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Dr Richard Madgwick

Dr Richard Madgwick

Senior Lecturer in Archaeological Science

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 (0)29 2087 4239
4.01, John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


Research interests

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 feasting and mobility and the pre- and post-depositional treatment of human and faunal remains. Much of my research centres on the later prehistory of Britain and north west Europe. Specific themes I’m interested in include:

  • Feasting in prehistoric Britain
  • Macroscopic and microscopic bone taphonomy
  • The application of multi-isotope analysis (δ15N, δ13C, δ34S, δ18O, 206Pb/204Pb, 87Sr/86Sr) on osseous remains for investigating diet and provenance.
  • The depositional treatment of human and animal remains in funerary contexts.


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 January 2016 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2019.


Honours and awards

Selected Awards/Grants

  • AHRC Early Career Research Grant (£247,577, March 2020): 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, May 2012).
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellowship (£199,212, Feb 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, Feb 2020): BONEZ: Baltic paganism, Osteology, and
    New Examinations of Zooarchaeological evidence (with K. French, scored 95.6%)
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellowship (£185,082, Jan 2019): ZANBA: Zooarchaeology of the Nuragic Bronze Age (with E. Holt, scored 94.2%)
  • NERC grant (£298,350, Oct 2019): Towards ultra-trace element measurements in organic-rich samples, tracing past and modern environmental changes (as Co-I, PI: Morten Andersen)
  • Research contracts/grants from Brython Archaeology to investigate human remains in Early Medieval Wales (£74,176, 2016-9)
  • Three NERC Isotope Geosciences steering committee grants (£68,440; 2009, 2013, 2017)
  • Research contracts from Archaeology Wales for osteology/isotope analysis (£13,824, 2018-9)
  • Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Placement (CUROP) grants (totalling £10,700, 2013-9) to employ undergraduate students as research assistants
  • BA/Leverhulme Small Grant (£9,861, Mar 2019): Wet Feet: δ34S isotope analysis in wetland environments (with A. Lamb, Mar 2019)
  • Three Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit Grants for c. £13,000 (31 dates, 2010, 2012, 2020) (with N. Sharples/K. Waddington/N. Sykes/E. Konstantinidi)
  • British Academy grant to host an inter-disciplinary event on population movement and cultural change (£7,180, May 2014)
  • Research contracts (isotope analysis) from Wessex Archaeology and Colchester Archaeological Trust (£4,787, Jun 2017)
  • Roman Research Trust grant to investigate the potential of a multi-isotope project on food supply to legionary fortresses (£4,516, Jan 2018)
  • Small grants from British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, Cambrian Archaeological Association and Prehistoric Society (£2,580, 2009, 2016, 2017)
  • Joint Research Grant of £2,550 (Mar 2016) from the Royal Archaeological Institute, the Society of Antiquaries and the Society for Medieval Archaeology (with B. Jervis/L. Craig-Atkins)
  • AHRC Student Led Initiative Grant of £2,000 (Jun 2009) for the inaugural Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum (seven international conferences have since been hosted)
  • CNRS grant to develop a histo-taphonomy research network (€1,000, with Y. Fernandez-Jalvo, May 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 
  • Elected as Publicity officer for the Association for Environmental Archaeology (2009-2015)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • AHRC Peer Review College member
  • Panel member: The Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation (RPF),
  • Panel member: Netherlands Organisations for Scientific Research (NWO).
  • Grant reviewer: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)
  • Grant reviewer: Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO)
  • Grant reviewer: NERC
  • Grant reviewer: The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
  • Appointed Archaeological Science editor for De Gruyter journal Open Archaeology
  • Appointed to editorial board of Gorgias Press’ ‘Regenerating Practices in Archaeology and Heritage’ series              
  • Appointed to separate CIfA and HEA Employability focus groups

















Teaching profile

I am programme leader for MSc Archaeological Science.

I am convenor for the following modules: * Bioarchaeology - 20 credits (Year 2/3, HS2432) * Forensic and Osteoarchaeology - 20 credits (Years 2/3, HS2423)

* Biomolecular Archaeology – 20 credits (MSc, HST049)

* Human Osteoarchaeology – 20 credits (MSc, HST050) * Archaeology Dissertation - 40 credits (Year 3, HS2435) * Archaeological Science Dissertation - 40 credits (Year 3, HS2436)

* MSc Archaeological Science Dissertation – 60 credits (MSc, HST051)

I contribute to the following modules: * Analysing Archaeology - 20 credits (Year 1, HS2125) * Death and Commemoration – 40 credits (MA, HST927)

* Zooarchaeology – 20 credits (MSc, HST048) * Postgraduate Skills in Archaeology and Conservation – 20 credits (MA/MSc, HST500)

* Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study (MA/MSc, HST900) * History of Archaeological Thought (Year 2, HS2350)

* Independent Study - 20 credits (Year 2, HS2433) * Independent Science Project - 20 credits (Year 2, HS2434)

I have previously taught on various other UG and PG modules including Archaeological Science, Heritage Communication and Environment and Economy.

