Dr Gianna AyalaGianna Ayala


Assessment Officer

Level 2-3 tutor

On research leave for semester 1 of 2014/15

BA (University of Texas at Austin), MA (Università di Roma, La Sapienza), PhD (University of Cambridge)

Email address: g.ayala@sheffield.ac.uk

Telephone: 0114-2222935

Department address: Northgate House, West Street S1 4ET


I am a trained prehistorian with over twenty years of excavation and field survey experience. Over the last 14 years much of my work has focussed on landscape archaeology and geoarchaeological analysis in order to answer important questions about human history. I studied for my undergraduate degree in archaeological science at the University of Texas at Austin and MA in prehistory at the Università di Roma, La Sapienza during which I gained fieldwork experience in the Mediterranean and specifically Italy working on international archaeological field projects spanning a wide range of human history from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Classical period. I came to the UK to write a doctoral thesis on long term landscape history and human impact in the Sicilian Nebrodi Mountains integrating geoarchaeology, archaeology and modelling using GIS (University of Cambridge).

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work for English Heritage as a geoarchaeologist 2003-2004 advising on archaeological sites and research strategies across the south of England before taking my post in the Department of Archaeology in 2004.

Research interests:

My research interests are wide reaching and focus on the integration of different analytical methods. I work predominately in the Mediterranean but have worked all over the world, including Britain, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Turkey and Argentina.

  • Geoarchaeology (landscape and on-site investigations)
  • Italian and Mediterranean prehistory
  • Landscape archaeology and field survey techniques
  • Contemporary archaeology

Current research projects / collaborations:

  • Knossos: I am currently in the planning stages of a project in collaboration with Amy Bogaard (University of Oxford), Eleni Hatzaki (University of Cincinnati).
  • San Vincenzo, Stromboli (Sicily): in collaboration with the Dr. Sara Levi (Università di Modena) and Marco Bettelli (CNR Rome): excavation of a Bronze Age village on the island of Stromboli
  • The Bova Marina Archaeological Project (Calabria): directed by Prof. Lin Foxhall (University of Leicester) and Dr. John Robb (University of Cambridge). The fieldwork for the geoarchaeological survey had been funded by the British Academy and is currently being written up.

Research supervision:

I would be happy to supervise students at both MA/MSc and PhD level on topics relating to geoarchaeology, landscape archaeology, and European prehistory.

Current students:

  • Tudur Davies: Early Medieval Penllyn, an environmental landscape study.
  • Samantha Stein: The Geoarchaeology and Micromorphology of Viking and Anglo-Saxon Occupation Sequences: understanding changes in use of space in a Viking camp and Anglo-Scandinavian settlement at Torksey, Lincolnshire (funded by a University of Sheffield studentship)

Former students

  • Craig Appley: The influence of environmental changes upon occupation practice and land use during the prehistory of the Furness Peninsula, South Cumbria, UK (funded by a University of Sheffield studentship)

Examples of former MSc research topics:

Geoarchaeology in the A-Level classroom: Communicating archaeological interdisciplinarity

A geoarchaeological analysis of a Late Bronze Age floor deposit from Mokarta, Sicily

A geoarchaeological reconsideration of the accepted landscape model for Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Central Anatolia, Turkey



  • Archaeology in Action
  • Landscape and People (co-ordinator)
  • Catastrophe and Climate Change: from Prehistory to Modernity (co-ordinator)


I teach on the MSc in Geoarchaeology, the MSc in Enivronmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy and the MA in Landscape Archaeology and MA in Aegean Archaeology.

  • Geoarchaeology: Method and Theory and Environmental Archaeology (co-ordinator)
  • Environmental Archaeology (co-ordinator)
  • Environments and Landscapes in Contemporary Perspective (co-ordinator)
  • From Desk to Field: Methods in Landscape Analysis
  • Mediterranean Landscapes
  • GIS and Remote Sensing in Archaeological Landscapes

Selected publications

  • Ayala, G. and Fitzjohn, M. (2013) The archaeology of the mafia: extortion, justice and reprisal in Palermo (1982-2012), World Archaeology, Volume 45 (4).
  • Ayala, G. (2012). Recovering the Hidden Landscape of Copper Age Sicily. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 25(2): 175-196.
  • Fitzjohn, M. and G. Ayala. (2012) Making sense of a hidden Sicilian landscape: Geoarchaeological and GIS investigations of field survey data. In Van Leusen, P.M., G. Pizziolo & L. Sarti (eds), Hidden Landscapes of Mediterranean Europe: Cultural and methodological biases in pre- and protohistoric landscape studies. Oxford: BAR International Series
  • Ayala, G., Conte, L., Tusa, S. (2012) Indagini stratigrafiche alla Grotta dei Cavalli, San Vito Lo Capo (TP), In Procelli, E. et al. (eds.) Atti della XLI Riunione Scientifica dell’I.I.P.P., Dai Ciclopi agli Ecisti. Società e territorio nella Sicilia preistorica e protostorica, (San Cipirello, 16-19 novembre 2006).
  • M. Bateman, G. Ayala, J. Wainwright (eds) (2010) Special Issue: Geoarchaeology: From Landscape to Laboratory and Back Again, Volume 25, Issue 6: 671–856
  • Ayala, G. (2009) Southern Regional Review of Geoarchaeology: Alluvial Deposits, English Heritage, Research Department Reports Series (006/2009), ISSN 1749-8775.
  • Ayala, G. & Fitzjohn, M. (2007) To be seen or not to be: interpretations of survey data and questions of archaeological visibility in upland Sicily, in M. Fitzjohn (ed.) The Uplands of ancient Sicily and Calabria: the archaeology of landscape revisited, Accordia.
  • Ayala, G. & French, C. (2005) Erosion Modeling of Past Land-Use Practices in the Fiume di Sotto di Troina River Valley, North-Central Sicily, Geoarchaeology, Vol. 20, No. 2: 149–167.

Full publications list


  • Associazione Italiana di Archeometria (AIAR), Modena, Italy (2012) keynote speaker
  • Geoarchaeology: From Lab to Laboratory and Back Again, Sheffield University (2009) (Co-organiser)
  • Hidden Landscapes Workshop Sienna (2007) Making sense of the hidden Sicilian landscape: Geoarchaeological and GIS investigations of field survey data

Other professional activities

2004-2009 Committee Member of the AEA

2009- present Ordinary Member of the AEA and the QRA

2002-present Reviewer Geoarchaeology, Journal of Archaeological
Science, Journal of Environmental Archaeology, and Journal of Field Archaeology, Antiquity