Prof Richard Thomas

Professor Richard Thomas photoProfessor of Archaeology

Dean of Research (CSSAH)

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

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3343




Personal details

I read Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University (1995-1998) before completing a PhD at Birmingham, studying diet, agriculture, and human-animal relations in late medieval and early modern England. I have been a member of staff in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History since 2003 and was appointed Professor in 2019. I am currently the Dean of Research for the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. My career highlight has been filming a documentary with Sir David Attenborough about Jumbo the elephant.


I teach across all three levels of undergraduate study to campus-based and distance learning students and teach postgraduate taught students. My teaching primarily focusses on the analysis of biological materials in the archaeological record, including environmental archaeology and zooarchaeology. I also contribute to teaching on the archaeology of medieval and early modern Britain.. I was co-director of the Bradgate Park Fieldschool.


My research centres on the analysis of animal bones from archaeological sites (zooarchaeology) and 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. See the Bone Laboratory website.

Current and recent projects

Research Student Supervision

Topics for Supervision

Zooarchaeology, past human-animal relationships, non-human animal palaeopathology

Current research students

  • Nora Batterman: Revealing Reynard: 10,000 years of human-fox interactions
  • 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 research students

  • 2019 - Lauren Bellis: A dog’s life: an interdisciplinary study of changing human-animal relationships in Roman Britain
  • 2018 - Alison Foster: Identifying chicken breeds in the archaeological record
  • 2018 - Emily Banfield: Animals and ontologies in Neolithic long barrows
  • 2016 - 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.
  • 2015 - Meghann Mahoney: Diet and provisioning in Roman small towns: a case study from Ashton, Northamptonshire
  • 2015 - Rebecca Gordon: Feeding the city: zooarchaeological evidence for urban provisioning (1550-1900 AD)
  • 2012 - Brooklynne Fothergill: The bird of the next dawn: the husbandry, transformation and translocation of the turkey
  • 2011 - Matilda Holmes: Food and status in the Saxon and Scandinavian burhs
  • 2008 - Stephanie Vann: A generic recording system for animal palaeopathology
  • 2008 - Judith Porcasi: Subsistence in palaeocoastal California

Learn more about studying for a PhD at Leicester


ResearchGate list of publications

Best, J., Doherty, S., Buster, L.S., Armit, I., Boev, Z. N., Cunliffe, B., Foster, A., Frimet, B., Hamilton-Dyer, S. Higham, T., Lebrassuer, O., Mepham, L., Miller, H., Peters, J., Seigle, M., Skelton, C., Symmons, R. , Thomas, R., Trentacoste, A., Maltby, M., Larson, G., and Sykes, N. 2021. Radiocarbon dating redefines the timing and circumstances of the chicken’s introduction to Europe and northwest Africa. Antiquity

Doherty, S. P., Foster, A., Best, J., Larson, G., Lebrasseur, O., Knapp, Z., Sadler, P., Skelton, C, Smallman, R., Wolderikos, H., Thomas, R. and Sykes, N. 2021. Estimating the age of domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus) cockerels through spur development. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 10.1002/oa.2988.

Hamerow, H., Bogaard, A., Charles, M., Forster, E., Holmes, M., McKerracher, M., Neil, S., Bronk Ramsey, C., Stroud, E., and Thomas, R. 2020. An integrated bioarchaeological approach to the Medieval 'Agricultural Revolution'. The case study of Stafford, England. European Journal of Archaeology.

Haruda, A., Miller, V., Paijmans, J. L. A., Barlow, A., Tazhekeev, A., Bilalov, S., Hesse, Y, Preick, M., King, T., Thomas, R., Härke, H., Arzhantseva, I. 2020. The earliest domestic cat on the Silk Road. Nature Scientific Reports

Holmes, M., Hamerow, H. and Thomas, R. 2021. Close Companions? A Zooarchaeological Study of the Human–Cattle Relationship in Medieval England. Animals 11: 1174.

Holmes, M., Thomas, R. and Hamerow, H. 2021. Periodontal disease in sheep and cattle: understanding dental health in past animal populations. International Journal of Paleopathology 33: 43-54

Holmes, M., Thomas, R. and Hamerow, H. 2021. Identifying draught cattle in the past: lessons from large-scale analysis of archaeological datasets. International Journal of Paleopathology 33: 258-269.

Holmes, M., Thomas, R. and Hamerow, H. 2021. Lesions in sheep elbows: insights from a large-scale study. International Journal of Paleopathology 34: 50-62. 10.1016/j.ijpp.2021.05.007

Johnston, R., Christie, J., Thomas, R., Graves-Brown, C., Goodridge, W., Jones, R., North, L. 2020. Evidence of diet, deification, and death within ancient Egyptian mummified animals. Scientific Reports 10, 14113

Lloveras Ll., Thomas R., Moreno-García M., Nadal J., Tomàs-Gimeno X., Rissech C. and Bellis L. 2021. Pathological and sub-pathological changes in European rabbit bones: two reference cases to be applied to the analysis of archaeological assemblages. International Journal of Paleopathology 34: 90-100.

Thomas, R., Law, M., Browning, E., Hill, A. and Small, R. 2020. 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 25: 82-95.

Thomas, R., Bellis, L., Gordon, R., Holmes, M., Johannsen, N. N., Mahoney, M. and Smith, D. 2021. Refining the methods for identifying draught cattle in the archaeological record: lessons from the semi-feral herd at Chillingham Park. International Journal of Paleopathology 33: 84-93.


Share this page: