Previous Research and Current Projects
Between the 8th and 13th centuries, the population of England soared to unprecedented levels. This could not have happened without a corresponding boom in agriculture, especially in arable farming. In this context, early medieval England witnessed a golden age of cereal farming – but when, where and how were the crucial developments achieved in a pre-industrial era?
Feeding Anglo-Saxon England (FeedSax for short) is an ERC-funded archaeological research project designed to address these age-old questions by applying a suite of bioarchaeological techniques for the first time.
The analysis of pathologies in cattle limb bones will elucidate the spread of the mouldboard plough, while analysis of stable isotopes in sheep will establish whether they were grazed mostly on arable. More information on the project can be found
With 24% of the current population of the UK owning at least one dog (PFMA pet population report 2016), it is of no surprise that these animals are considered by many as companions and members of the family. They are perhaps the animal most closely integrated with human lives, particularly in modern society, where the great majority of the population is far removed from contact with food-producing livestock and wild animals. Part of the pet-keeping mentality is reflected by the anthropomorphisation of dogs, and the bestowing of identities on animals by their owners. This is often based on a perceived image, with dogs used to reflect status through characteristics such as breed, temperament or colour. Within the archaeological record there is conflicting evidence for such close human-animal relationships to have been so common in the past. This project aims to integrate the zooarchaeological evidence for canids in Britain between the Mesolithic and late medieval periods (10000BC – AD1540) using zooarchaeological, scientific, artefactual, artistic and documentary evidence to better understand this relationship.
Vellum Production on Lindisfarne
A large number of calf bones were recovered during excavations on Lindisfarne carried out by the University of Leicester during the 1980s and 1990s. The bones are now being assessed to enable key contexts to be targetted for detailed analysis.
Doghole is a cave that has been painstakingly excavated, revealing Roman to early medieval animal remains in association with human burials. This is a multi-disciplinary project headed by Hannah O’Regan at University of Nottingham, which has great potential to provide insights into complex taphonomic processes as well as an apparently isolated rural burial practice taking place over several generations.
Domestic Livestock Improvement 1300-1800
This is a collaborative project with colleagues from the University of Leicester and Musum of London Archaeology, funded by the City of London Archaeological Trust. It is concerned with an analysis of metrical data taken from animal bones in and around London during the medieval and post-medieval periods with the aim of gaining a focused understanding of the mechanisms of livestock improvement.
The results of this research was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science as “So bigge as bigge could be”
The project has recently been extended to consider the changing role of chicken in the lives of Londoners from the Roman to post medieval periods.
I have been conducting a review of the current state of knowledge of the archaeozoology of Saxon, medieval and post medieval sites from southern England, as part of the English Heritage Regional Review series. The aim is to prioritise those areas where data is lacking, and compile a database of existing assemblages. This will be of use to many in the historical and archaeological sectors, including curators responsible for heritage protection, historians, archaeologists and researchers with a general interest in the periods covered, archaeologists excavating Saxon or later sites, and archaeozoologists working with material from Britain and Europe.
My PhD was funded by the AHRC, as part of the Wallingford Burh to Borough project, a long term investigation of the Saxon burh of Wallingford, Oxfordshire using excavation and survey. More specifically, the thesis centred on the use of animal bone assemblages as a tool to help understand the provisioning and supply of Saxon and Scandinavian sites by investigating the following areas:
- Diet of the population of England between AD 450 and 110;
- Animal husbandry practiced and underlying agricultural regimes;
- The place of various site types in a supply network;
- Extent to which burhs were urbanized, and how this was reflected in the provisioning of such sites;
- Problems of site classification, using a ‘bottom-up’ approach at investigating site typologies based on the faunal remains;
- Status of the inhabitants of sites, and the place of such sites in a settlement hierarchy.
My thesis has been updated and published by Sidestone Press titled Animals in Saxon and Scandinavian England: Backbones of Society.