Who is James Bonsall?


Hello, I’m using this site to blog about my professional archaeological life, principally my academic research but also my lecturing and private sector work. I’m an archaeological geophysicist (I create images of sub-surface archaeology using a variety of methods) and I’ve worked in both the academic and private commercial sectors. I have specialisms in the use of legacy data; 4D time-lapse assessments; electromagnetic induction; challenging environments and variable geological backgrounds; induced polarisation; upland archaeology; conflict archaeology and archaeological deposits threatened by coastal erosion.

I have over 20 years of geophysical experience working on archaeological sites in Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as Britain, Italy and Norway, across all archaeological periods, including Palaeolithic deposits in Ireland and the U.K., Mesolithic sites at Larne, Neolithic henge monuments at Stonehenge, proto-Roman settlement at Civitalba, boathouses at the Roman harbour of Portus, Hiberno-Scandinavian longphort at Waterford, Viking settlements at Avaldsnes and Stiklestad, the Black Pig’s Dyke, conflict sites of Vinegar Hill, Cheriton, Kinsale, Sligo and Stiklestad, the garden archaeology of Castle Coole, twentieth century Civil War cave hideouts in Ireland and Second World War air raid shelters in Ireland and Britain.

My published work tends to reflect my personal research interests in archaeological geophysics, the use of novel techniques and the assessment of legacy data as well as selected outputs from 17 years of work in the private sector. My grey literature outputs currently account for more than 200 archaeological geophysical reports. I have published peer-reviewed articles in Archaeologia Polona; Archaeological Prospection; the Journal of Conflict Archaeology; the Journal of Irish Archaeology; the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, Near Surface Geophysics, Oxford Journal of Archaeology. I have written chapters for several peer-reviewed books and monographs as well as extended abstracts/proceedings from numerous international conferences. In 2019 I published my first book, New Global Perspectives on Archaeological Prospection (see here for details). My second book, The Six – The Lives and Memorialisation of Sligo’s Noble Six, was published in 2022 (see here for details).

I’m currently writing on:

  • The mapping of palaeolandscapes beneath the Irish Sea via seismic and borehole data
  • Tormore Cave, a 1922 Civil War IRA Hideout
  • Forensic survey of Sligo’s cholera field

If you like my work (see here for all my publications and here for details on some of my projects), feel free to buy me a cup of tea

Professional Biography

I developed an interest in archaeological geophysics during my BA (King Alfred’s College, 2000 – now known in the Modern Era as the University of Winchester) and specialised in the world of geophysics with my MSc in Archaeological Prospection (University of Bradford, 2001). I worked for a small number of private sector archaeological and geophysical companies in the UK before moving to Ireland in 2002 and creating Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics.

I was the co-owner and director of Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics (2002-2019), the largest private sector company in Ireland dedicated to the investigation of archaeological remains using geophysical techniques. Although primarily a commercial organization (surveying a wide range of sites in relation to planning applications, including 73 linear corridor infrastructure projects), Earthsound maintained a high academic profile with a healthy publication record, as well being an Industrial Partner in PhD research and partner for a variety of academic research and community archaeology projects.

Since 2008 I have acted as a consultant to the Serious Crime Review Team (a cold case investigation unit) of An Garda Siochána and regularly provide them with forensic geophysical surveys.

Between 2010-2014, I held a National Roads Authority Fellowship and completed my PhD “A reappraisal of archaeological geophysical surveys on Irish road corridors 2001-2010” (University of Bradford, 2014), which resulted in a number of peer-reviewed publications and a procedural guidance document for NRA (now TII, Transport Infrastructure Ireland) staff on how to commission and procure archaeological geophysical surveys on infrastructure projects.

In 2014 I joined the Department of Environmental Sciences, Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland, where I lectured in Archaeology. I was responsible for delivering 5 modules in Applied Archaeology at Level 6 (Higher Certificate), Level 7 (BSc degree) and Level 8 (BSc Honours degree), and supervising postgraduate research. I taught modules in both practical and theoretical Archaeological Geophysics, GIS and Geoarchaeology. I was a member of the Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability (CERIS) research cluster at IT Sligo. I successfully supervised a PhD candidate assessing Napoleonic-era Signal Defensible Guardhouses in Connacht and Ulster. I convened the first International Weather Beaten Archaeology Conference (2015) and the 13th International Conference on Archaeological Prospection (2019) at IT Sligo. I left IT Sligo in 2021 and am currently a consultant archaeologist.

During my commercial and academic career I have achieved funding to pursue my research interests from the National Roads Authority Fellowship Programme; ECO-UNESCO ‘Clubs in Action’ Programme; the International Society for Archaeological Prospection; the Heritage Council; Kildare County Council Community Heritage Grant Scheme; Kildare Archaeological Society Research Grant; LEARGAS European Commission’s Education and Culture Directorate General’s ‘Youth in Action’ Programme; the National Monuments Service; the Royal Irish Academy; the Young European Arena of Research.

I am a full member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (IAI) and previously served on the Board as Chairperson (2018-2019), Vice-Chairperson (2015-2017) and Honorary Secretary (2013-2015). I served on the Management Committee for the International Society for Archaeological Prospection (Conference Secretary 2017-2019, Vice Conference Secretary 2019-2021). I was a member of the Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability (CERIS), the Wild Atlantic Way Research Cluster and the Geoforensic International Network.

This blog is independent of the organisations I work for and all views are my own.