The York Collection

The York collection is a rare and precious resource.

2,000 years of human endeavour in the city of York

For more than five decades YAT/YA has painstakingly recovered through excavation evidence of countless past lives.

The collection of finds recovered includes

  • Building materials
  • Animal bones from horse bone to tiny frog’s skulls
  • Tons of pottery sherds
  • Environmental samples
  • Tools and debris from manufacture
  • Food stuffs
  • Personal items
  • And even personal parasites

This rich resource is important for research, creativity, display, learning and enjoyment.

Very special preservation

Many archaeological finds have survived because of the unusual soil conditions found in York.  We have found plant remains, wood, leather and textiles that otherwise would normally rot or rust away in the ground. Working with the Conservation Team we look after these finds and their associated excavation records to ensure their continued preservation.  We also ensure they are accessible for exploration and enjoyment.


Study allow glimpses of everyday life in the past including;

  • How people looked, dressed and ate
  • How they lived and died
  • Where they came from,
  • How they earned a living and enjoyed a leisurely hour. 

The finds show York’s importance over the centuries as a religious, military, administrative, manufacturing and trading city.

We share what we discover with audiences worldwide through our publications, award-winning attractions, learning programmes, exhibitions and events.
Over 15,000 artefacts and other important assemblages have been published in our acclaimed 20 volume Archaeology of York series. It details our excavations and also the artefactual, skeletal and environmental evidence from key sites in York.

You can look through our publications library here 

Our on-going Research Aims for the York Collection

We work with partners to harness next-generation research and thinking, as well as developing scientific techniques. We want to know more about the lives of people, the formation of towns like York and the organisation of rural settlements. Many of the themes resonate with our concerns today, such as the use of natural resources, people’s impact on their environment and how they were affected by climate change, about the movement of people, about identity and “personhood”, and about immunology and virus transmission.

Partnerships with Universities

We work with a number of external academic partners to enhance knowledge of the collection and we’re keen to keep up to date with scientific and other developments in the field.

Over the last 30 years, we have received 350 requests for access to the collection from researchers from universities across the UK and farther afield. Amongst the research topics have been projects on animal husbandry – including that of bees, pigs and poultry; the genetics of rats, cats and dogs; cooking techniques and influences; wheat cultivation and marine exploitation, pests and parasites, trading connections including along the silk route; health and disease; and very pressing in today’s world, micro-plastic contamination in archaeological soils.

Case Studies

The melting pot of Eboracum: Exploring diversity and identity through skeletal and burial evidence in Roman York

Our current partnership with the Department of Archaeology, University of York is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through a White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities  studentship. This Collaborative Doctoral Award is exploring mobility, identity, health and diet within the population of York in the Roman period through a multifaceted approach to the burial evidence.

York-Dublin Axis

York Archaeology is a partner in this interdisciplinary network of scholars and heritage professionals who share an interest in Britain and Ireland’s greatest “Viking Towns”, York and Dublin, and in their changing relationships both in the Viking-age and the present day. Partners include Dublin City, National University of Ireland, City of York council, York Museums Trust, University of York, University of Glasgow and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

You can view the York-Dublin Axis website here.

Access to the York Collection

Research is fundamental to our purpose. We work with a number of external academic partners to enhance knowledge of the collection and we are keen to keep up to date with scientific and other developments in the field.

Research access to artefacts both on display and at the store is via application form identifying the purposes and timescale of the request, the sponsoring institution and a brief research design. We will balance the nature of the research with the vulnerability of the objects and also with our existing work programme.

We ask for a copy of the researcher’s final results, report or thesis so we can add it to the site archive.

To learn more about enquires into the collection click here.

Access to the Archive and image resource.

Our archive has archaeological site records, including site notebooks, plans and sections, context cards, reports, publication text, illustrations, and correspondence, and records relating to the foundation and development of our attractions including the Jorvik Viking Centre. There is also an extensive photographic resource in a range of formats including slides and large- and medium-format negatives. Archival material may be accessed via our Collections and Archives Team, who can be contacted at [email protected].

To learn more about access to the collection for research purposes click here.