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Name: Robert Francis

PhD: Archaeobotany

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-11th century 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of all archaeobotanical excavation reports from Anglo-Saxon settlements in central southern England including unpublished ones (e.g. ADS database, commercial archaeological units’ archives).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.


Supervisors and Institution(s): <add text>

Dr Alexandra Livarda 

Dr Christopher Loveluck

Dr Christina Lee

Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

  • Supporting the outdoor classroom: archaeo-astronomy project. Brown D, Francis R and Alder A, School Science Review, 2013, 94, 76-85
  • Peak into the past, an archaeo-astronomy summer school. Brown D, Neale N and Francis R, School Science Review, 2011, 93, 83-90 
  • Charred plant remains and charcoal. Pelling R, Thompson G and Francis R in Poole K. and Webley L, Prehistoric activity at Westwood, Broadstairs. Archaeologia Cantiana, 2008, 128, 75-106, 98-101
  • Charcoals. Thompson G and Francis R in Webley L, Timby J and Wilson M, Fairfield Park: Later Prehistoric Settlement in Eastern Chilterns, 2007, The Bedfordshire Archaeological Council, Oxford
  • Charcoals. Thompson G and Francis R in Hardy A, Charles BM and Williams RJ, Death and Taxes: The Archaeology of a Middle Saxon Estate Centre at Higham Ferrerws, Northamptonshire, Oxford, Oxford Archaeology, 2007, 178-181
  • Analysis of charcoal from Lower Luggy. Francis RGD in Gibson A, The Neolithic site of Lower Luggy, Wales,Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 2006, 72, 163-191 
  • The analysis of charcoal remains from the site of Jarlshof. Francis RGD, Jarlshof, Shetland: An Economic, Environmental and Chronological Reappraisal, Bradford Archaeological Sciences Research 14. Department of Archaeological Sciences Bradford: Department of Archaeological Sciences/Shetland Amenity Trust, Bradford, 2005


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