institution. While initially drawn by the ‘ancient’ lumps and bumps of the English landscape, his research quickly turned to the possibility of applying methodologies learned in Britain – an eclectic mix involving not only archaeology but approaches from historical geography, anthropology, and social history – to the ‘New World’, in particular, to studying the contested histories of British Columbia’s colonial landscape.

It is from this interdisciplinary grounding, that his work began to focus on a diverse range of evidence, from material culture and ethnographic texts to cartography and historical writing, as a means of understanding colonial landscape transformations and the way that changes in the land – both material and conceptual – were implicated in creating different perceptions of history, identity and place among natives and newcomers alike. After obtaining his PhD in 2006 he reworked his ideas into a major new book: Landscapes and Social Transformations on the Northwest Coast (2010).

Jeff continues to work on the Colonial history of Western Canada, most recently focusing on intercultural histories of migrant communities in the Prairie Provinces. In addition to his work in North America, he has worked on a variety of other projects here in Britain, most notably on the historical archaeology of the Bennachie Colony, a 19th century squatter’s settlement in Aberdeenshire.