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Dr Jennifer Baird

B.A. (Hons), M.A. Ph.D. (Leicester), FSA

Reader in Archaeology

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 3.02
28 Russell Square

Tel: 020 7631 6808


  • Jen Baird came to Birkbeck in 2008 after holding a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Leicester. Her main interest is in the archaeology of Rome’s Eastern provinces and the archaeology of everyday life, but she has also published on ancient graffiti, ancient urbanism, archaeological photography, and the history of Classical archaeology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research and teaching

  • Research interests
  • My central research interests include Roman provincial archaeology, ancient housing, and the history of Classical archaeology. My publications have used the site known as Dura-Europos, in Syria, to explore these topics. Dura was a polis that was variously under Hellenistic, Parthian, and Roman control until its demise at the hands of the Sasanians in the mid-third century CE. It was excavated under the directorship of Franz Cumont and Michael Rostovtzeff in the 1920s and 30s. Using new fieldwork in tandem with archival resources, my main project will bring the largest corpus of urban housing in the Roman east to publication for the first time. It integrates architecture, artefacts, and textual evidence to examine ancient daily life and responses to Roman hegemony, and will be published by Oxford University Press as The Inner Lives of Ancient Houses: Experiencing Empire at Dura-Europos.
  • One of the challenges facing contemporary Classical archaeology is how to approach the vast amount of legacy data generated by our discipline over its history, including a wealth of information generated, but often not published, by the ‘big digs’ of sites like Dura. The archives formed by such excavations are a rich resource and challenge, a resource which demands not only to be exploited as archaeological data but as an archive which must itself be set in historical context. In the Dura archive, I have kept (re)counting potsherds, but moved to write about other lines of enquiry too, questioning the archaeological gaze, the nature of archaeological archives, and the latent value judgment in the very name of Classical archaeology.
  • For copies of some of my articles and chapters, see:
  • Teaching
  • I teach a number of undergraduate and postgraduate modules including
  • The Past in the Present: Classical Archaeology in the Modern World Empire (undergraduate group 2)
  • Excavating Identity: The Archaeology of Being Roman (undergraduate group 2)
    The Archaeology of the Roman Empire (undergraduate group 1)
    Edge of Empire: The Archaeology of Roman frontiers and boundaries (MA)
  • Between Words and Walls: Material and Textual Approaches to Ancient Housing (MA)


