Archaeology Through the Lens

The camera has been an essential part of the archaeologist’s toolkit ever since the early days of photography in the 19th century. Archaeologists use photography for a range of purposes, such as recording excavations, artefacts, or entire buildings and landscapes. 

Often the images that the public see have been chosen to represent how the archaeologist wants something to look for the record, making sure that the site and any discoveries are looking their best. What is not often seen is the work in progress, the processes of archaeology and the people involved. This exhibition aims to counter that by showcasing a small selection of photographs from York Archaeology’s image archive, which in its entirety contains records from the late 1960s through to the present day.

The photographs in this exhibition come from four sites in York: Rougier Street, Tanner Row, Wellington Row and nearby Micklegate. These excavations span a decade, beginning in 1981, and all took place around a similar area of the city, to the south of the river not far from the railway station. 

Each photograph tells its own story. Some fulfil a practical purpose, whereas others reveal the people involved in making each excavation a success. Some capture a unique moment or viewpoint, all thanks to the skill of the photographer. 

Archaeology Through The Lens invites you to see some evocative images from our past excavations and consider the important role of photography in archaeology.


York Archaeology thanks the following organisations that have contributed to funding Archaeology Through The Lens: The Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, Sheldon Memorial Trust, Yorkshire Philosophical Society, York Common Good Trust, the Noel Goddard Terry Charitable Trust, and the Gild of Freemen of the City of York.

Thanks are also given to York Archaeology staff, past and present, who have contributed their skills, enthusiasm and dedication to our work over the past 50 years.