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Archaeology at The Castle - A weekend of talks & discussions in Taunton

Twelve forty-minute talks, question and answer sessions and a panel discussion.

Esteemed archaeologists speak on diverse subjects from Greek Temples to Maya Kingship.

Based at the ever-welcoming Castle Hotel in Taunton.


  • 18th-century capriccio of ancient ruins, designed by Machy and engraved by Basan.
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Our now renowned series of symposia have so far featured historians, art historians, biographers, travel writers and politicians. This edition draws on the talents of eminent archaeologists. The twelve forty-minute talks will cover a huge variety of subject matter: from the Vikings to the Etruscans, from Palestine to Easter Island, from Roman Palaces to Greek Temples.

The speakers are respected scholars, have been involved in excavations worldwide and most have a book to their name, or several. We are also joined by Tom Mayberry, CEO of the South West Heritage Trust, responsible for the modernisation of The Museum of Somerset located 100 yards from the hotel. There is free time to visit the collections in between talks.

The venue is the perennially charming Castle Hotel in Taunton with a well equipped meeting room and an excellent restaurant.

The speakers

Dr Paul Bahn
Britain’s foremost specialist in prehistoric art, author of Prehistoric Rock Art and Journey Through the Ice Age.

Dr David Beresford Jones
Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge University, specialising in the Andes.

Dr Felicity Cobbing
Executive and Curator of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London and widely published on the archaeology of the Levant.

Professor Simon Esmonde Cleary
Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Birmingham specialising in Gaul and Spain in late antiquity as well as on Roman Britain.

Lucia Gahlin
Lecturer in Egyptology at Exeter and Bristol Universities.

Professor Norman Hammond
A leading expert on Maya civilization and archaeology and Archaeology Correspondent for The Times.

Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
Chair of Ancient History at the University of Cardiff and specialist in the history and culture of ancient Iran, the Near East and Ancient Greece.

Tom Mayberry MBE
CEO of the South West Heritage Trust, responsible for the modernisation of The Museum of Somerset.

Professor Antony Spawforth
Historian, broadcaster, lecturer and writer specialising in Greek and Roman antiquity.

Nigel Spivey
Senior Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Cambridge.

Jonathan Tubb
Keeper of the Middle East Department of the British Museum.

Gareth Williams
Curator at the British Museum, specialising in Viking history and archaeology.

Friday 16th February

Afternoon session 3.00pm–6.00pm

Tom Mayberry 
Title to be confirmed

Dr Gareth Williams
Was Alfred so great? Alfred and the Vikings in the light of recent finds

Afternoon refreshments

Professor Norman Hammond
Maya Art and Maya Kingship

Drinks reception and dinner

Saturday 17th February

Morning session, 9.30am–12.30pm

Dr Felicity Cobbing
Cook’s tours and the Palestinian Exploration Fund

Dr David Beresford-Jones
A story of nets – how a cotton revolution lies behind the origins of civilisation in the Andes

Coffee break

Jonathan Tubb
The road to Qatna: the development and destruction of Syrian archaeology

Afternoon session, 3.30pm–6.20pm

Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
Do animals have histories? The culture of animals in the ancient world

Dr Nigel Spivey
Those mysterious Etruscans – demystified?

Professor Simon Esmonde Cleary
Palaces of the later Roman Emperors


Sunday 18th February

Morning session, 9.30am–12.30pm

Professor Antony Spawforth
Greek Temples

Lucia Gahlin
The Art of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, Ancient Egypt’s Unique Royal Couple

Coffee break

Dr Paul Bahn
The archaeology of Easter Island

Panel discussion

Finish c. 12.45pm

Prices – per person

Two sharing: standard double or twin £700; garden room £760. Single occupancy: single room (single bed) £700. Depending upon availability, we may be able to offer double rooms for sole use at around 10 weeks prior to the weekend at £750 – please let us know on your booking form if you would be interested in upgrading should the opportunity arise.


Hotel accommodation for 2 nights; breakfasts and 2 dinners with wine; admission to the talks; drinks reception; refreshments during coffee and tea breaks; gratuities for hotel staff; a detailed programme booklet.

‘No dinners’ option: if you would prefer not to join the two evening meals there is a price reduction of £80 per person.


The Castle Hotel, Taunton: The Castle Hotel is renowned for its excellent service, for comforts traditional and modern and for its superb catering. It has been owned and run by the Chapman family for over 60 years.

The hotel’s 44 bedrooms are individually and charmingly decorated and well equipped. The largest – the Garden Rooms – are in the remains of the 12th-century castle overlooking the garden, and are the equivalent of Junior Suites, with a sitting area and separate dressing room. Doubles and twins are mainly of a good size and vary in outlook. Single rooms, while comfortable, are small and generally less well appointed with single beds – for this reason we do not charge a single supplement for them. The majority of rooms have a bath with a shower fitment.

The hotel has a lift, though some bedrooms do then involve some step access. There are no bedrooms on the ground floor. The Music Room is on a mezzanine level, which can only be reached via a flight of stairs from the lobby – there is provision for wheelchair users (if you think you will need this, please let us know in advance).

How strenuous?

These weekends are very leisurely affairs – everything takes place within the confines of the hotel. However please read the previous section if you use a wheelchair or have difficulties with negotiating stairs, and please contact us if you wish to discuss your access requirements in general.

Group size

Maximum 76 resident participants.

Talks only

If you wish to participate in the talks only, without accommodation, tickets are priced at £40 per session or £150 for all four sessions combined. Refreshments during breaks are included, but not lunches or dinners.

Map for Taunton.

'The programme was suitably diverse but collectively comprehensive. All the speakers were fluent and penetrating in their verbal presentations.'

'Well balanced mix of speakers. Good social mix... Easy relaxed atmosphere.'

'I loved the whole weekend and the way that a lot was packed in by virtue of keeping to a strict timetable.'