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Gabor Thomas

gabor thomas
  • Director of Studies, Archaeology MA Programme
  • Archaeology Unit of Assessment Lead for Research Excellence Framework 2021
  • Archaeology representative, Reading Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS).

Areas of interest

  • Early medieval rural settlements and landscapes
  • Early medieval religion and monasticism
  • Early medieval objects and identities, with a particular interest in ornamental metalwork and dress accessories
  • Cultural interaction in Viking age Britain and Ireland.

Postgraduate supervision

Gabor currently supervises/co-supervises the following research projects:

  • Changing Social Relations and the Making of an Early Medieval Kingdom: People and Pottery in Anglo-Saxon Kent AD 450-850.
  • Gender and Religion in Early Medieval Wales: The Archaeology of Religious Transformation in Wales c. 400-1200 CE.

Previous student topics have included:

  • A Zooarchaeological analysis of Anglo-Saxon Lyminge (Knapp).
  • Centrality in Early England: the development of central places in early Anglo-Saxon England and their North-West European Parallels AD 499-700 (Austin, AHRC funded).
  • The Sacred in the Secular: Investigating Anglo-Saxon Ritual Action and Belief Systems through a Holistic Study of Settlements and Cemeteries in the 7th-9th Centuries AD (Knox, AHRC funded).
  • The Ecology of the Anglo-Saxon Conversion: A Multi-Proxy Geoarchaeology of the Anglo-Saxon Monastic Landscape of Lyminge, Kent (Maslin, AHRC funded).
  • The Brooch in Context: Costume, Culture and Identity in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Weetch, Project Curator of Early Medieval Collections at the British Museum).

I am happy to discuss proposals for postgraduate research in areas concerned with the material culture, landscape and settlement archaeology of the early medieval period.

For more information, please contact

Research projects

My research explores various dimensions of early medieval society through the lenses of settlement archaeology and material culture. I have been engaged in directing Anglo-Saxon settlement excavations throughout my career, but this strand of my research has run in parallel with a long-standing interest in personal adornment and other forms of artistic expression as a window on social identity and cultural interaction in later Anglo-Saxon/Viking Age Britain.


I have been directing excavations targeting the documented royal centre and monastery of Lyminge, Kent, since 2007. The most recent phase of excavation (2012-15) was funded by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the project was nominated for 'Best Archaeological Project' in the 2012 British Archaeological Awards.

Furnishing an unusually detailed narrative of the site’s evolution as a ‘theatre of power’ over the 5th to the 9th centuries A.D., the results have placed Lyminge centre-stage of debates surrounding the mechanics of kingdom formation and Christianisation in Anglo-Saxon England. Significant discoveries include one of the best preserved examples of a royal residence in pre-Viking England, a detailed view of domestic and industrial life from the outer precinct of an 8-9th-century monastery, and exceedingly rich artefactual and ecofactual assemblages, the analysis of which has sustained several funded PhD projects.

Watch an AHRC film about the project

Several publications have emerged from the research, most recently an edited volume placing Lyminge in its international context: Early medieval monasticism in the North Sea Zone: proceedings of a conference held to celebrate the conclusion of the Lyminge excavations 2008-15, and an article in the journal Antiquity discussing the earliest example of a plough coulter from Anglo-Saxon England: Technology, ritual and Anglo-Saxon agrarian production: the biography of a seventh-century century plough coulter from Lyminge, Kent

The Lyminge Project has garnered widespread media attention over the years, featuring in TV programmes such as 'Digging for Britain'; radio broadcasts such as BBC Radio 4's 'Making History'; and in The Guardian.

Situated in the heart of a thriving community, the project has built close links and relationships with local residents and stakeholders, including the Parish Council, Historical Society, and Primary School. There has been a high level of community participation in the excavations which has inspired residents to make their own connections with Lyminge's early medieval past, including creative initiatives such as this wonderful tapestry now hanging in the village hall as shown in the Lyminge Project Blog.

The project has also formed partnerships with regional organisations to extend the depth and reach of its activities, for example, by teaming up with Kent Archaeological Society to organise an international conference and with the Canterbury Archaeological Trust to produce the 65-page Lyminge Teaching Pack aimed at the Key Stage 2 History Curriculum.


Prior to Lyminge, I directed excavations at the later Anglo-Saxon settlement at Bishopstone, East Sussex (2002-5) brought to publication as: The later Anglo-Saxon settlement at Bishopstone. A downland manor in the making. One of the largest settlement excavations of this date in southern England, the results provided a suite of new insights and fresh perspectives on the dynamics of later Anglo-Saxon society: novel architectural and cultural expressions of aristocratic identity; interactions between secular and ecclesiastical culture; changing relationships between spaces of the living and the dead; and the symbolic and ritual practices of rural communities.

