Archaeological Research

Archaeological Research on Lowbury Hill

Summer Courts‘ PhD project, The Archaeology of Hidden Identity: The Case of a Female Burial from Lowbury Hill,  seeks to reveal the identity of the ‘Lowbury Lady’ and thereby shed light on the Roman and Early Medieval activity at Lowbury Hill. She is funded by the AHRC via a SWW DTP Collaborative Doctoral Award and is supervised by Prof. Amy Smith (University of Reading), Dr Sophie Beckett (Cranfield University), and Ms Angie Bolton (Oxfordshire Museums Service).

Research Abstract:

Summer’s research re-evaluates Lowbury Hill and its significance through time by re-examining the material culture evidence and the two Early Medieval burials found there. A comprehensive osteological analysis will be supplemented with archival research into documents related to previous excavations of Lowbury Hill and a reanalysis of the small finds recovered. The landscape archaeology of the site, in the context of the surrounding countryside, will also be explored using Geographic Information System (GIS) methodologies. This research aims to answer key questions about the hitherto understudied female burial and challenge previous citations of this individual being an example of human sacrifice and ritual violence. It will also review current interpretations of the site being that of a Roman temple. Over the course of her PhD, Summer’s research will shed light on the hidden identity of the female burial, add nuance to our understanding of the male burial, and improve our understanding of how Lowbury Hill was used by past communities, and why they felt it was an appropriate place to bury their dead.

Summer is an archaeologist and osteologist with an interest in day-to-day life in the past. Her research as part of the Mymerian team uses a wide range of archaeological methodologies and has been supported by a network of heritage bodies, archives, and laboratories. Osteological analysis using both macroscopic and radiographic techniques been undertaken at Cranfield Forensic Institute. Stable isotope analysis and radiocarbon dating will be obtained in collaboration with Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) and aDNA analysis will be undertaken in collaboration with Dr Stephan Schiffels at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Archival research has been supported by the Oxfordshire Museum Service (OMS); the Ure Museum Archive, University of Reading; the Haverfield Archive, University of Oxford; the Royal College of Surgeons Archive, London; The British Newspaper Archive, London; and Historic England (HE). Summer’s research has also been supported by the Ridgeway National Trail, Sarah Wright, Hedley Thorne, and Anna Dillon who have shared images, documentary sources and local insights.

Summer Courts delivering a public lecture on Lowbury Hill at Our Lady & St. John’s Catholic Church, Goring-on-Thames, November 2022.

Contact and Updates:

Updates on Summer’s research activities as part of the Mymerian team will be shared on our website and she can be contacted via email at