  • Books
  • Baird, J. A. 2014, The Inner Lives of Ancient Houses: An Archaeology of Dura-Europos. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Baird, J. A.  and C. Taylor, edd. 2011, Ancient Graffiti in Context. New York: Routledge.
  • Baird, J. A. and A. Pudsey, edd. (In prep) Between Words and Walls: Textual and Material Approaches to Ancient Housing.
  • Journal articles and book chapters
  • Baird, J. A. 2015, “On Reading the Material Culture of Ancient Sexual Labour” Helios 42.1: 163-175.
  • Baird, J. A. and Lesley McFadyen, 2014. “Towards an Archaeology of Archaeological Archives” Archaeological Review from Cambridge 29.2 (The Archive Issue), 14-32.
  • Baird, J. A. 2013, “Religion and Ritual” in P. Clark (ed) Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 181-196.
  • Baird, J. A. 2012, “Re-excavating the Houses of Dura-Europos” Journal of Roman Archaeology 25: 146-169.
  • Baird, J. A. 2012, “Constructing Dura-Europos, Ancient and Modern”, in Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels and Darian Totten (eds) Making Roman Places: Past and Present. Portsmouth: JRA Supplemental Series, 34-49.
  • Baird, J. A. 2012, “Dura Deserta: The Death and Afterlife of Dura-Europos”, in Christie, Neil and Andrea Augenti (eds) Vrbes Extinctae: Archaeologies of Abandoned Classical Towns, Aldershot: Ashgate, 307-329.
  • Baird, J. A. 2012, “L’habitat d’époque romaine à Europos-Doura: replacer les artéfacts en contexte”, in Leriche, Pierre, Ségolène de Pontbriand and Gaëlle Coqueugniot (eds) Europos-Doura Varia 1. Beirut: IFPO, 231-240.
  • Baird, J. A. 2011, “The Houses of Dura-Europos: Archaeology, Archive, and Assemblage”, in L. Brody and G. Hoffman (eds) Dura-Europos: Crossroads of Antiquity. Boston: McMullan Museum, 235-250.
  • Baird, J. A.  and C. Taylor 2011, “Ancient Graffiti in Context: Introduction”, in Baird, J. A. and C. Taylor, (eds)  Ancient Graffiti in Context. New York: Routledge, 1-19.
  • 17. Baird, J. A. 2011, “Graffiti at Dura-Europos: A Contextual Approach”, in Baird, J. A. and C. Taylor, (eds) Ancient Graffiti in Context. New York: Routledge, 49-68.
  • Baird, J. A. 2011, “Photographing Dura-Europos, 1928-1937. An Archaeology of the Archive”. American Journal of Archaeology 115.3, 427-46.
  • James, Simon, J. A. Baird, and Kristian Strutt 2012, “Magnetometry survey of Dura’s Roman military base and vicinity”, in Leriche, Pierre, Ségolène de Pontbriand and Gaëlle Coqueugniot (eds) Europos-Doura Varia 1. Beirut: IFPO, 111-116.
  • Baird, J. A. 2007, “The Bizarre Bazaar: Early Excavations in the Roman East and Problems of Nomenclature”, in Croxford, Benjamin, Nick Ray, Roman Roth, and Natalie White (eds) TRAC 06: Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference Proceedings 2006. Oxford: Oxbow, 34-42.
  • Baird, J. A. 2007, “Shopping, Eating and Drinking at Dura-Europos: Reconstructing Contexts”, in Lavan, Luke, Ellen Swift, and Toon Putzeys (eds) Objects in Context, Objects in Use: Material Spatiality in Late Antiquity. Late Antique Archaeology Supplementary Volume 4. Leiden: Brill, 413-437.
  • Baird, J. A. and C.  Taylor 2016, “Ancient Graffiti” in J. Ross (ed) Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art. New York: Routledge: 17-26
  • Baird, J. A. 2016 “Private graffiti? Scratching the Walls of Houses at Dura-Europos” in Rebecca Benefiel and Peter Keegan (eds) Inscriptions in Private Places. Brill Studies in Greek and Roman Epigraphy: Leiden: Brill, 13-31
  • Baird, J. A. (forthcoming, 2016) “Everyday life in Roman Dura-Europos: The Evidence of Dress Practices”, in Kaizer, Ted (ed) Religion, Society and Culture at Dura-Europos. Yale Classical Studies Series, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Upcoming and recent lectures, seminars and conference papers
  • Invited Keynote address on graffiti in Amsterdam Centre of Urban Studies, conference on “Fleeting Testimonies of Urban Life. Graffiti and other Transient Writings from Antiquity to the Present” Universiteit van Amsterdam, January 2016.
  • Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. Invited session on Dura-Europos, “Yale’s Dura Archive: New Excavation Histories”, March 2016.
  • European Association of Archaeologists Conference, Conference Paper: Archaeological Photographs and Temporality: From Time Travel to Timelessness, EAA 21st Annual Meeting, Glasgow: September 2015.
  • Anthropology and Photography Conference, Royal Anthropological Institute, Conference Paper: “Mistaken images: intent and accident in archaeological photography”, May 2014.
  • Royal Anthropological Institute: Visualising Latin American Antiquities. Invited presentation “Framing the past: archaeological objectives and photographic objectivities”, June 2014.
  • Photographic History Research Centre Seminar at De Montfort University. Invited lecture on history of archaeological photography, “Exposing Archaeology: Time, Beauty, and the Role of Photographs in Archaeological Knowledge”, March 2013.
  • XIV Congressus Internationalis Epigraphiae Graecae et Latinae, Graffiti in Private Spaces, “Private graffiti? Scratching the walls of houses at Dura-Europos” invited lecture for section on “Inscriptions in Private Places” organised by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Berlin, August 2012.
  • Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Material and Visual Anthropology, Oxford University, invited lecture, “Exposing Archaeology: Photographs, Time, and Archaeological Knowledge”, June 2012.
  • Institute of Classical Studies, Roman Art Seminar, “Focussing on Roman objects: photographing the art and artefacts of Dura-Europos”, King’s College, London, April 2012.
  • 1st Conference of the Colloquium on Roman Crete (CORCC 2016). with Daniel Stewart, Conference Paper : Framing Roman Knossos: Geophysics and Legacy Data, University of Nottingham, November 2016.


Professional membership

  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
  • Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, Palestine Exploration Fund, Council for British Research in the Levant. Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Current activities