Photo of Professor Bonnie Effros

Professor Bonnie Effros BA, MA, PhD, FRHistS

Chaddock Chair of Economic and Social History History


Early Medieval Burial and Feasting Rituals; Early Medieval Gender and Christian Spirituality

My early medieval research focused on the interpretation of burial ritual in communities in Merovingian Gaul. My first two books examined written and archaeological evidence related to the treatment and burial of the dead in post-Roman Gaul. Due to my interest in material remains, particularly important because of the scarcity of documents attesting to early medieval ritual practices, I dedicated my next book to examining early medieval feasting and fasting rituals. This study allowed me to explore the lifeways of marginalized groups, particularly women, who were able to express themselves more fully in this informal context than in the political sphere in which they were poorly represented. My work is closely tied to current debates assessing the nature of Christian conversion, ethnic and gender identity, the survival of Roman mores in the West following Germanic migrations during the fourth and fifth centuries, and the contribution of new technologies in archaeology to our knowledge of this period. Together with Prof. Isabel Moreira at the University of Utah, I am the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the Merovingian World (Oxford 2020), which, with contributions from 50 archaeologists, art historians, and historians in North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand, highlights some of the exciting work currently being undertaken on the Merovingian era. I am currently collaborating with a group of French archaeologists and anthropologists in analysing the discovery of a number of biological adult women found buried with weaponry.

Provincial and National Archaeology in France and Britain

In the last twenty years, I have turned to early developments in nineteenth-century archaeology, beginning with growing interest in France in the early medieval past following the discovery of long-forgotten cemeteries during the course of the industrial revolution. The discoveries of graves of “Germanic warriors” pushed the French to reconsider their national origins, which could no longer be linked exclusively to the ancient Gauls. This project also allowed me to examine the impact of the formation of the discipline of archaeology on the collection and interpretation of material artifacts, and their manner in which they were traded, collected, displayed, and interpreted in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

My current monograph project investigates the career of Père Camille de la Croix (d.1911), a Jesuit archaeologist of Belgian nationality who was active in Poitiers (and the Vienne more generally) at the turn of the twentieth century. I am particularly interested in his excavations at the Hypogée des Dunes and the baptistère Saint-Jean and their contribution to a contested discourse on France's early Christian past.

Since the start of the pandemic, I have also begun research on the fascinating career and collections of the Liverpool silversmith Joseph Mayer (d. 1886), whose purchases included the eighteenth-century Rev. Faussett collection of Anglo-Saxon antiquities from Kent. As one of the co-founders of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Mayer made very important contributions to cultural and intellectual life in the city of Liverpool. His donation of his very important and varied collections (including everything from Egyptian antiquities to Anglo-Saxon remains and Wedgwood pottery) to the Corporation of Liverpool in 1867 made the city's museum one of the richest collections in nineteenth-century Britain. Today his former holdings are part of the permanent collections of the World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery and the Museum of Liverpool.

French Colonial Archaeology in Algeria and Tunisia

In 2018, I published a monograph on French colonial archaeology in North Africa. It examines how in the course of the French invasion and subsequent “pacification” of the region that became Algeria, the armée d’Afrique confiscated homes, land, and mosques from the indigenous population and massacred tribes that resisted French domination. Along with the normalization of violence against civilian inhabitants, classical monuments fared badly, being reused as fortifications or destroyed as materiel for building French barracks, roads, and hospitals. This project studies the contributions of nineteenth-century military officers, who, raised on classical accounts of warfare and often trained as cartographers, developed interest in the Roman remains they encountered throughout Algeria. Linking archaeological studies of the Roman past to French narratives of the Algerian occupation, the project examines how Roman archaeology helped foster a new identity for military and civilian settlers and critiques the close entanglement of classical studies with politics in colonial and metropolitan France. Closely related to this project is a volume of sixteen essays by international experts on imperial and colonial archaeology in the nineteenth and twentieth century that I have co-edited with art historian Guolong Lai (Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, 2018).

I continue to work on North Africa, presently using the archives of the Société des missionnaires d'Afrique (Rome) to look at the excavations of Alfred-Louis Delattre (d. 1932) who excavated Christian and Punic remains in Carthage for nearly fifty years.