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Gabor Thomas

gabor thomas
  • Research Division Lead
  • Archaeology Unit of Assessment Lead for Research Excellence Framework 2021
  • Programme Director BA/BSc Archaeology
  • 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:

  • Three thousand years of Rubbish in the Thames: the long durée of object deposition from the Bronze Age to the medieval period (Clifford, AHRC SWW DTP studentship).
  • Gender and religion in Early Medieval Wales: The Archaeology of religious transformation in Wales c. 400-1200 CE.

Previous student topics have included:

  • Changing Social Relations and the Making of an Early Medieval Kingdom: People and Pottery in Anglo-Saxon Kent AD 450-850(Backhouse, AHRC SWW DTP studentship).
  • 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 early medieval life through the archaeology of places, as revealed by ambitious field-based projects, and through the social and cultural meanings of objects. I have directed a series of large-scale research excavations exploring early medieval monastic and elite settlements and also have a long-standing interest in understanding how dress and personal adornment mediated cultural interaction between the peoples of Britain and neighbouring regions.

Cookham, Berkshire

I am currently directing research excavations on the site of an early medieval monastery on the River Thames at Cookham, that also serves as a Field School for the Department of Archaeology.Initiated in 2021, the excavations are revealing the nuances of a well preserved monastic landscape dating to the 8th and 9th centuries A.D., embracing a planned waterfront production zone and a monastic cemetery.  Cookham is nested within a wider collaborative initiative, The Middle Thames Archaeology Partnership, of which I am a founding member and lead investigator, which aims to unlock the archaeological potential of this previously neglected stretch of the Thames through collaborative partnerships. Watch me being interviewed about the Cookham excavations here

Lyminge, Kent

I led large-scale excavations at the documented early medieval royal centre and monastery of Lyminge, Kent, 2007-19 supported by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/J006068/1). Currently undergoing analysis, the results are shedding fresh light on the detailed mechanics of kingdom formation and Christianisation in Kent and the wider North Sea world. 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.

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.

Watch an AHRC film about the project here.

Comparative perspectives on early medieval rulers' residences

In 2015 I established a two-year academic network on the subject of early medieval rulers' residences directed in association with Dr Gordon Noble at the University of Aberdeen. Funded through the AHRC's Networking Scheme (AH/N000218/1), 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 build comparative perspectives around a major influx of archaeological evidence for sites of royal residence across early medieval Britain. 

Selected discussions and conclusions from the Network have been published in a special section of the Norwegian Archaeological Review.  

Medieval religious transformations

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 in the art and decorative ornament of the early medieval period, 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.

Academic qualifications

  • BA, MA, PhD – University of London.

Professional bodies/affiliations

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

External responsibilities

I am a member of the Editorial Board for  the Brepols series, Studies in the Early Middle Ages and have previously sat on the Editorial Board for the Journal Early Medieval Europe and served as Co-Editor for the Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series. I sit on the Research Committee for Oxford Archaeology, and have previously served as an academic advisor to the project steering the publication of the Staffordshire Hoard.


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