DR James Bonsall

Assistant Lecturer



I am an archaeological geophysicist working in both the academic and private commercial sectors. I have specialisms in the use of legacy data; 4D time-lapse assessments; the application of electromagnetic induction for the assessment of archaeological sites within challenging environments and variable geological backgrounds; induced polarisation, upland archaeology; conflict archaeology and archaeological deposits threatened by coastal erosion.

I developed an interest in archaeological geophysics during my BA (King Alfred’s College, 2000) 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 and creating Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics. Between 2010-2014, I carried out PhD research funded by a National Roads Authority Fellowship Programme “A reappraisal of archaeological geophysical surveys on Irish road corridors 2001-2010” (University of Bradford, 2014), which resulted in a number of peer review publications and a procedural guidance document for the NRA (now TII, Transport Infrastructure Ireland) staff on commissioning and procuring of geophysical surveys on infrastructure projects.

I am currently engaged in the integration of the multi-method prospection data complemented by multi-element analysis of soils derived from an early medieval monastic enclosure in Ireland; mapping wooden trackways across wetlands using induced polarisation; and the rapid assessment of coastal monuments threatened by erosion.

Since 2002 I have been the co-owner and director of Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics, 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 has 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. 

I’ve been a Lecturer since 2014 at the Department of Environmental Sciences, Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland, where I’m 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 teach modules in both practical and theoretical Archaeological Geophysics, GIS and Geoarchaeology. I'm a member of the Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability (CERIS) research cluster at IT Sligo and I'm currently supervising a post-graduate project assessing the use of low-cost analytical recording methods using open-source materials with a focus on Napoleonic-era Signal Defensible Guardhouses in Connacht.

In 2015, I convened the First International Weather Beaten Archaeology Conference. I am currently organising the 13th International Conference on Archaeological Prospection, which has been awarded to IT Sligo and writing papers on:
  • the use of electromagnetic induction and magnetometry to detect archaeological features on basalt geology
  • seasonal weather variations and contrasts captured by 4D time-lapse earth resistance surveys
  • a geoarchaeological study and dating of coastal shell middens in Ireland
  • the use, development and redeposition of medieval monastic settlement fabric from Great Connell abbey
  • mobilising citizen scientists to record vulnerable archaeological sites at eroding coastal locations
  • the mapping of archaeological and palaeolandscape features at Lea Castle