Prof Richard Thomas

FullSizeRender.jpgProfessor of Archaeology

Dean of Research (CSSAH)

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3343


Personal details

BA, PhD (Birmingham), FLS, FSA, SFHEA

I read Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University (1995-1998) and embarked on a PhD at Birmingham, studying diet, agriculture, and human-animal relations in late medieval and early modern England. I joined the School in September 2003. Career highlights include:

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London
  • Fellow of the Linnean Society of London
  • Chair of the Association for Environmental Archaeology (2014-2017)
  • International Committee member of the International Council for ArchaeoZoology (ICAZ) (2014-present)
  • Associate Editor for the International Journal of Paleopathology (2010-2018)



I teach at all three levels of undergraduate study to both campus-based and distance learning students and postgraduate taught students. I am co-director of the Bradgate Park Fieldschool.


BBC4: Digging for Britain (2019)

BBCOne: Attenborough and the Giant Elephant (2017)

CBC: Jumbo: The Life of an Elephant Superstar (2017)

Radio4: Natural Histories: cow (2017)

BBCTwo: Horizon: 70 million animal mummies (2015)

Channel4: Richard III: the new evidence (2014)

PBS: Resurrecting Richard III (2014)

Recent publications

Banfield, E., Stoll, A., and Thomas, R. 2019. Healed impact trauma to a Neolithic cattle frontal bone: a posthuman perspective. International Journal of Paleopathology 24: 197-200.

Bennett, C., Thomas, R., Zalasiewicz, J., Edgeworth, M., Williams, M., Miller, H. Coles, B., Foster, A., Burton, E. J., Marume, U. 2018. The broiler chicken as a signal of a human reconfigured biosphere. Royal Society Open Science 5 (12) doi: 10.1098/rsos.180325.

Colonese A.C., Lucquin, A., Guedes, E.P., Thomas, R., Best, J., Fothergill, B. T., Sykes, N., Foster, A., Miller, H., Poole, K., Maltby, M., Von Tesch, M. and Craig, O. 2017. The identification of poultry processing in archaeological ceramic vessels using in-situ isotope references for organic residue analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science 78: 179-192.

Lloveras, L., Thomas, R., Garcia, A., Florensa, F., Segura, S., Medina, E., Orri, E., Nadal, J. 2017. Evidence of cat (Felis catus) fur exploitation in medieval Iberia. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 27: 867-879.

Lloveras, L., Thomas, R., Cosso, A., Pinyol, C., and Nadal, J. 2018. When wildcats feed on rabbits: an experimental study to understand the taphonomic signature of European wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris). Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 10: 449-464.

Thomas, R. 2019. Non-human animal paleopathology – are we so different? pp. 809-822, in Buikstra, J. and Ortner, D. (eds), Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains. Third Edition. London: Academic Press

Thomas, R. 2017. The zooarchaeology of animal ‘care’, pp. 169-188, in Powell, L., Southwell-Wright, W., and Gowland, R. (eds.), Care in the Past: Archaeological and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Thomas, R., Browning, J., Harvey, J., and Liddle, P. 2019. A medieval hunting lodge at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire. Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society 93: 169-197.

Thomas, R. Holmes, M., Morris, J., Abrehart, E. 2019. ‘The brede of good & strong Horsis’: zooarchaeological evidence for size change in horses from early modern London. Post-Medieval Archaeology 52: 224-238.

Thomas, R., Law, M,. Browning, E., Hill, A. and Small, R. 2019. The changing exploitation of oysters (Ostrea edulis L. 1758) in late medieval and early modern England: a case study from Dudley Castle, West Midlands. Environmental Archaeology.

Thomas, R. and Miller, H. 2018. Zooarchaeology and Stable Isotopes. The Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences

Thomas, R., Sykes, N., Doherty, S. and Smith, D. 2018. Constrictions in cattle horncores as indicators of traction use – a cautionary note. International Journal of Paleopathology 22: 140-142.

Woldekiros, H., D’Andrea, A. C., Thomas, R. Foster, A., Lebrasseur, O., Miller, H., Roberts, J., and Sykes, N. 2019. Archaeological and biometric perspectives on the development of chicken landraces in the Horn of Africa. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology


My teaching and research interests focus on the study of animal bones as a means of understanding past human-animal relationships (see the Bone Laboratory website).

My research has two main strands:

  1. the reconstruction of past human-animal relationships, predominantly in the historic period
  2. palaeopathology – the study of animal health and disease in the past

Recent grants


I'm happy to supervise PhDs in the following areas:

  • Zooarchaeology
  • Past human-animal relationships
  • Animal palaeopathology

You can learn more about studying for a PhD with us online.

Current students

  • Nora Batterman: Revealing Reynard: 10,000 years of human-fox interactions
  • Lauren Bellis: A Dog’s life: an interdisciplinary study of changing human-animal relationships in Roman Britain
  • Rebecca Kibble: Multi-scale spatial analysis of zooarchaeological data using GIS
  • Rachel Small: Food, identity and humoral theory in early modern England: a case study from Leicestershire

Past students

  • Judith Porcasi: Subsistence in palaeocoastal California
  • Stephanie Vann: A generic recording system for animal palaeopathology
  • Matilda Holmes: Food and status in the Saxon and Scandinavian burhs
  • Brooklynne Fothergill: The bird of the next dawn: the husbandry, transformation and translocation of the turkey
  • Rebecca Gordon: Feeding the city: zooarchaeological evidence for urban provisioning (1550-1900 AD)
  • Meghann Mahoney: Diet and provisioning in Roman small towns: a case study from Ashton, Northamptonshire
  • Eric Tourigny: Upper Canada foodways: an analysis of faunal remains recovered from urban household and rural farmstead sites in the area of York (Toronto), AD 1794-1900.
  • Emily Banfield: Animals and ontologies in Neolithic long barrows
  • Alison Foster: Identifying chicken breeds in the archaeological record

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