Matthew Knight

Discipline: Archaeology

Project Summary

My research concerns the study of Bronze Age metalwork deposited in South-western England in the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. Hundreds of examples of Bronze Age metalwork (i.e. items of copper, bronze and gold) have been recovered in a variety of conditions from across this region and I am particularly concentrating on those pieces that suggest they were deliberately destroyed prior to deposition. This phenomenon, which includes the crushing, bending, burning and breaking of objects, has been noted elsewhere across the British Isles and throughout Europe, but no intensive study has been conducted on it in the South-West.

As part of my study I intend to produce replicas of Bronze Age weapons and tools on which to conduct experiments into how such objects might be broken and the evidence of these processes that might be left on the objects. This will provide me with a reference collection, allowing me to accurately analyse the hundreds of metal finds spread across the various museums in the South-West. Once the data is collected it will interpreted alongside a range of theoretical approaches into how humans in the past may have viewed and related to these objects and how this may have influenced their decisions to destroy these valuable commodities. 

Supervisory Team

As I am funded by the AHRC South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, my supervision is split between two institutions. I am fortunate enough to be supervised by:

Prof. Dr. Anthony Harding (University of Exeter)

Dr. Joanna Brück (University of Bristol)

Wider Research Interests

My wider research interests concern Bronze Age settlements, metalworking and the themes of memory and forgetting in prehistory.

My undergraduate dissertation investigated the relationship between settlement patterns and the patterns of metalwork deposition in Bronze Age Cornwall.

I have also published on the Bronze Age metalworking evidence present at settlements in Devon and Cornwall (available at

One of my major interests recently has been the role of memory in prehistory. My Masters thesis investigated the phenomenon of Bronze Age objects found outside of their expected typological sequences in hoards and settlements across southern Britain. I have spoken several times on this feature of prehistory, expanding to include also Bronze Age objects found in the Iron Age and Roman periods. I will be speaking on how this may relate to aspects of forgetting at the EAA conference in Glasgow later this year.