Research interests

Research Themes

Richard’s 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).

His current and past research has two main strands: (1) the reconstruction of past human-animal relationships, predominantly in the historic period; and (2) palaeopathology – the study of animal health and disease in the past.

Reconstruction of past human-animal relationships

Within this general arena Richard is primarily interested in enriching our understanding of agricultural practice, diet, and human attitudes to animals within the historic period through the integration of zooarchaeological evidence and documentary sources. His research in this area has broken new ground in a number of areas. For example, he has contributed to a key historical debate concerning the timing and nature of the Agricultural Revolution. The impact of the Black Death has also been one of Richard's key research themes. By bringing together zooarchaeological and documentary evidence, he has shed new light on the impact of the Black Death and the subsequent breakdown of feudal structures on agriculture, diet and hunting. Similar themes have formed the basis of Richard's research within the Roman period, in particular exploring the way in which the Roman army was provisioned in the first generation following the conquest of Britain.

Animal palaeopathology

In 1999 Richard co-founded the ICAZ Animal Palaeopathology Working Group (APWG) to foster international collaborative research and multi-disciplinary discussion relating to the study of past animal health and disease and improve the theoretical and methodological foundation of the subject. The APWG have organised four major international conferences (three of which have been published). Richard's personal research within this field has highlighted the research potential of the field within and beyond archaeology, improved the methodological foundation of the subject, presented the analysis of palaeopathological evidence from archaeological sites to improve our understanding of past human-animal relationships, and improved our understanding of the archaeological significance of certain types of pathologies through the analysis of modern known-history populations. Richard is currently Associate Editor for the International Journal of Paleopathology.

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