Carl Heron is Director of Scientific Research with overall responsibility for the team of scientists in the museum. The position, funded by the Wellcome Trust, has the strategic aim of enhancing research in bioarchaeology - the study of organic artefacts, remains and residues from the Museum collections deploying state-of-the-art molecular and isotopic approaches.

Carl’s research interests focus on the identification of organic matter preserved in association with archaeological materials. He applies analytical organic chemistry to archaeological questions such as artefact function, trade and exchange and the study of technological processes. He has a particular interest in molecular and isotopic characterisation of organic residues associated with ceramic containers and in the identification of organic substances used in mortuary processes.

Carl joined the British Museum in 2016 after 25 years at the University of Bradford. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeological Sciences, also from Bradford, a PhD from University College, Cardiff and post-doctoral experience at the University of Liverpool. Carl was head of Archaeological Sciences from 1999-2001 and 2010-2014, and Dean of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences from 2001-2006. From 2004 he was Professor of Archaeological Sciences.

Current projects

The Innovation, Dispersal and Use of Pottery in NE Europe (ERC Advanced Grant, 2016-2021)

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Honorary Professor, University of Bradford (2016 to date)

Honorary Visiting Professor, University of York (2016 to date)
Member, Humboldt Foundation Network

Full-list of publications




Selected publications


Lucquin, A., Robson, H.K., Eley, Y., Shoda, S., Veltcheva, D., Gibbs, K., Heron, C.P., Isaksson, S., Nishida, Y., Taniguchi, Y., Nakajima, S., Kobayashi, K., Jordan, P., Kaner, S., Craig, O.E., (2018). The impact of environmental change on the use of early pottery by East Asian hunter-gatherers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Piličiauskas, G., Skipitytė, R., Heron, C. 2018:  Mityba Lietuvoje 4500–1200 cal bc maisto liekanų keramikoje bendrųjų mėginių izotopinių tyrimų duomenimis. Lietuvos Archeologija 44: 9-37.
Brettell, R., Schotsmans, E., Martin, W., Stern, B. and Heron, C. (2018) The Final Masquerade: Resinous substances and Roman mortuary rites, Livarda, A., Madgwick, R. and Riera Mora, S. (eds) The Bioarchaeology of Ritual and Religion. Oxbow Books, Oxford: 44-57.


Larsson, L. Sjöström, A. and Heron, C. (2017) The Rönneholm arrow. Lund Archaeological Review 2016, 22, 7-20.

Pollard, A.M., Heron, C. and Armitage, R.A.. (2017) Archaeological Chemistry. 3rd edition. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge.


Heron, C., Habu, J., Katayama Owens, M., Ito, Y., Eley, Y., Lucquin, A., Radini, A., Saul, H., Debono Spiteri, C., Craig, O.E. (2016) Molecular and isotopic investigations of pottery and charred deposits from Sannai Maruyama and Sannai Maruyama No. 9, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. Japanese Journal of Archaeology 4, 29-52.

Heron, C., Shoda, S., Breu, A., Czebreszuk, J., Eley, Y., Gorton, M., Kirleis, W., Kniesel, J., Lucquin, A., Müller, J., Nishida, Y., Son, J.-H. and Craig, O.E. (2016) First molecular and isotopic evidence of millet processing in prehistoric pottery vessels. Scientific Reports 6: doi:10.1038/srep38767.

Robson, H.K., Andersen, S.H., Clarke, L., Craig, O.E., Gron, K.J., Jones, A.K.G., Karsten, P. Milner, N., Price, T.D., Ritchie, K. Zabilska-Kunek, M. Heron, C (2016) Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values in freshwater, brackish and marine fish bone collagen from Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in central and northern Europe. Environmental Archaeology 21, 105-118, doi/10.1179/1749631415Y.0000000014

Lucquin, A., Gibbs, K., Uchiyama, J., Saul, H., Ajimoto, M., Eley, Y., Radini, A., Heron, C.P., Shoda, S., Nishida, Y., Lundy, J., Jordan, P., Isaksson, S., Craig, O.E. (2016) Ancient lipids document continuity in the use of early hunter-gatherer pottery through 9,000 years of Japanese prehistory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. doi/10.1073/pnas.1522908113

Brettell, R.C., Heron, C. (2016) The fragrant dead. Current Archaeology 312 (February 2016).


Brettell. R.C., Schotsmans, E.M.J., Walton Rogers, P., Reifarth, N., Redfern, R.C., Stern, B. Heron, C.P. (2015) ‘Choicest unguents’: molecular evidence for the use of resinous plant exudates in late Roman mortuary rites in Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science 53, 639-648.

Brettell, R.C., Stern, B., Heron, C.P. (2015) Mersea Island Barrow: Molecular evidence for frankincense. The Essex Society for Archaeology & History 2013 4, 81-87.

Heron, C., Craig, O.E., Luquin, A., Steele, V.J., Thompson, A., Piličiauskas, G. (2015) Cooking fish and drinking milk: Pottery evidence for aquatic resources and dairy products in the Southeastern Baltic from 3300-2400 Cal BC. Journal of Archaeological Science 53, 639-648.

Heron, C., Craig, O.E. (2015) Aquatic residues in foodcrusts: Identification and implication. Radiocarbon 57, 707-719.

Piličiauskas, G., Heron, C. (2015) Aquatic radiocarbon reservoir offsets in Lithuania. Radiocarbon 57, 539-556.