We explore what defines us. From arts and culture to discovering dinosaurs, or literary greats and life-changing global events, our researchers examine what has shaped our society as we know it.

A deeper dive into our cultural and natural heritage research

Exploring our heritage – both cultural and natural – examines much of the human experience. We delve into our ancient history to explore and preserve some of our earliest cultural monuments, and research right through to the present day to discover how our heritage institutions can meet the changing needs of modern society.

Our research into Saxon sculpture identifies, records and publishes every English sculpture dating from the 7th to the 11th centuries. This body of work is crucially important in identifying the earliest settlements and artistic achievements of early medieval England.

The world-leading research conducted at our university reached a global audience in 2013 when we discovered the remains of King Richard III in Leicester city centre. The same team instrumental in this dramatic discovery are continuing to push boundaries and research more of history’s unanswered questions, including those around the Black Death. 

Beyond our shores, the Middle East and North Africa are home to some of the best preserved and most important archaeological sites in the world. Yet this irreplaceable heritage is under enormous threat from urban development, agriculture, looting, warfare, and natural erosion. These risks are developing at such a pace that we are in danger of not only losing these sites but any record of their existence. Our academics are working with national heritage organisations and officials to document and protect archaeology under threat throughout the region. 

Our innovative research into the relationship between humans and animals across history provides us with a detailed insight into the daily lives of communities through the ages by enriching our understanding of agricultural practice, diet, and human attitudes to animals. Our –literally– ground-breaking work has unearthed decisive evidence about the Agricultural Revolution, shed new light on the impact of the Black Death and reached around the globe to reveal unprecedented detail about Ancient Egyptian culture and the Silk Road in Kazakhstan. 

The story of our relationship with animals includes the movement of invasive species across the globe. We have studied the reconfigured ecosystems around the world, including San Francisco Bay in the United States, one of the most biologically invaded places on earth, where non-native species can make up to 97% of life. With over 200 invasive species introduced over the past 150 years – both intentional and accidental - human impact is now overwriting nature. Our academics are making the case that while these changes are mostly irreversible, further change is not inevitable. We are exploring how to alter our relationship with nature by promoting lifestyles that allow humans and nature to live together, combining new technology with new ideology to provide long-term hope for the planet. 

Looking to how we interact with heritage today, we are proud to lead the global shift to socially transformative museums and heritage. Our academics have revisited the histories of heritage sites and museum collections to include the diverse stories that these sites offer. The Research Centre for Museums and Galleries is at the forefront of transforming the way we tell our history. By working with museums, galleries and heritage sites to enable them to become more accessible, inclusive and relevant to current social needs, concerns and challenges, our academics are ensuring that everybody can find histories they identify with. 

We have also built a wealth of research around one of Leicester’s most significant cultural figures, Joe Orton, the postwar dramatist and gay icon whose life and work helped to define 1960's British culture. Our impressive archive includes interviews with those whose life and work were greatly inspired by Orton, from his family through to Hollywood stars.