Ross Iain Thomas

Roman Collections

Department: Greece and Rome


+44 (0)20 7323 8440


Ross Thomas is a curator within the Department of Greece and Rome, responsible for Roman collections.

He is an archaeologist specialising on the Hellenistic and Roman Eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea regions, with a particular focus on maritime archaeology and port communities. He has undertaken fieldwork on land or underwater in the Britain, Italy, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and the UAE, including directing or coordinating fieldwork projects on behalf of the British Museum. Current projects include the port site of Naukratis in the Egyptian Delta, and in the ‘Pantanello’ at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli.

Ross joined the British Museum in 2011 as a project curator for the Naukratis project following the completion in 2009 of his Southampton University PhD thesis, entitled ‘Maritime cultures of the Erythraean Sea trade’. This research examined the material evidence for, and the interactions between, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Nabataean, indigenous Eastern Desert and Red Sea populations within the Red Sea ports of Aila, Berenike and Myos Hormos. He is particularly interested in the relationship between Rome and her neighbours in the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and Red Sea regions.

Current projects

Director of fieldwork, The British Museum Naukratis Fieldwork Project (2012–present)

Fieldwork coordinator, Pantanello unearthing the story of Hadrian's villa (2014–present)

Co-investigator, The construction and use-life of ancient war-galleys (2016–present)

Previous projects

Project Curator, The Naukratis Project (2011–2017)

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies


Honor Frost Foundation The Harbour of Naukratis Research Grant (Principle Investigator, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019–2021)

Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, Council member (Trustee, 2016–present)

Honor Frost Foundation The construction and use-life of ancient war-galleys Research Grant (Co-investigator with Peter Campbell 2018)

Egypt Exploration Society Delta Survey, Management Committee member (2016–present)

Palestine Exploration Fund, Committee member (Trustee, 2013–2017)

University of Southampton, Visiting Researcher (2010–2011).





Select publications

A. Masson-Berghoff & R. I. Thomas (eds), Naukratis in Context, special volume of British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 24 (2019) [364 pp.].

R. I. Thomas, ‘Terracotta and stone figurines from Naukratis’, in A. Masson-Berghoff  and R. I. Thomas (eds), Naukratis in Context, British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 24 (2019) 175–203.

R. I. Thomas, Stone and terracotta figures from Naukratis: An introduction; Greek terracotta figures; Cypriot figures in terracotta and limestone; Egyptian Late Period figures in terracotta and limestone; Ptolemaic and Roman figures, models and coffin-fittings in terracotta; Lamps in terracotta and bronze; Portable stoves and braziers in terracotta; Tools and weapons; Ptolemaic and Roman faience vessels; Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine pottery; ‘Roman and Byzantine amphorae and stoppers’; (with P. Higgs) Greek and Roman sculpture; (with A. Masson) ‘Altars, sundials, minor architectural objects and models’; (with C. Acosta)‘Jewellery and mirrors’; (with L. Bertini) ‘Shell and bone artefacts and faunal remains’, in A. Villing, M. Bergeron, G. Bourogiannis, A. Johnson, F. Leclère & R. Thomas, with D. von Recklinghausen, V. Smallwood, J. Spencer, V. Webb and S. Woodford, Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt (British Museum Online Research Catalogue, 2013–2019)

S. E. Sidebotham, R. I. Thomas, M. A. Sidebotham & J.-L. Rivard. Petra Decumanus Maximus Survey, 2008. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 58 (2017) 145–69.

R. I. Thomas & D. Robinson, ‘Egypt and Rome’, in Masson, A. and Goddio, F. (eds), Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds (London: British Museum/Thames & Hudson, 2016), 221–41.

B. Pennington & R. I. Thomas, ‘Paleoenvironmental surveys at Naukratis and the Canopic Branch of the NileJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports 7(2016) 180–88.

R.I. Thomas, ‘Naukratis, ‘Mistress of ships’, in context’, in D. Robinson and F. Goddio (eds), Thonis-Heracleion in Context, Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology Monograph 8 (Oxford, Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology), 239–357.

R.I. Thomas, ‘Roman Naukratis in its Alexandrian context’, British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 21 (2014), pp. 193–218.

R.I. Thomas & A. Villing. ‘Naukratis revisited 2012: Integrating new fieldwork and old research’, British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 20 (2013), pp. 81–125.

R. I. Thomas and P. T. Nicholson,  2013, ‘Figurines’, in P. T. Nicholson (ed.), Working in Memphis: the production of faience at Roman period Kom Helul. Excavation Memoir 105(London: Egypt Exploration Society, 2013), pp. 42–74.

R.I, Thomas, ‘Port communities and the Erythraean Sea trade’, British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 18 (2012), pp. 169–99.

L. Blue, J. D. Hill and R.I. Thomas, ‘New light on the vessels of Indo-Roman trade: Roman shipwrecks in the northern Red Sea In D. A. Agius, J. Cooper and C. Zazzaro (eds) Red Sea V: Navigated spaces, connected places, BAR International Series 2346 (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2012), pp. 91–100.

R. S. Tomber & R. I. Thomas, ‘Pottery from the Lake Mareotis Research Project’, in L. Blue & E. Khalil (eds), A Multidisciplinary Approach to Alexandria’s Economic Past: The Lake Mareotis Research Project (Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR International Series 2285, 2011), pp. 37–61.

R. I. Thomas, ‘Roman vessel stoppers’, in D. P. S. Peacock & L. Blue (eds), Myos Hormos - Quseir al-Qadim. Roman and Islamic ports on the Red Sea. Volume 2: Finds from the 1999-2003 (Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR International Series 2286, 2011), pp. 11–34.

R. I. Thomas, ‘Fishing equipment from Myos Hormos and fishing techniques on the Red Sea’, in T. Bekker-Nielsen & D. Bernal (eds). Nets and fishing gears in Classical antiquity (Cadiz, 2010), pp.138–59.

L. Blue, J. Cooper, R. I. Thomas & R. J. Whitewright (eds), Connected Hinterlands: Proceedings of Red Sea Project IV (Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR International Series 2052, 2009) [232 pp.].

R. I. Thomas, ‘The Arabaegypti Ichthyophagi: Cultural connections with Egypt and the maintenance of identity’, in J. C. M. Starkey, P. Starkey & T. Wilkinson (eds), Natural Resources and Cultural Connections of the Red Sea (Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR International Series 1661, 2007), pp. 149–60.

R. I. Thomas, T. M. Niemi & S. T. Parker. ‘Structural damage from earthquakes in the second-ninth century at the archaeological site of Aila in Aqaba, Jordan’, Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, 346 (2007), pp. 59–77.