• r.macphail@ucl.ac.uk
  • Direct: +44 (0)20 7679 4760
  • Internal: 24760
  • Room 305
  • UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY UK

Richard Macphail

  • BSc, MSc, PhD
  • Senior Research Fellow
  • Training Courses in Archaeological Soil Micromorphology
  • Recipient of the Geological Society of America’s Rip Rapp Award for Archaeological Geology 2009
  • Awarded a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship (personal award) for 2008-2009 in Archaeological Soil Micromorphology to revise Courty, MA, Goldberg, P. and Macphail, R.I., 1989. Soils and Micromorphology in Archaeology. Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 344 pp.
  • Awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant ‘Marine Inundation and Archaeology: pilot study at Wallasea Island, Essex 2008’

Collaborative Projects

  • Ancient Desert Pastoralism 2009-2013
    Desert Dung: Rock Shelters, Pastoralism and Environment in Ancient Times in the Negev, partnered by Steve Rosen, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.
  • Iron Age and Viking Norway 2012-2015 (Combined geoarchaeological and palaeoenvironmental contributions from IoA, UCL and MAL, Umeå, Sweden)
    Gokstad Revitalised project
    (GR), partnered by Jan Bill, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, 0130 Oslo, Norway. See Keynote paper abstract 14th IWMSM.
    Avaldsnes Royal Manor project
    (ARM), partnered by Dagfinn Skre, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, 0130 Oslo, Norway.
  • Chalcolithic Romania 2012-2015
    Tell-Ul Popina Borduşani (Danube) Project (Balta Ialomiţei) , partnered by Constantin Haită, MNIR - Centrul Naţional de Cercetări Pluridisciplinare, University of Bucharest, Romania
  • Experiments in geoarchaeology
    Integrated microstratigraphic studies of: the effects of soil burial at the UK Experimental Earthworks of Overton Down (rendzinas) and Wareham (podzols); use of space in structures, arable and pasture soils and settlement morphology at Butser ‘Ancient Farm’ (Hampshire, UK); sustainable agriculture in the boreal zone and turf roof structures at Umeå ‘Ancient Farm’ (north Sweden).
  • Current experiments in geoarchaeology (contributing to 2nd edition of Courty et al)
  • Animal husbandry (pigs) at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, Suffolk, England. (Also at West Stow craft building and sunken-feature building studies in association with Jess Tipper [Suffolk County Council] and in collaboration with Drs Charles French [Cambridge] and Karen Milek [Aberdeen]; grubenhäuser studies in association with Professor Joachim Henning [Frankfurt] and his students.)
  • Combined micromorphology, microprobe and FTIR mineralogical studies of reference materials (e.g., ancient human waste), in collaboration with Professor Paul Goldberg and Dr Francesco Berna, Boston University).

Research Directory Records


Fieldwork and post-excavation studies

UK, Europe, the Horn of Africa, the USA and the Near and Far East
  • Current client list includes Oxford Archaeology, MoLAS, Wessex Archaeology and through Geomarine, the US Navy; Ben Gurion, Boston, Frankfurt, Institute of Archaeology (Beijing), The Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, La Trobe, Tours, and Umeå Universities; and numerous British Universities and English and Welsh ‘City’ and ‘County’ archaeological units. Current research projects in Africa, the Caribbean, China, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Korea, Lebanon, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the UK and USA (e.g., Arizona, California, New Mexico and Virginia)
  • Post-excavation studies include soil micromorphology-led microstratigraphic investigations (with integrated and correlated microprobe, bulk [LOI, fractionated P, magnetic susceptibility including χmax, and the heavy metals Cu, PB and Zn, other standard soil and sediment analyses] and microfossil [e.g., pollen] investigations) – team studies.
  • (Recent examples include the research investigations at the Overton Down and Wareham Experimental Earthworks, and Butser and Umeå Ancient Farms, and the multi-period urban site of the London Guildhall)
  • US based investigations – and worldwide – with Professor Paul Goldberg, Boston University
  • UK and Europe based team investigations with Dr John Crowther, University of Wales, Lampeter 
  • Scandinavian based investigations – with Johan Linderholm, Umeå University

Also available are:

Thin Section Checking and Analysis

A variety of services are available, namely:

  • Thin section checking; (as carried out at workshops); comprises of reading information sent by colleague, and checking of thin section using PPL, XPL, OIL and blue light fluorescence microscopy, and reporting using references. (*It is expected that any advice, identifications and interpretations are acknowledged in any report/publication)
  • Thin section analysis; comprises of reading of information sent by colleague, and full soil micromorphological analysis using PPL, XPL, OIL and blue light fluorescence microscopy; with reporting as full semi-quantitative descriptions (and counts where appropriate), digital images and publication level text, and a reasonable amount of editorial revisions. If instrumental analyses (EDAX, microprobe) are required this should be discussed and costed-in at an early stage, as uncovered thin sections are required (see Macphail et al 2003a and 2004). (**It is expected that this work will be included as an authored contribution)

Meetings & Presentations

  • Colloque "Archéologie urbaine", CTHS , 23-28th  April 2012, Université de Tours François-Rabelais, France
    Reconstructing past land use from dark earth: examples from England and France (La restitution des usages anciens du sol à partir des terres noires : études de cas en Angleterre et en France)
    by Richard I. Macphail
    Nouveaux eclairages sur les terres noires : des processus complexes de stratification aux modalites d’occupation des espaces urbains
    by Quentin Borderie, Mélanie Fondrillon, Cristiano Nicosia, Yannick Devos and Richard I. Macphail
  • Workshop “Bridging Gaps”, 10th-13th May 2012, Zentrum für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (ZNA), Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany
    Attempting to mitigate environmental ‘noise’ complicating and obscuring microstratigraphic information in open-air hunter and gather sites by Richard I. Macphail
  • 14th International Working Meeting on Soil Micromorphology (IWMSM). Lleida 8-14 July 2012
    Archaeological Soil Micromorphology Workshop (9th-10th July Barcelona) Organisers: Rosa-Maria Poch and Richard I. Macphail
    Session no. 9 - Site-formation processes in archaeology and cultural landscapes. (13th July); convenor: Richard I. Macphail. Keynote presentation: Integrated microstratigraphic investigations and the potential of coastal archaeological soils and sediments to record past land use and cultural activities in Norway and the UK by Richard I. Macphail, Francesco Berna, John Crowther, Johan Linderholm [Abstract available here]

Educational Background

  • BSc Geography and Geology (joint Hons) (Swansea)
  • MSc Pedology and Soil Survey (Reading)
  • PhD "Soil variation on selected Surrey heaths" (CNAA, Kingston)

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