Lectures & Talks

Nick Hanks is a part-time lecturer at the University of Winchester, and has given talks and lectures to other universities, various societies and groups. Those currently available are listed below under the following themes; Ritual and Space, Archaeological Practice and Landscape Archaeology.

These presentations are offered as either Talk (suitable for societies), Lecture (suitable for students) or Fieldtrip (suitable for either) formats, and Workshops (requiring an open space free of chairs).

Ritual and Space

Doorways to the Divine – sacred spaces in modern religious buildings. A look at the use of space in the buildings of eight different religions (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Ba’hai and modern Druids) and what they tell us about religious ritual requirements of space. Based on research and theoretical work published in 2012 and developed from his MA research. This includes a section on ritual and spatial theory. [Talk / Lecture. Also available as a five or ten week evening class.] [Some of this material is on the Doorways to the Divine page.]

Spaces for Words. Spaces for Symbols. – non-conformist chapels and masonic halls. Both were new building types built for new social groups, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though both new movements were similarly regarded with suspicion and targeted by legislation, their social organisation and buildings are completely different. Based on MA research. [Talk / Lecture]

The Subtle Qualities of Space. There is no such thing as an empty room. Our bodies and minds respond subtly to different locations within a space, and this affects both performance and ritual as experienced and as witnessed. This workshop is derived from those given by the drama theorist Clive Barker in the mid 1980s, which Nick Hanks attended. [Workshop] [This material is covered on the Bodies and Minds in Space page.]

The Tao Teh Ching – the way and its virtue. An introduction to this hugely influential and inspiring Chinese classic about ‘the Way’ and how to follow it. This talk goes beyond the origins and influence of this text to explore the concepts within it; the failure of success, nothing-wanting, nothing-knowing, nothing-doing and the success of failure. This talk heavily draws on the brilliant translation and commentary of the Tao Teh Ching by Herrymon Maurer. [Talk]

Many Paths, One Forest – an introduction to modern Paganisms. Heathens, Druids, Wiccans, Hedgewitches; it is all very confusing for the uninitiated. This talk covers the diversity of modern Paganisms. It also delves into the origins and how these parallel with the emergence of Archaeology as a disciple. A walk-through of a typical ritual will de-mystify the nature of the practice. This draws on both personal experience and academic work. [Talk]

“In Come I…” – St George and mummer’s plays. A talk of three parts. Firstly, the myth and history of the patron saint of England. Secondly, the English folk drama of ‘mumming’ in which St George is a regular character. And thirdly, you will have a chance to join in a read-through of a short mumming play. Nick Hanks has experience of mumming in the village of Lacock, Wiltshire. [Talk]

Archaeological Practice

The Map is Not the Territory – historic environment data and mapping. The first half of this presentation concerns mapping on paper and digital formats; how these are useful to archaeologists, issues of accuracy and the tension between representation and interpretation. There are map regression and map error spotting exercise. The second half concerns the data; who collects it, why, the data standards used across the sector, HERs and NRHE (NMR), the types of heritage designations, and the various online methods of access to all this data such as the National Heritage List for England and ADS. Both parts of this lecture also explore how fundamental theoretic aspects impact on daily heritage sector use and application of the data and mapping. This lecture draws on Nick Hanks’s 13 years at Historic England (formerly part of English Heritage). [Talk / Lecture]

Getting to know MoRPHE (Managing of Research Projects in the Historic Environment). This is an introduction to the new standard of project management that all projects funded by Historic England (formerly part of English Heritage) are required to follow. It is aimed to provide familiarisation for this more flexible method of project management, which has evolved out of best practice such as MAP2 which specifically applied to excavation projects. The course will involve some explanation of project management in general, and specific examples of how MoRPHE helps in structuring the research work. The MoRPHE guide is available at www.historicengland.org.uk/advice/technical-advice/project-management-for-heritage/. Nick hanks is both a MoRPHE trainer and has applied it in archaeological projects. [Lecture]

Performing or Lecturing? The Challenges and Opportunities of Interpreting Heritage on Tours – the Bristol meta-tour. This field trip will work on two levels. Firstly as an introductory guided tour of the history and archaeology of the City of Bristol, using various methods of presentation. Secondly, an exploration of the interpretation issues arising from the site and the material about it. With opportunities for discussion. Due to the use of an urban environment there will be a bias in the sites visited towards Medieval and later periods. However, some presentation methods and issues will also be applicable to Prehistory, and some specific examples applying to Prehistory will be presented though without their relevant context. The issues covered include:- use of objects and pictures, safety, acoustics, ambiguity, too much or too little archaeological data, literature and legends, storytelling and costume. This fieldtrip draws on Nick Hanks’s experience in guided tours, research, interpretation and his time studying Theatre Studies at Warwick University. [Fieldtrip]

Paces & Places : How to give heritage guided walks.  This training consists of talk and then a practical. The talk covers similar material to the meta-tour above, but focuses much more on guided tour practicalities, covering areas such as; how to plan your route, what materials to use, how to manage the group of people and how to structure the walk.  The second half is a practical outside the venue, doing a mini-mock-tour for people to try out some of the points raised in the talk. This draws on Nick Hanks’s 20 plus years of experience leading guided walks in diverse settings and his time studying Theatre Studies at Warwick University. [Talk/Fieldtrip]