Royal Residences Project

In 2015 I established a two-year academic network on the subject of early medieval royal residences directed in association with Dr Gordon Noble at the University of Aberdeen. Funded through the AHRC's Networking Scheme, and engaging closely with early medieval specialists at the Universities of Oxford, Durham, and UCL, the project brought together leading scholars from different countries and disciplinary backgrounds to reflect upon and interpret a major influx of archaeological evidence for sites of royal residence across early medieval Britain. Video and audio recordings of the Network meetings can be found on the project website Royal Residences Network.

The Network will be published as a special issue of the journal Early Medieval Europe.

Medieval religious transformations

In the last couple of years I have been closely engaged with an international network seeking to advance comparative and theoretically-informed approaches to medieval religious transformation and belief, conceived in collaboration with Professor Roberta Gilchrist and Professor Aleks Pluskowski at the University of Reading. The network has involved partners at the Universities of Stockholm, Bologna, Granada, Tubingen, Budapest and Tartu and has published an agenda paper in the journal Medieval Archaeology, for which I was lead author: Religious transformations in the Middle Ages: towards a new archaeological agenda.

Personal adornment and early medieval identities

My interest in the early medieval period was initially nurtured through a fascination with art and decorative artefacts, leading me to undertake doctoral research on late Anglo-Saxon and Viking-age dress accessories. Much of my research in this area has exploited data generated through the Portable Antiquities Scheme to explore processes of cultural interaction and identity formation, as, for example, my paper Carolingian culture in the North Sea world: rethinking the cultural dynamics of personal adornment in Viking age England. I have also researched and published important collections of early medieval metalwork derived from hoards and settlement excavations (e.g. Flixborough, Yarnton, Knowth).

Academic qualifications

  • BA, MA, PhD – University of London.

Professional bodies/affiliations

  • Fellow of the Society of the Antiquaries of London
  • Member of the Sachsensymposion.

Selected publications

  • Thomas, G. (2006) Refining the biography of a market-place tenement: a recent excavation and archaeological interpretative survey at The Marlipins, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, Sussex Archaeological Collections 143, 173-204.
  • Thomas, G. (2006) Reflections on a 9th-century Northumbrian metalworking tradition: a silver hoard from Poppleton, North Yorkshire Medieval Archaeology 50, 143-164.
  • Thomas, G. (2005) Brightness in a time of dark": the production of secular ornamental metalwork in 9th century Northumbria, in De Re Metallica: the Uses of Metal in the Middle Ages (Ed. R. Bork) AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, Volume 4, Ashgate Press, 31-48.
  • Thomas, G. (2005) In the Shadow of Rookery Hill: Excavations at Bishopstone, East Sussex, Current Archaeology vol.196, 184-190.
  • Thomas, G. (2003). An Early Medieval Insular Buckle, in: Hardy, A., Dodd, & G. D. Keevill, Aelfrics Abbey: Excavations at Eynsham Abbey, Oxfordshire, 1989-1992, Thames Valley Landscapes Monograph 16, Oxford Archaeology, 251-54.
  • Thomas, G. (2003) Hamsey near Lewes, East Sussex: the implications of recent finds of Late Anglo-Saxon metalwork for its importance in the Pre-Conquest period, Sussex Archaeological Collections 139, 123-132.
  • Thomas, G. (2001) Strap-Ends and the Identification of Regional Patterns in the Production and Circulation of Ornamental Metalwork in Late Anglo-Saxon and Viking-Age Britain, in Pattern and Purpose in Insular Art, Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Insular Art held at the National Museum & Gallery, Cardiff 3-6 September 1998 (Eds. M. Redknap, N. Edwards, S. Youngs, A. Lane & J. Knight), Oxbow Books, Oxford, 39-49.
  • Thomas, G. (2001) Vikings in the City: A Ringerike-style buckle and related artefacts from the London, London Archaeologist 9, no. 8, 228-230.
  • Thomas, G. (2000) Anglo-Scandinavian metalwork from the Danelaw: Exploring Social and Cultural Interaction, in: Cultures in Contact: Scandinavian Settlement in England in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries (Eds. D.M. Hadley J. D. Richards), Studies in the Early Middle Ages, Brepols, Turnhout, 237-255.

External responsibilities

I am a member of the Editorial Boards for Early Medieval Europe and for the Brepols series, Studies in the Early Middle Ages. I am also Co-editor for the Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series. I sit on the research committee for one of the largest commercial archaeological companies in the UK, Oxford Archaeology, and have previously served as an academic advisor to the project steering the publication of the Staffordshire Hoard.