Curator for European and Early Prehistoric Collections


Research summary
My research specialism is in early Prehistory and lithic technology, and focuses on the Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic of Britain and Northwest Europe. As a curator my research also focuses on museum collections, and I have a long-standing interest in the history of archaeology and antiquarian collecting in Northern Europe. My current research includes analyses of Late Upper Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic lithic assemblages from southeastern England, the 17th-century origins of the Ashmolean Museum, and the archive and Palaeolithic collections of Sir John Evans (1823–1908). I am also interested in the more general concepts of the complexity of relations between objects and prehistoric societies, and have worked with S. German of the Ashmolean University Engagement Programme in delivering object biography and autobiography programmes. I welcome research on the Ashmolean’s collections by both students and outside researchers.

Alison Roberts is Assistant Keeper for European and Early Prehistoric Collections. She undertook doctoral research at Oxford before joining the British Museum as a curator specialising in Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology and material culture. She moved to the Ashmolean Museum 20 years ago, and has responsibility for the extensive European and Early Prehistory collections as well as for archive collections held by the Department of Antiquities, and for African, American and Asian material from the original 17th-century collections. During the Ashmolean redevelopment (2005–9) she was Lead Curator for the European Prehistory, Ancient World, and Exploring the Past galleries (the last with D. Bone). More recently she was Lead Curator for the Elizabeth Price artwork and exhibition, 'A Restoration' (2016), and Ashmolean curator for the ‘Lost World of Old Europe’ temporary exhibition (2010). She is currently working on a new permanent gallery on the original 17th-century museum with E. Standley.

Featured publications
2017, Percy Manning’s Archaeological Survey of Oxfordshire. In M. Heaney (ed.) Percy Manning: The Man Who Collected Oxfordshire. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 53–82
2015, Marine shell beads from three inland Later Mesolithic sites in western Britain with R.N.E. Barton. In N. Ashton and C. Harris (eds.), No Stone Unturned: Papers in Honour of Roger Jacobi. London: Lithic Studies Society, pp. 191–207.
2013. Chapter 9: Palaeolithic Britain, and Chapter 10: Palaeolithic Continental Europe. In D. Hicks and A. Stevenson (eds.) World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 169–215 and 216–39.
2008. Reading the unwritten history: Evans and Ancient Stone Implements with N. Barton. In A. MacGregor (ed.) Sir John Evans (1823–1908). Antiquity, Commerce and Natural Science in the Age of Darwin. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, pp. 95–115.

Featured projects
Mapping Manning, with M. Athenson, S. Collcutt, M. Heaney, J. Moffett, and A. Petch. Funded by OUMP. See (under development at present). Part of the Percy Manning Centenary Project, a research and outreach partnership between the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum.
Guildford Fire Station Upper Palaeolithic Lithic Analysis, with N. Barton and M. Donnelley. Funded by Oxford Archaeology, Surrey County Council, and Historic England.
British Archaeology at the Ashmolean Museum, including British Archaeological and Antiquarian Collections Online (AHRC funded project, 2005–6, 2011–12, and updated periodically.) Last update of British Archaeological and Antiquarian Collections Online was in Dec 2016 (with J. Moffett and C. Powell).

Temporary suspension of special access/enquiries
European Prehistory collections, Antiquities archive collections (apart from those relating to Aegean and Greek archaeology), and the non-European objects in the Founding Collection
1 April 2019 until the beginning of 2020

The reserve European Prehistory collections, Antiquities archive collections ( apart from those relating to Aegean and Greek archaeology), and the non-European objects in the Founding Collection will have no curatorial support from 1 April 2019 until the beginning of 2020 while the curator is on research sabbatical leave. It will not be possible to provide access to the collections or respond to enquiries that require specialist knowledge of them during this period. The permanent galleries of European Prehistory (Gallery 17) and The Ashmolean Story (Gallery 2) will remain open and these displays will be unaffected.

General enquiries about these collections can be sent to

Enquiries regarding photography for image orders and reproduction rights should be sent to the Picture Library.