Ralph Jackson

Curator of Romano-British Collections
Roman Britain

Department: Britain, Europe and Prehistory


+44 (0)20 7323 8580

Ralph Jackson, an archaeology graduate of University College Cardiff, joined the Museum in 1977. He has directed excavations on Roman military and civilian sites in Britain and specialises in Roman metalwork and the archaeology of ancient medicine.

His main medical interests are in ancient surgery, surgical practitioners and their instrumentation. Major publication projects in progress include a book on Greek and Roman surgery, a catalogue of the British Museum’s medical collections and, with Dr. Jacopo Ortalli, the publication of the remarkable medical assemblage from the ‘House of the Surgeon’ at Rimini.

Current projects

The Ashwell (‘near Baldock’) hoard of Roman temple treasure and its archaeological context (excavations led by G. Burleigh 2003-6)

Greek and Roman surgical instruments and medical objects in the British Museum

Previous projects

Preparation of Roman Britain gallery 1983, 1997, 2007

Lead curator for the exhibition ‘Gladiators and Caesars: the Power of Spectacle in Ancient Rome’

Cosmetic sets: an illustrated catalogue and discussion of a type unique to late Iron Age and Roman Britain

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries

Advisory Board member for the journal Medicina nei Secoli

Advisory Board member of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions, Smithsonian Institution

Recent publications

Ralph Jackson, ‘Back to basics: surgeon’s knives in the Roman world’, in D Michaelides (ed) Medicine and healing in the ancient Mediterranean. Proceedings of the conference, Nicosia, 27-29 September 2008 (Oxbow, 2014), 130 – 144

Ralph Jackson, ‘Tailpiece: Roman mice in art, allegory and actuality’, in R. Collins and F. McIntosh (eds) Life in the Limes: Studies of the people and objects of the Roman frontiers presented to Lindsay Allason-Jones on the occasion of her birthday and retirement, (Oxbow, 2014), 217 - 231

Ralph Jackson, ‘Senex, samian and saffron – solution in sight?’, Essay 22 in D Bird (ed) Dating and Interpreting the Past in the Western Roman Empire: Essays in Honour of Brenda Dickinson (Oxbow, 2012), 223 – 233

Ralph Jackson, ‘The Ilam Pan’, Chapter 5 in D. Breeze (ed) The First Souvenirs. Enamelled Vessels from Hadrian’s Wall (Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Extra Series No. 37, 2012), 41-60

Ralph Jackson, ‘Medicine and hygiene’, Chapter 11 in L Allason-Jones (ed) Artefacts in Roman Britain: their purpose and use (Cambridge University Press, 2011), 243-268

Ralph Jackson, Cosmetic sets of Late Iron Age and Roman Britain (BM Res. Pub. No. 181, London, 2010)

Ralph Jackson, ‘Cutting for stone: Roman lithotomy instruments in the Museo Nazionale Romano’, Medicina nei Secoli 22/1-3, 2010, 393-418

Ralph Jackson (with Richard Hobbs), Roman Britain: Life at the Edge of Empire, (BM Press, London, 2010)

Ralph Jackson, ‘Lo strumentario chirurgico della domus riminese’ / ‘The surgical instrumentation of the Rimini domus’, in S. De Carolis (ed) Ars medica. I ferri del mestiere. La domus ‘del chirurgo’ di Rimini e la chirurgia nell’antica Roma (Guaraldi, Rimini, 2009), 73-91

Ralph Jackson, ‘The role of urban healers in the Roman world’, in S De Carolis and V Pesaresi (eds), Medici e pazienti nell’antica Roma. La medicina romana e la domus ‘del chirurgo’ di Rimini. Atti del Convegno internazionale, Rimini, 12 giugno 2008. (Pazzini, Rimini, 2009), 57-104

Ralph Jackson (with Gil Burleigh), ‘The Senuna treasure and shrine at Ashwell (Herts.)’ , in R Haeussler and A C King (eds) Continuity and Innovation in Religion in the Roman West Vol. 1 (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series No. 67, 2007), 37-54

Ralph Jackson, ‘Roman bound captives: symbols of slavery?’, Chapter 12 in N Crummy (ed) Image,  Craft and the Classical World. Essays in honour of Donald Bailey and Catherine Johns (Monographies Instrumentum 29, Éditions Monique Mergoil, Montagnac, 2005), 143-156

Ralph Jackson, ‘Holding on to health? Bone surgery and instrumentation in the Roman Empire’, Chapter 5 in H King (ed) Health in antiquity (Routledge, London, 2005), 97-119