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Richard Madgwick

Dr Richard Madgwick

Reader in Archaeological Science

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 29208 74239
John Percival Building, Room 4.01, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am an osteoarchaeologist who uses macroscopic, microscopic and molecular methods in the analysis of animal and human remains. My research focuses broadly on reconstructing human-animal relations and I am particularly interested in the analysis of mobility, feasting and the pre- and post-depositional treatment of human and faunal remains. I have worked on projects ranging from the Mesolithic to Post-Medieval period. Specific themes I’m interested in include:

  • Feasting in prehistoric Britain
  • Animal management and provisioning
  • Macroscopic and microscopic bone taphonomy
  • The application of multi-isotope analysis (carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen, strontium, lead) on osseous remains for investigating diet and mobility
  • The treatment of human and animal remains in funerary contexts

Current projects include:

FRAB: Feeding the Roman Army in Britain (PI, £355,687, Leverhulme Trust-funded, 2022-2025)

FEASTNET: Feasting networks and Resilience at the end of the British Bronze Age (PI, £261,027, AHRC/UKRI-funded, 2021-2023)

Passage Tomb People (Co-I, €600,000, Irish Research Council-funded, 2018-2023)

BONEZ: Baltic Paganism, Osteology, and New Examinations of Zooarchaeological Evidence (Supervisor, £197,208, Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship [Katie French], 2021-2023)

ZOOCRETE: The ZOOarchaeology of Historical CRETE: A Multiscalar Approach to Animals in Ancient Greece (Supervisor, £197,921, Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship [Flint Dibble], 2021-2023)

Animal Mobility and Biomechanics (Supervisor, €118,700, Margarita Salas Fellowship [Roger Alcàntara Fors], 2022-2024)

ZANBA: Zooarchaeology of the Nuragic Bronze Age (Supervisor, £185,083, Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship [Emily Holt], 2020-2022)

Commercial Research Collaborations: I regularly undertake research collaborations with commercial units, international universities and heritage organisations (see research tab). Please get in touch for more information.



















Book sections




Current research projects include:

FEASTNET: Feasting networks and Resilience at the end of the British Bronze Age

This project runs from May 2021 to November 2023 and is funded by the AHRC/UKRI (£261,027). I am the PI and Dr Angela Lamb (British Geological Survey) is the Co-I. Dr Carmen Esposito is the project PDRA. Exploring how communities respond to economic and climatic crisis is key for enhancing understanding of resilience in the past and present. This project will explore responses to a deteriorating climate and trade collapse at the end of the Bronze Age in Britain. A major focus is the new social and economic networks that developed and how these made communities resilient in the face of turmoil. This will be achieved by employing a suite of scientific methods to analyse the very rich, but understudied sites known as middens. Multi-isotope analysis (strontium, sulphur, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen) will reveal where animals and humans came from and how agricultural production was maximised through different husbandry practices and landscape use. This will

reconstruct the new inter-community networks and the organisation of the economy and agricultural production, thus revealing the strategies that made communities resilient. It will provide a key case study into responses to socio-economic collapse and will advance understanding of how change at the end of the Bronze Age shaped society in southern Britain for centuries. The project builds on previous zooarchaeological, taphonomic, isotopic, radiocarbon and TEM analysis of midden material (Faillace et al. 2020; Gwilt et al. 2016; Madgwick 2014, 2016; Madgwick and Mulville 2012, 2015; Madgwick et al 2012a, 2012b; Waddington et al 2019). Project partners include Operation Nightingale, The Wiltshire Museum, The British Museum and Breaking Ground Heritage.

Project website:

FRAB: Feeding the Roman Army in Britain

This project runs from January 2022 to January 2025 and is funded by the Leverhulme Trust (£355,687). I am the PI, Dr Angela Lamb (British Geological Survey) is the Co-I and Dr Peter Guest (Vianova) is the consultant collaborator. The project employs three PDRAs to undertake isotope analysis and integrate findings with wider scholarship. Leïa Mion (collagen) and Hongjiao Ma (enamel) are the first two researchers to be employed. Feeding the Roman Army in Britain will transform our understanding of the Roman army and Roman imperialism by generating new evidence for the logistical networks that supplied soldiers in the province of Britannia. It will address critical questions about the provisioning of the army and the impact of thousands of soldiers on native populations in the provinces. This collaborative project will produce one of the largest multi-isotope (strontium, oxygen, sulphur, carbon and nitrogen) datasets in archaeological research to date. It will focus on domestic animals from forts and rural settlements in three regions – Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall and southeast Wales – to provide, for the first time, a sophisticated understanding of how soldiers in these areas were provisioned. The multi-isotope analysis will reveal animal origins, the supply networks that supported military garrisons, if new animal husbandry strategies were introduced to intensify production and support the army, and, ultimately, improve understanding of the frontiers as economic as well as militarised zones. The project follows a scoping project funded by the Roman Research Trust a pilot project on the legionary fortress at Caerleon, published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences: This pilot featured on BBC Radio 4 Making History ( Project website:

Passage Tomb People

Passage Tomb People aims to identify the social drivers of passage tomb construction along the Atlantic Façade, focusing on the archaeology of three key zones: Ireland, North Wales and Orkney. The connectedness of Atlantic passage tombs, in terms of iconography, building methods and material culture, has long been recognised but to date there has been no targeted research on the societies that built them. This project is funded by the Irish Research Council Consolidator Laureate Award to PI Jessica Smyth (UCD) and I am a co-I leading the programme of multi-isotope analysis on humans and animals. Katie Faillace (PhD student) is undertaking the laboratory work. Project website:

BONEZ: Baltic Paganism, Osteology, and New Examinations of Zooarchaeological Evidence

This project is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship to Dr Katie French that I am supervising (2021-2023, £197,208). Baltic Sea communities faced intense pressures from the 12th to 13th century AD, including colonization, forced conversions, and environmental change. The social resiliency of these communities in response to this crucial inflection point remains controversial. Did the external pressures catalyse the formation of a regional pan-Baltic identity? Or did

splintered, hyper-local responses intensify differences between communities? The clearest measure of these seismic social shifts is how religious and mortuary behaviour changed in response, as communities create and negotiate a shared identity through the performance of ritual. The BONEZ project integrates multi-proxy osteological methods to investigate funerary and non-funerary ritual deposition of animals at five cemetery sites in Poland, Lithuania, and Kaliningrad before, during, and

after colonization (1st to 13th AD). By combining long-established osteological methods with cutting-edge, high-resolution histological, isotope, and proteomic analyses, BONEZ reconstructs where, how, why, and with whom animals were treated and deposited in pre-Christian cemeteries. BONEZ will be the first study to unite the study of Baltic ritual activity with broader academic discussions of pre-Christian religion through rigorous scientific analysis of underutilized bone assemblages. This research has the potential to transform our perception of shifting tribal affinities using changes in ritual practice as an index of social resiliency. A news item on the project can be found at:

ZOOCRETE: The ZOOarchaeology of Historical CRETE: A Multiscalar Approach to Animals in Ancient Greece

This project is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship to Dr Flint Dibble that I am supervising (2021-2023, £197,921). ZOOCRETE adopts an interdisciplinary approach to examine the development and resilience of citizen-states in ancient Crete through the lens of communal feasting and food production. The research focuses on skeletal and multi-isotope analyses (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and strontium) of faunal remains from civic dining buildings and residential spaces in four Cretan settlements from the first millennium BCE. These new archaeological datasets will be compared to a quantitative analysis of ancient Greek textual sources describing the production and consumption of animals. In these ways, the multiscalar approach zooms in on the individual lifeways of consumed animals and individual feasting contexts and zooms out to a big data investigation of animals in Greek archaeology and texts. The innovative analysis involved in this project will result in the creation of new narratives on the production and consumption of animals in ancient commensal feasts that will enhance our understanding of the resilience of ancient citizen-states. A news item on the project can be found at:

Animal Mobility and Biomechanics

This project is a Margarita Salas Fellowship to Dr Roger Alcàntara Fors that I’m supervising (2022-2024, €118,700). The aim of the project is to explore how biomechanics, an approach that is commonly utilised in human osteoarchaeology, can be advanced in zooarchaeology through integration and development. It focuses on the Neolithic of the Iberian Peninsula, a zone which showcases a fast adoption of domesticates and diversification of exploitation strategies that enable the occupation of a wide range of ecosystems. This project seeks to produce a high resolution reconstruction of animal mobility and management regimes using integrated bone biomechanics to understand land use, animal management and exploitation.