Administrative Responsibilities

2019-present Admissions and Recruitment Co-ordinator (Archaeology)

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

2018-present Postgraduate Research Lead (School of History, Archaeology and Religion)

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

2017-present: Programme coordinator (MSc Archaeological Science)

2016-2018: Timetable/Module catalogue co-ordinator

2016-2018: Library representative

2016-2018: Health and Safety committee

2014-2018: Equality and Diversity committee

2013-2016: Research committee

2013-2016: Committee of the Cardiff University Research Staff Association

2013-2015: Seminar series organiser

Current research projects include:

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

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. This project runs from December 2020 to June 2023 and is funded by the AHRC (£247,577). I am the PI and Angela Lamb is the Co-I. Project partners include Operation Nightingale, The Wiltshire Museum, The British Museum and Breaking Ground Heritage.

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). I am leading the programme of multi-isotope analysis on humans and animals.

ZANBA: Zooarchaeology of the Nuragic Bronze Age

This project is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship awarded to Emily Holt. 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.

The Dietary Impact of the Norman Conquest

I have recently working with Ben Jervis (Cardiff), Lizzy Craig-Atkins (Sheffield) and Lucy Cramp (Bristol) on a project exploring the impact of diet using a variety of scientific techniques. It is funded by the Society of Antiquaries, The Royal Archaeological Institute, The Society for Medieval Archaeology and Cardiff University. The study focuses on Oxford and integrates human osteology, bulk collagen isotope analysis of humans and animals, incremental isotope analysis of human dentine, lipid residue analysis and secondary zooarchaeological and ceramic analysis. The results were published in PLOS ONE in July 2020:

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.

Navan Fort: Feasting and Connectivity

This project is funded by the Prehistoric Society's Bob Smith Award. It explores the origins of animals recovered from the supposed feasting deposits at Early Iron Age Navan Fort, the legendary ancient capital of Ulster using strontium and sulphur isotope analysis. It also explores how these animals were raised for the feasts through carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. The project is a collaboration between Finbar McCormick (Queen's Belfast) and Vaughan Grimes (Memorial Newfoundland). Results were published in Scientific Reports in December 2019:

Feeding the Roman Army

This project investigates how the Roman army was provisioned at the legionary fortresses in Britain.  The first phases employed strontium isotope analysis on animals from the site of Caerleon Priory Fields, to examine their origins and to explore the relationship between the fortress and the rural hinterland. This was a collaborative project with Peter Guest (Cardiff), Jamie Lewis (Bristol) and Vaughan Grimes (Memorial Newfoundland). A follow up phase has been funded by the Roman Research Trust. The project featured on BBC Radio 4 Making History (2017). Preliminary findings are published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences:

Iron Age Mortuary Treatment

This is a combined macroscopic, microscopic and biomolecular investigation of human and animal deposits from the southern British Iron Age.  Employing histological analysis and analysis of bone surface condition it aims to address the longstanding question of how humans and animals were treated in death and deposition in the Iron Age mortuary record. It follows a successful pilot on Danebury, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.  Multi-isotope analysis is also employed to investigate patterns in treatment that correlate with diet and origins. The project featured on BBC4 Digging for Britain and links closely to the PhD research of Adelle Bricking.

The Skeletons of the Mary Rose

This pilot project began with the MSc dissertation of Jessica Scorrer, involving the multi-isotope analysis of the Mary Rose ‘characters’. These are crew members with assumed professions (based on location or artefactual association) for whom facial reconstructions have been undertaken. The project expanded to include metric and non-metric ancestry estimation (with PhD student Katie Faillace). It revealed that several of the eight characters were not raised in Britain, coming from warmer climates, probably southern Europe. In addition, one crew member of African descent had values consistent with being raised in Britain. The project featured on the Channel 4 documentary ‘Skeletons of the Mary Rose’.

Impact and engagement

Engagement activities are central to my research and I’m an active member of the Guerilla Archaeology collective, having been involved in outreach at many arts/music festivals and events. I have also been inducted as a STEM ambassador. I am also involved with the Operation Nightingale/Breaking Ground Heritage project at East Chisenbury, a collaborative project involving the rehabilitation of military veterans. I run sessions for the Cardiff Young Archaeologists’ Club and regularly give public talks.



Research Supervision

Current PhD students:

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

Tiffany Treadway (with Niall Sharples): Wetland deposition in Iron Age Wales and Scotland

Adelle Bricking (analyses funded by Cambrian Archaeological Association and Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, with Niall Sharples): Iron Age mortuary practice in South West Britain

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

Poppy Hodkinson (AHRC-funded, with Jo Sofaer [Southampton]): Archaeology and STEM in Primary School Education: Integration and Development

Eirini Konstantinidi (analyses funded by the Prehistoric Society, the British Cave Research Association and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accellerator Unit, with Jacqui Mulville): Neolithic Cave Burial in Western Britain 

Ciara Butler (fully funded by Brython Archaeology, with Alan Lane): Osteobiographies and Connectivity in Early Medieval Wales

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

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

Past projects

Leah Reynolds (funded by the James Pantyfedwen foundation, with Peter Guest): Roman rural settlement in Wales and the Marches (graduated 2019).