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Browse a sample of research projects that have been undertaken using the museum's extensive collections.

Research News
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Wells & Transatlantic Slavery

The museum is a member of a group of institutions and individuals investigating links between the city and transatlantic slavery. In March 2023 it held a conference covering histories, perspectives and legacies of the subject, and it has published a self-guided trail to related historic sites in the city. The group now has its own website to which the museum contributes: 


Read about the group's work here:

Tolls & Turnpikes

A library project exploring the conditions experienced by early travellers in Somerset.


Read the account of this research by library volunteers here:

Bronze Age Metalwork

Matt Knight, a PhD researcher from the University of Exeter visited the museum to record and inspect our special items of metalwork.

Read Matt's account of his visit here:

Axe Valley Neanderthals

Dr. Frederick Foulds is researching Neanderthal use of the Axe Valley in the Middle Palaeolithic period, including re-analysis of artefacts from Mendip cave sites.

Read about his work here:

The Hokerstone at the Museum

The 1.6 m tall Hokerstone stands on the lawn at the front of the museum, and many are intrigued as to its origin. Research by Barry Lane, a former Honorary Curator, reveals its discovery, move to the museum, and various theories as to its historical background.

Read the account of the Hokerstone here:

Spotted Hyaenas in the Museum

Research on prehistoric spotted hyaenas from the museum’s archaeological collection has been undertaken by Angharad Jones, a PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Read more about Angharad's research here:

Palaeolithic Axes

Ella Egberts, a PhD researcher from Bournemouth University, visited the museum to record in detail our axes from the Avon Valley in Hampshire. These were collected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the gravel deposits.

Read more about Ella's work here:

Mines and Minerals

Thirty years of detailed research by Peter Burr, friend and donor to the museum of many Mendip minerals, has been published as Mines & Minerals of the Mendip Hills. This fascinating book is now in the museum library.

Read a review of Peter's book here:

Roman Coin Hoard

Joseph White

The museum has kindly been given a hoard of third century Roman coins discovered near Westbury-sub-Mendip.

The finds were initially examined by experts at the British Museum before being recorded in more detail at the museum. All have been identified as bronze radiates, also known as antoniniani, which was the major denomination of the later Roman Empire. Interestingly, all the identifiable coins date from a relatively short time period, between c.250 and 274 AD.


The hoard comprises a mix of ‘official’ radiates and ‘unofficial’ ancient forgeries (known as barbarous radiates). The hoard was found alongside fragments of greyware pottery and a basal sherd. The sherds are potentially remnants of the coin container, but this is unclear as fragments from more than one pot are present. Three heavily corroded nails accompanied the find which, although ancient, are probably stray material to the coins.

Read more here:

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Biography of the Museum

Gill Pettitt, a museum volunteer, has researched this history of the museum building - which may date back some 800 years.

Read Wells & Mendip Museum - A Biography here:

​Jurassic Ichthyosaurs

Ben Moon, undertaking a PhD at the University of Bristol, recently visited the collection, particularly focusing on the taxonomy of the Toarcian and Late Jurassic material.

Read about Ben's work on these ichthyosaurs here:

Radiocarbon Dating

Radiocarbon dating has been undertaken on human remains from sites around Wells, including on the 'Wookey Hole Witch', specimens from the Wells golf links, Coxley, and hair from a skeleton found at Priddy.

Read the surprising results of the dating work here:

Neolithic to Bronze Age

Neolithic to early Bronze Age artefacts: the museum’s collection of Neolithic / early Bronze Age artefacts from Nettlebridge cave has been used by Helen Harris to explore the significance that the past can have for our understanding of the present.

Read about Helen's photographic project here:

Stalagmite's Lead Mining Record

A record of lead smelting on the Mendip Hills as documented by a cave stalagmite: a stalagmite which records 5,000 years of history has lead concentrations that correlate in time with the main periods of mining activity on the Mendip Hills.

Find out more about this work on a Mendip cave stalagmite here:

Roman Bronze Leaves

The Roman bronze leaves found in 1914 in Wookey Hole Caves, and recently conserved with a grant from the Association of Independent Museums, reveals that hitherto unsuspected pagan ritual activity took place within the cave.

Read Barry Lane's account of the leaves here:

Historic Document Discovery

Research in the museum's library has uncovered a treasure trove of documents dating back over 200 hundred years. The documents record the award of the command of the HMS Jane to John Knight, and the second a grant of land by the last King of France, Louis Philipe.

Read about A World Away From Wells here:

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