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Karen Dempsey

Dr Karen Dempsey

Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 29225 14035
John Percival Building, Room 5.05, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a later medieval archaeologist whose research interests focus on the daily (and gendered) lives of people and their households in Ireland and Britain between 1100 - 1600. This means researching people, places, plants and things together to understand lived experiences.   I teach archaeology of the middle ages as well as archaeological theory.










Adrannau llyfrau




I teach Medieval Archaeology and the History of Archaeological Thought, as well as the core module Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study


My work blends the theoretical perspectives of prehistoric, historic and anthropological archaeology as well as material culture and heritage studies. I am a medieval archaeologist who specialises in studies of castles.

Honours and awards

Government of Ireland, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, National University of Ireland, Galway. Oct. 2019 – Sept. 2022 (150,000 EUR). Home is Where the Heart(h) is: exploring medieval houses in Ireland 1100-1600 AD.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, University of Reading Oct. 2017 – September 2019 (199,500 EUR). Prof Roberta Gilchrist: mentor. HeRSTORY' Holistic Research into the story of buildings, objects and people in the later medieval period of Ireland, Britain and France from a gendered perspective.

Charlemont Scholarship, funded by the Royal Irish Academy with Prof. Ruth Tringham at U.C. Berkeley, U.S.A. June-July 2022. Feeling Home': telling a digital sensorial story of medieval Irish houses.

Medieval Settlement Research Grant £3000, Society for Medieval Archaeology £1000, Transport Infrastructure Ireland 800EUR, National Monuments Service 800 EUR. Total 6300 EUR for The Material Experiences of 'Peasant' Life in Medieval Britain and Ireland (c. 1200–1500) Co- Lead Applicant with Dr Ben Jervis (Cardiff).

Research Grant: Society for Medieval Archaeology (Lead Applicant) and the Royal Irish Academy (Co-Lead Applicant) January 2021-November 2022 (4300EUR) ' Revealing Roesia': gendered landscapes of medieval castles.

Research Grant: Castle Studies Trust (£5,500 / 6400 EUR). January 2020 – November 2021. Sowing Seeds of Interdisciplinary Work: Relict Plants at Medieval Castles. Lead Applicant

Research Grant: Thyssen Foundation (7,000 EUR). July 2019 – November 2020. Getting the Sense of Small Things: Exploring the Relationship of Medieval People and Objects. Co-Lead Applicant With Dr Jitske Jasperse, Berlin, Humboldt-Universität

PhD scholarship: Irish Research Council at University College Dublin,Jan 2015.

Professional memberships

  • Council Member & Events Officer Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • European Association of Archaeologists
  • Castle Studies Group (2012+)
  • Château Gaillard (European Castle Studies Group) (2012+),
  • Society for Medieval Feminists (2016+),
  • The Scottish Medievalists (2022+)
  • Medieval Settlement Research Group (2022+)

Academic positions

  • Government of Ireland, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow,  Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Oct. 2019 – Sept 2022,
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow,  Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, England, Oct. 2017 – Sept. 2019

Committees and reviewing

  • 2022-2025 Elected in 2021 as Ordinary Board Member for the Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • 2022-2025 Elected to Society for Medieval Archaeology (SMA) Council as Events Officer
  • 2021-2024 Series Editor of 'Visual and Material Cultures' ARC Humanities Press with Dr Jitske Jasperse and Dr Elizabeth Williams
  • 2021 Commissioned by Oxford University Press to write an annotated online bibliography on gender archaeology (30,000 words). Published 2022.
  • 2020 commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland to write first gender archaeological report (23,500 words) on medieval castles. Related co-written article submitted: Scottish Historical Review
  • 2020 Co-edited with Dr Jasperse Getting the Sense of Small Things. Das Mittelalter, (Journal of Medieval Research). 33 abstracts received; 8 papers published including four mentored ECR's.
  • 2020 Referee for funding for Kress Foundation and Castle Studies Trust.
  • 2018 Self-assessment panel for Athena SWAN 2019 School of Archaeology, University of Reading
  • 2015+ Peer-reviewer Journal of Irish Archaeology, Archaeological Journal, Royal Society of Antiquaries, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Medieval Archaeology
  • 2012 Editor of a post-graduate journal, Trowel, in School of Archaeology, UCD (2012).


My research specialism centres on medieval and gender archaeology; I am happy to supervise topics on:

  • later medieval households
  • Medieval Castles
  • gender and space
  • Medieval Gardens
  • Human-Plant Relations