James Poland

Ged Poland

Supervisor: Umberto Albarella

e-mail: JGPoland1@sheffield.ac.uk

PhD in Zooarchaeology


Research interests

I am interested in the use of birds in the past with a particular focus on ducks and geese in Europe. This includes the role of wild and domestic birds and their relative economic importance to past societies.

Current research

PhD project: A methodological approach to the identification of duck and goose remains from archaeological sites with an application to Roman Britain

The use of ducks and geese in Roman Britain is poorly understood and rarely discussed as it can be difficult distinguish between the different genera, let alone different species. The aim of my research is to develop a reliable method of taxonomic identification using morphometry in order to analyse archaeological assemblages and develop our understanding of the use of ducks and geese in the past.

The project involves taking measurements from modern reference material to create a database of the different European anatids. Taxon distinguishing criteria will then be identified using multivariate analysis and the criteria will be tested before being applied to archaeological material. The reliable taxon distinguishing criteria will then be used to analyse assemblages from various Roman sites in Britain to discuss which taxa were used and in what way. Key questions will be the use of wild birds compared to domestic ones, the use of ducks compared to geese and whether there is variation in the use of anatids through time or between sites.

Further applications of this research will be that the identification method could readily be used by other researchers interested in the role of ducks and geese in the past, and that we will have a much better context for discussing the changes in the way ducks and geese were used during the Saxon and medieval periods in Britain.

Previous research and experience

MSc Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy: Distinction (University of Sheffield, 2010)

Dissertation title:
Assigning sex to avian osteological remains: a review of current methods and an investigation into a novel, independent, biomolecular method.

This project reviewed the existing methods of assigning sex to avian osteological remains and tested a new method using genomic DNA extracted from bone. DNA was extracted from modern reference material and analysed using recently developed sex-typing microsatellite primer sets that work with relatively short lengths of DNA (as short as 92 base pairs). The project demonstrated that some commonly recovered species of bird could be sexed using sex-typing microsatellite primer sets using DNA extracted from bone. The method only requires relatively short strands of DNA to work which is necessary for the analysis of archaeological material, and has the potential to have a very high degree of accuracy compared to other methods of sexing bird bones. The project focused on testing the method on modern reference material and so there is the potential for it to be tested (and used) on archaeological material in the future.

BSc Archaeological Science (University of Sheffield, 2008)

Dissertation title:
Did medieval glassmakers use beech ash? An investigation into the use of beech ash in medieval glassmaking and the effect of the growing substrate on the chemical composition of glass.


Professional experience:

Environmental archaeologist, Humberside - 2011



Stanley Bank Project, Merseyside - 2004, 2008
Stonehenge Riverside Project - 2005, 2007
Muzeum Vyso─Źiny Jihlava Summer excavations, Czech Republic - 2006
ARCUS, Sheffield - 2008