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Conservation Research Institute



BSc (Syd), BA (Macq), BA hons (Syd), MBA (UTS), PhD (Syd). I graduated in science, business and arts, before completing my doctorate in archaeology at Sydney on the fuel economy of Pompeii. I held the Ralegh Radford Rome fellowship at the British School at Rome (Oct 2011-June 2012) and I am currently the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Anniversary Fellow (Dec 2012-2015), at the University of Cambridge, and a Research Fellow and Tutor at Hughes Hall, Cambridge.  I am also an honorary research affiliate at the Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney and I work with a number of international excavation teams, mostly in Italy (but also in SE Asia and the UK) as an environmental archaeologist and economic historian.  


I study natural resource economics of the ancient world. Related areas of interest include ancient landscape reconstruction, environmental history and archaeology, climate, and ancient science and technology.  My particular focus is on forest and fuel economics, viz: fuel, timber, non-wood fuels, and non-wood forest products. I study conservation and sustainability in the ancient world with respect to the valuation of forest products, and their importance in ancient GDP analyses. Measuring ancient forest economics requires the use of different, and similar tools to studying modern forestry economics.  Identification of archaeological (charred wood) remains form the basis of study; modern ecology assists interpretation; and probabilistic modelling also aids predictions of forest areas required to support varying levels of population and technological advancement.  Modern developing nations are still wood dependent. Consequently I work from as far back as the Palaeolithic/Mesolithic (did ancient man deliberately make charcoal fuel?); through the Roman period (significant population and technological advancements vastly increased fuel and timber consumption, but is there real evidence for over-exploitation?); to the modern period (do FAO foot surveys of fuel use in African countries provide ‘true’ data? How could we improve these estimates?)


Key publications: 

(2017), Veal, R. ‘The Politics and Economics of Ancient Forests: timber and fuel as levers of Greco-Roman control’ in Economy and Inequality : Resources, Exchange and Power in Classical Antiquity: Entretiens sur L’Antiquité Classique: 63, Fondation Hardt, Geneva: 317-67.

 (2017), Veal, R. Chapter: Wood and charcoal for Rome: towards an understanding of ancient regional fuel economics,’ in (eds), de Haas, T. & Gijs, T.,The Economic Integration of Roman Italy: rural communities in a globalizing economy, Brill, (New York and Leiden): 382-400.

 (2017). Veal, R., Fuel in ancient food production.’ Tidjschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie, Special Issue: Mediterranean Food Economies, (eds) Heinrich, F.B.J and Hansen, A.M. (TMA) 28 (56): 1-5. 

  (2016) Veal, R., L. O’Donnell, and L.C. McParland. ‘Reflectance - current state of research and future directions for archaeological charcoal; results from a pilot study on Irish Bronze Age cremation charcoals,’ Journal of Archaeological Science (75) 72-81.

(2013). Veal. R.Fuelling ancient Mediterranean cities: a framework for charcoal research,’ in The Ancient Mediterranean between Science and History, W.V. Harris (ed.), Columbia Classical Studies Series Vol. 39 (also available as an eBook): 37-58. 

Affiliate Scholar

Contact Details

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street