Department of Classics and Archaeology

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Robert Francis

, Faculty of Arts


Teaching Summary

Archaeobotany (specializing in seeds and charcoal)

Roman Archaeology

Anglo-Saxon and Viking Archaeology

Educational outreach

Research Summary

Thesis Title: Food for thought: An archaeobotanical and textual synthesis of diet, agriculture and foodways in Anglo-Saxon England.

Thesis Description:

This thesis will provide the last piece in the jigsaw for our understanding of the agricultural economy, changes in food tastes and management of the environment in 5th-11thcentury Anglo-Saxon England. The study will focus on rural and urban sites from central southern England, and provide the first comprehensive synthesis of archaeobotanical (seed and charcoal) data from this era. This period also saw the creation of new trade networks which acted as catalysts for changes in food culture and landscape management, thus the archaeological data will be integrated with contemporary textual evidence, such as Bald's Leechbook (Cameron 1993), Aelfric's Colloquy (Garmonsway 1991) and Anglo-Saxon Law Codes. Parallels will also be drawn with Early Frankish medieval texts. The project will identify the agricultural practices, foodways and the management of wild resources in Anglo-Saxon England, allowing new insights into its society and economy. The findings will be communicated to the wider public through experiential learning and the experimental archaeological reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon garden.


  • Primary analysis of archaeobotanical data from the multi phased extensively sampled Anglo-Saxon rural site at Wollaston. This will add significant evidence to the existing UK archaeobotanical record (Van der Veen et al. 2013).
  • Data collection of all archaeobotanical excavation reports from Anglo-Saxon settlements in central southern England including unpublished ones (e.g. ADS database, commercial archaeological units' archives).
  • Identification of agricultural, landscape management strategies and a comparative analysis of changes in economic, social and trade practices between rural sites and urban centres in the study area and with Francia.
  • Creation of a research informed Anglo-Saxon kitchen garden at the University of Nottingham's Museum, complemented by a cross-curricular master class aimed at primary aged pupils and put into practice at selected schools.

Past Research

Early Roman London revisited: an archaeobotanical investigation of its economy and land management practices with reference to the Bloomberg site.

Waterlogged plant macrofossils were analysed from 15 samples from the Roman phases of the Bloomberg site in the Walbrook valley, London. Over 23000 seeds belonging to over 100 taxa, including cereals, food plants, exotics and weed species were identified. The assemblage represents an important contribution to our understanding of landscape management practices, the diet and economy of the area and the town during the Early Roman period. In particular this dissertation provides evidence of the large scale dumping of so called 'stabling waste' across the site in an effort to raise the ground level. By applying and critically evaluating an autecological methodology to the identified species, it was possible to determine the constituents of the dumped waste revealing that it was in most cases a mixture of animal bedding, meadow hay, crop processing by-products and nitrophilous ruderal weeds. The research also provides an insight into the inhabitants' diet, with evidence of exotic imports being present from the earliest recorded stage of Roman occupation as well as potential locally grown introductions, though whether these were intentional or invasive is still unclear. The results also indicates the potential reliance on foraged food. Finally the research attempted to provide evidence of the local wild flora growing in the area, a difficult task in light of the mixed assemblage material. The tentative results show a mix river and riverbank species that probably were growing along the Walbrook. The area would also have had small groups of dense thorny scrub trees. As well as a variety of nitrophilous wild species growing untouched on the midden material.

Department of Classics and Archaeology

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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