“It’s a hump of grass. So what!”- practical interpretation of archaeological sites for public engagement. This field trip to Brean Down will look at various forms of on-site interpretation and then explore and critique the reasoning behind them. From costume guides, artifact handling, use of illustrations, non-damaging site interaction, performance and storytelling, to the more usual interpretation panels, audio-guides and guide books. Also this fieldtrip would look at practical issues such as desire lines, viewpoints, safety and how visitor behaviour affects the management of the site. How the visitor experience is controlled, and how the visitor reacts against that control. This fieldtrip draws on Nick Hanks’s experience in guided tours, research, interpretation and his time studying Theatre Studies at Warwick University. He has also worked at Brean Down for over 20 years. [Fieldtrip]

How to Assess Landscapes Archaeologically. This lectures covers briefly how to write archaeological landscape assessment reports and practical advice on how to do the fieldwork. Also how to do the desk-based assessment work; where the best sources of information are, and how to use them, in particular aerial photographs and maps. It overlaps with ‘The Map is Not the Territory’ lecture above.  [Lecture / Fieldtrip]

Landscape Archaeology

Reconstructing a Dragon’s Tale – Sir Bevis of Hampton and the Snakewell, near Bristol. A lost standing stone and a fragmentary medieval cross with a heroes name plus a well associated with serpents all hint at a lost legendary dragon slaying. Combining other research and comparing it to the most common elements of British dragon tales this presentation ends with a telling of the reconstructed tale. This is based on research for the article published in 2007.  [Talk / Lecture]

Ancient Tales: reconstructing stories from the Ice Age. Recent research has revealed three ‘scenes’ from lost myths among the vast diversity of Paleolithic European art. After exploring this intriguing diversity then you will hear a performance of these recreated tales. These tales were performed at the National Trust South-West Outdoors Festival. [Talk]

Cheddar Gorge – geology, history and botany. Delve into the depths of the Britain’s biggest gorge. It is full of natural wonders large and small, including unique species that are here and nowhere else and curious hybridizing trees. The caves have tales to tell from the evidence Ice Age cannibalism to the beginnings of the show caves, via hunting kings and the famous Cheddar cheese. This talk is based on research for the National Trust guidebook. [Talk]

King John’s Hunting Lodge and Axbridge – a history. This fine medieval timber building stands at the heart of a town over looking the market square. It’s history and the museum collection of objects within illustrates the life of Axbridge from the Saxon borough, through times as a prosperous wool town and an important administrative centre to diversification in modern times. This talk is based on research for the National Trust guidebook. [Talk]

Stanton Drew – archaeology, history and folklore. This covers all that is currently known about this impressive stone circle, from the folklore to the geophysical survey that transformed the view of the site. This is put in the wider context of other henges, and the Neolithic / Bronze Age of North Somerset. Ideally this will consist of a lecture in the morning and a field trip in the afternoon. [Talk / Lecture / Fieldtrip]

Brean Down – 10,000 years in 1 mile. This landscape has everything; glacial faunal deposits, field systems, a Bronze Age village, cairns, barrows, a hillfort, a Roman temple, a post-Roman cemetery, evidence of a tsunami, a failed port with the navvies’ housing, a Napoleonic Coastal Fort, a World War II complex of buildings including training structures, special weapons testing equipment etc etc etc. Based on the detailed fieldwork and documentary research that he has carried out on this landscape. [Talk / Lecture / Fieldtrip]

Tyntesfield and Failand – the lost estates. They are both in the same parish, but the rural landscape from which they were both made has become remarkably different. One landscape completely changed, and people were excluded. The other preserved what was there before, and was made openly accessible. Tracing their story from prehistory to the present, but particularly looking at the effect of the 19th century owners. Based on the detailed fieldwork that he has carried out on these two estates. [Talk / Fieldtrip]

Ornaments and Oranges – the archaeology and history of Dyrham Park. Through looking at both the design of the house, its contents and the layout of the elaborate watergardens, an overall purpose can be discerned in William Blathwayt’s house. His links with William of Orange, and the attitudes and developments of later Blathwayts will also be looked at. This presentation is based on his original fieldwork, documentary research and geophysical survey. [Talk / Fieldtrip]

The Green Frog Service – why put landscapes on plates? Catherine the Great commissioned this 944 piece dinner service from Josiah Wedgewood, with 1,222 images of Britain upon it. It was the very first European service to have real views upon it. She started the trend that continues to this day. It also became part of building the British national myth through representations of landscape. Based on research work done during his MA. [Talk / Lecture]


Dyslexia – more than just getting your ‘mucking wurms fubbled’. This talk will draw on research in to this ‘disability’ and on Nick Hanks’s experience as a dyslexic. Exploring and illustrating the issues and the enhanced abilities experienced by dyslexics. It ends with video of an interview with Steven Spielberg and a bit of musical comedy. [Talk]