Research

I am an archaeologist and ancient historian with a research focus mainly on the spread of eastern religions and religious innovations in the Roman Empire, as witnessed through material culture.

My current project is The Gods in Motion: Syria, Migration, and the New Religions of the Roman Empire. Building on my past research, I am moving on with an investigation of Syrian sacred landscapes, Syrians and non-Syrian pilgrimage and migration in the Roman Empire and the social networks behind so-called ‘Oriental’ cults. Deliberately crossing disciplinary boundaries, I draw on research in the sociology and anthropology of religion, physics, and computer science, using network visualisations and social network analysis to ascertain why and how Syrian gods achieved such success – both in the sacred landscapes of Syria and across the empire, what migratory and pilgrimage movements underpin them and how social dynamics and identities were changed as a result, and the impact that these changes had on Roman religious life and the empire itself.

Previously, I have looked at the cults of Jupiter Dolichenus and Theos Hypsistos; and also at the spread of ideas in Diaspora Judaism. My book on this subject, Religious Networks in the Roman Empire: The Spread of New Ideas, was published by Cambridge University Press in December 2013. I received my PhD in November 2008 from the University of Exeter, where I was part of Stephen Mitchell’s AHRC-funded project, Pagan Monotheism in its Intellectual Context. I received my MPhil in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Cambridge, where I wrote my thesis on Apollo in Asia Minor. My BA was in Classical Civilisation and Philosophy from the University of Manchester.

My other research interests are in the cultures of eastern Turkey and Syria, epigraphy, the archaeology of frontiers, social network theory and archaeological theory, early Christianity, and the Bronze Age Aegean.

I have conducted archaeological fieldwork in Crete, Turkey and the UK, and have visited archaeological excavation projects across Europe, the Middle East, Georgia, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  Between 2005-2009 I was a supervisor at the excavations led by the Universität Münster Forschungsstelle Asia Minor at Dülük Baba Tepesi, a temple site in eastern Turkey.