Dr Sam Leggett (BA, BSc, MA, MPhil, PhD, FSAScot)

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow


I graduated from the University of Sydney (Australia) with a double degree BA (Hons I) degree in Archaeology and Medieval Studies, and BSc in Immunobiology (2010-2014). My honours thesis on early medieval funerary archaeology won the Maureen A. Byrne Prize for best Archaeology IV thesis. I obtained a MA in History (Medieval) from the University of New England (Aus) and a Commonwealth Government funded research MPhil in Archaeology from the University of Sydney which focussed on early medieval urbanisation in southern Britain.

My Cambridge Trust funded PhD at the University of Cambridge utilised isotopic data (C, N, O and Sr) alongside osteological and funerary evidence to investigate diet and mobility at multiple scales across western Europe in the first millennium AD, with a particular regional focus on early medieval England. This work won the 2020 European Association of Archaeologists Student Prize.

I have worked in higher education teaching across a variety of archaeology, history and biology courses at the University of Sydney and University of Cambridge. I have most recently been a postdoctoral research assistant on the “Women of the Conversion Period – a Biomolecular Investigation” project with Professor Helena Hamerow at the University of Oxford, investigating female mobility in early medieval England during the seventh century AD, before starting my role as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Edinburgh in January 2022 leading the "ArchaeoFINS" project. Previously I also worked in visitor and educational roles in the museum sector (University of Sydney Museums and Sydney Living Museums), commercial pathology, and as an anatomical prosector in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney (title of prosector awarded 2012).

In the academic year 2024-25 I will transition to the role of Lecturer in Computational Archaeology at Edinburgh. 


Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
  • Advisory Board member for the Centre for Data, Culture & Society, University of Edinburgh
  • Recommender - Peer Community in Archaeology (PCI Archaeology)
  • Member of the Internationales Sachsensymposion

Undergraduate teaching

Pre-Honours level (years 1-2 undergraduate):

  • Archaeology 1B (contributor)
  • Archaeology 2A: Scotland before History (contributor)
  • The Human Skeleton in Archaeology and Forensic Science (contributor)


Honours level (years 3-4 undergraduate):

  • GIS for Archaeologists (ARCA10086) (course organiser)
  • Mariners, Monks and Mobility: the archaeology of the early medieval Atlantic Archipelago (ARCA10096) (course organiser)
  • Scientific Methods in Bio-Archaeology (contributor)

Postgraduate teaching

  • GIS and Spatial Analysis for Archaeologists (PGHC11460) (course organiser)
  • Mariners, Monks and Mobility: the archaeology of the early medieval Atlantic Archipelago (PGHC11546) (course organiser)
  • Biomolecular Archaeology: the appliance of science (contributor)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

  • Early medieval archaeology of Britain, Ireland and northwest Europe
  • Biomolecular archaeology 
  • Computational archaeology (Bayesian methods and meta-analysis especially)

Current PhD students supervised

University of Edinburgh 

  • Monique de Pace - PhD - Investigating survivability and mortality in Early Byzantine - Medieval coastal Bulgaria through isotopic analysis and osteological data - Secondary
  • Silvia Pizzinat - MSc Research - Primary Supervisor

External Research Students

  • Daniel Claggett (Flinders University) - PhD  - Secondary (external) 
  • Bradley Marshall (University of Leicester) - PhD - Secondary (external)

Research summary


  • Britain & Ireland
  • Europe
  • Scotland


  • Ancient Civilisations
  • Bioarchaeology & Human Origins
  • Migration
  • Society


  • Early Historic
  • Medieval
  • Medieval & Renaissance

Research interests

My research interests are centred around the early medieval period in Europe, and utilising biomolecular/bioarchaeological techniques to understand the period and the people holistically. 

  • Early medieval archaeology
  • Funerary archaeology
  • Mobility and migration
  • Diet and health
  • Computational archaeology
  • Archaeology of identity
  • Socio-environmental transitions
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Isotopic analyses
  • Biomolecular archaeology 

Knowledge exchange

Some recent talks/events/interviews can be found here:

Affiliated research centres

Project activity

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship project: ArchaeoFINS - medieval archaeology of fishing around the Irish and North Seas. 

ArchaeoFINS is centred around an old and still unresolved archaeological question of when, where, how and why people began to eat fish again after the introduction of farming in Europe, which brought about a decline in fish consumption c. 5-10,000 years ago in favour of cereal crops and dairying. Tackling this question is timely and given recent debate over European fisheries and the important role fish have in modern foodways and economies in Europe. I have identified Scotland and its islands as a watershed region for the Medieval reintroduction of fish consumption to Europe. By combining multiple lines of evidence (isotopes, pottery residues, traditional archaeo-historical data) for the first time at scale (both geographically and chronologically) in the region ArchaeoFINS will show the nature and speed of change in fish consumption around the Irish and North Seas. It will demonstrate the mechanisms behind these shifts, re-centring the Atlantic Archipelago in the narratives of migration and changing foodways in the Middle Ages. ArchaeoFINS will scientifically confirm debates over the Fish Event Horizon in Europe and challenge perceptions of its catalyst, which can now be achieved due to the advances in biomolecular archaeology.

Research projects

In addition to my current Leverhulme Trust funded project ArchaeoFINS I am involved in these collaborative projects focused on early medieval communities using biomolecular archaeology:

  • Alton, Mount Pleasant, Hampshire Cemetery Project with Professor Robin Fleming, Boston College. 
  • Ketton Quarry, Rutland, Early Medieval Cemetery project with MOLA Northampton. Partially funded through a Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society grant. 
  • Priory Orchard Godalming, Surrey, cemetery project with the University of Roehampton, Surrey County Archaeological Unit with NERC/NEIF radiocarbon funding. 
  • Understanding Iberian Transitions - Diet and Mobility in Azuqueca de Henares through the first millennium AD (BABAO grant funded). 
  • Women of the Conversion Period: A Biomolecular Investigation. John Fell Fund, University of Oxford. PI: Professor Helena Hamerow. 
  • Collaborator on Viking Age isotopic analyses in Norway with Lisa Strand, and Birgitte Skar, NTNU.