Dr Richard Thomas

FullSizeRender.jpgReader and Chair of the Association for Environmental Archaeology


Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3343  
Email: rmt12@le.ac.uk

Personal details

  • BA, PhD (Birmingham), FSA, FLS

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 as Lecturer in Archaeology in September 2003 and was promoted to Reader in 2014.

  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London
  • Fellow of the Linnean Society of London
  • Chair of the Association for Environmental Archaeology
  • International Committee member of the International Council for ArchaeoZoology (ICAZ)
  • Associate Editor for the International Journal of Paleopathology



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


Appleby, J., Thomas, R. and Buikstra, J. 2015. Confidence in paleopathological diagnosis – a borrowed terminological framework. International Journal of Paleopathology 8: 19-21.

Gordon, R., Thomas, R., Foster, A. 2015. The health impact of selective breeding in poultry: a probable case of ‘creeper’ chicken (Gallus gallus) from 16th-century Chester, England. International Journal of Paleopathology 9: 1-7

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. 2015. Food as material culture in a 19th-century ecclesiastical community, pp. 188-215, in Brooks, A. M. (ed.), Nineteenth-Century Material Culture Studies from Britain. Society for Historical Archaeology and University of Nebraska Press

Thomas, R., Sadler, P. and Cooper, J. 2015. Developmental osteology of cross-bred red junglefowl (Gallus gallus L. 1758) and the Implications for Ageing Chickens from Archaeological Sites. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

Tourigny, E., Thomas, R., Guiry, E., Earp, R., Allen, A., Rothenberger, J., and Lawler, D. 2016. An osteobiography of a 19th-century dog from Toronto, Canada. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 26: 818–829.


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

Reconstruction of past human-animal relationships

Within this general arena, I'm 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.

My research has broken new ground in a number of areas.

For example, I have 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 my key research themes. By bringing together zooarchaeological and documentary evidence, I managed to 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 my 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, I 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 has organised four major international conferences (three of which have been published).

My 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
  • improved our understanding of the archaeological significance of certain types of pathologies through the analysis of modern known-history populations

I'm currently Associate Editor for the International Journal of Paleopathology.

Recent grants


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

  • Zooarchaeology
  • Past human-animal relationships
  • Animal palaeopathology
  • Agricultural economy
  • Food as material culture

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

Current students

  • Emily Banfield: Animals and ontologies in Neolithic long barrows
  • Lauren Bellis: A Dog’s life: an interdisciplinary study of changing human-animal relationships in Roman Britain
  • Alison Foster: Identifying chicken breeds in the archaeological record
  • 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 turrkey
  • 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.

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