ZANBA: Zooarchaeology of the Nuragic Bronze Age

This project is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship to Dr Emily Holt that I am supervising (2020-2022, £185,083). This multidisciplinary archaeological project will transform our understanding of internal power negotiations in the Nuragic Culture of Bronze Age Sardinia through novel analyses of faunal remains, an underutilized but abundant resource in Sardinian archaeology. During Sardinia’s Middle-Final Bronze Age (c. 1700-1100 BCE), complex forms of socio-political organization replaced the undifferentiated villages of the Neolithic. An explosion of monumental building shows that some social groups were able to mobilize disproportionate amounts of labour and resources. However, the process by which these groups consolidated and expanded their power remains unknown. ZANBA will apply cutting-edge techniques in isotope analysis and zooarchaeology to discover elite economic practices and contextualize them against changing control of the landscape. The results of ZANBA will redefine site hierarchy-based studies that rely on untested assumptions about land use. Additionally, ZANBA will create legacy benefits for archaeologists of all periods by creating a strontium isotope biosphere map that will unleash the potential of provenancing on Sardinia. I am supervising the project and working closely with Emily throughout. A news item on the project can be found at:

Wet feet: Developing Sulphur Isotope Methods to Identify Wetland Inhabitants

A more refined understanding of isotope systems could radically enhance interpretative potential. Sulphur isotopes are less well utilised for provancing, partly because it is assumed that fossil fuel burning creates negative ecosystem sulphur isotope values. However, recent studies suggest mudstone bedrocks naturally have negative sulphate sulphur isotope values that are transmitted into ecosystems. Furthermore, such bedrock formations tend to be poorly drained, further reducing sulphur isotope values. This project aims to demonstrate that negative or low sulphur isotope values can be traced from bedrock into the biosphere, that they are natural and not caused by pollution, and that they will provide a geographic fingerprint for wetland populations. This will be achieved by analysing modern plants and animal bone and archaeological animal bone from the Somerset Levels and the Cambridgeshire Fens, as well as modern plant from the Rothamstead experimental station. The project is funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust and is a collaboration between the British Geological Survey (Angela Lamb, Carolyn Chenery and Jane Evans) and Cardiff University.

Commercial research collaborations

I regularly undertake research collaborations with commercial units, international universities and heritage organisations. Current and recent collaborators include Historic England, Wessex Archaeology, Oxford Archaeology, AC Archaeology, Red River Archaeology, Archaeology Wales, Colchester Archaeological Trust, Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust, Cardiff Archaeological Consultants, CFA Archaeology, Black Mountain Archaeology, LP Archaeology, Hollinrake Archaeology, York Archaeological Trust, University of Bristol, Queen’s University Bristol, University of Cambridge, CAU Kiel, University of Oslo, Eötvös Loránd University, University of Algarve, University of Cordoba, Autonomous University of Barcelona, University of Padua.


Teaching profile

I am programme convenor for MSc Archaeological Science.

I am convenor for the following modules:

* Biomolecular Archaeology (MSc)

* Archaeology Dissertation (Year 3)

* Archaeological Science Dissertation (Year 3)

* MSc Archaeological Science Dissertation (MSc)


I contribute to the following modules:

* Human Osteoarchaeology (MSc)

* Zooarchaeology (MSc)

* Death and Commemoration (MA/MSc)

* Postgraduate Skills in Archaeology and Conservation (MA/MSc)

* Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study (MA/MSc)

* Forensic and Osteoarchaeology (Year 3)

* Death and Burial in the Roman World (Year 3)

* Archaeology Dissertation (Year 3)

* Archaeological Science Dissertation (Year 3)

* Applied Archaeological Science (Year 2)

* Independent Study (Year 2)

* Independent Science Project (Year 2)

* Analysing Archaeology (Year 1)

* World Full of Gods (Year 1)


Administrative Responsibilities

2018-present Human Tissue Officer for College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

2017-present: Programme convenor (MSc Archaeological Science)

2018-2022 Director of Postgraduate Research (School of History, Archaeology and Religion)

2019-2022 Research Ethics Committee (School of History, Archaeology and Religion)


Education and qualifications

PhD: January 2008-April 2011. Cardiff University, Colum Drive, Cardiff. AHRC funded. Thesis title: Investigating the Potential of Holistic Taphonomic Analysis in Zooarchaeological Research. Viva completed July 2011

MA: October 2005-September 2006. University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. Osteoarchaeology (AHRC funded) – grade Distinction

BA: September 2001–June 2004. University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. BA (Hons) Archaeology – grade 1:1

Career overview

After finishing an AHRC-funded MA in Osteoarchaeology at the University of Southampton, I worked as a field archaeologist for Wessex Archaeology prior to taking up an HLF-funded IfA internship in Bioarchaeology at Cardiff University. After this one year post, I commenced an AHRC-funded PhD at Cardiff University, supervised by Dr Jacqui Mulville. I submitted the thesis, entitled Investigating the Potential of Holistic Taphonomic Analysis in Zooarchaeological Research in April 2011 and took up a temporary position as Lecturer in Archaeology at Bournemouth University. My teaching focussed on Zooarchaeology, Prehistory, Post-Excavation studies and Archaeological Skills.

I was next employed as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate on the Dama International Project at the University of Nottingham. This 3 year AHRC-funded project involved a multi-disciplinary investigation into the biogeography and management of the European fallow deer (Dama dama dama). I was responsible for zooarchaeological, biometric and isotope (δ15N, δ13C, δ34S, δ18O,87Sr/86Sr) analysis. After almost a year at Nottingham, I returned to Cardiff in January 2013 to embark on my own research project as a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow on a 3 year project 'Reconstructing the Feasts of Late Neolithic Britain'. I took up a position as Lecturer in Archaeological Science in 2016, was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2019 and Reader in 2022.

Honours and awards

Selected Awards/Grants

  • Leverhulme Research Grant: Feeding the Roman Army in Britain (£355,687, 2022)
  • AHRC/UKRI Early Career Research Grant (£261,027, 2021): Feasting Networks and Resilience at the end of the British Bronze Age.
  • British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship: Reconstructing the Feasts of Late Neolithic Britain (£234,512, 2013).
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellowship (£199,212, 2021): ZOOCRETE: The ZOOarchaeology of Historical CRETE: A Multiscalar Approach to Animals in Ancient Greece (with F. Dibble, scored 97.3%).
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellowship (£197,208, 2021): BONEZ: Baltic paganism, Osteology, and New Examinations of Zooarchaeological evidence (with K. French, scored 95.6%)
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellowship (£185,082, 2020): ZANBA: Zooarchaeology of the Nuragic Bronze Age (with E. Holt, scored 94.2%)
  • NERC grant (£298,350, 2020): Towards ultra-trace element measurements in organic-rich samples, tracing past and modern environmental changes (Co-I, PI: Morten Andersen)
  • Eight NEIF (previously ORADS/NIGFSC) grants (c. £135,000; 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2020, 2021, 2022) for isotope analysis and 14C dates
  • BA/Leverhulme Small Grant (£9,861, Mar 2019): Wet Feet: δ34S isotope analysis in wetland environments (with A. Lamb, Mar 2019)
  • Cardiff University Outstanding Contribution Award
  • Two Cardiff University nominations for Outstanding PhD supervisor of the year
  • Cardiff University nomination for Personal Tutor of the year


Academic positions

2016- present: Lecturer in Archaeological Science, Cardiff University

2013-2016: British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow, Cardiff University

2012: Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Dama International Project, University of Nottingham,

2011-2012 Lecturer in Zooarchaeology (temporary), Bournemouth University

Committees and reviewing

  • Elected as Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
  • Elected to International Committee of the International Council for Archaeozoology
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • AHRC Peer Review College member
  • Panel member: The Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation (RPF), Netherlands Organisations for Scientific Research (NWO).
  • Grant reviewer: National Science Foundation, USA (NSF), Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), Natural Environment Research Council, UK (NERC), National Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), Eutopia-SIF, The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, National Science Centre, Poland (NCN)
  • Elected as Publicity officer for the Association for Environmental Archaeology (2009-2015)
  • Appointed Archaeological Science editor for De Gruyter journal Open Archaeology


Research Supervision

I would be interested to hear from potential postgraduate students looking to develop research projects in the following areas:

* Isotope analyses relating to mobility, diet and animal husbandry.

* Human-Animal relations in Later Prehistoric Britain

* The archaeology of the Bronze Age - Iron Age transition in Britain

* The archaeology of feasting

* Bone taphonomy

Current PhD students:

Iulia Rusu: The Christianisation of the Magyar: Diet, health and mobility in 10th to 14th century Hungary (analyses funded by NERC Isotope Geosciences Facility and BABAO, with Jacqui Mulville)

Katie Faillace: Biodistance in Britain: a dental morphometric analysis of migration in Wessex from the Iron Age to Early Medieval Period (funded by an Ursuala Henriques scholarship and analyses funded by Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, with Jacqui Mulville)

Eirini Konstantinidi: Neolithic Cave Burial in Western Britain (analyses funded by the Prehistoric Society, the British Cave Research Association and the National Environmental Isotope Facility, with Jacqui Mulville)

Ciara Butler: Osteobiographies and Connectivity in Early Medieval Wales (fully funded by Brython Archaeology, analysis funded by the National Environmental Isotope Facility with Alan Lane)

Anton Axelsson: Health and Stature in Medieval Southern Britain (with Ben Jervis)

Jessica Peto: Assessing bio-cultural impacts on British biodiversity, AD 0 – 1000 (NERC-funded, with Naomi Sykes [Exeter].