Dr James Riley Snyder

Research Associate




Research Institute: 

  • Infrastructure and Environment

Research Theme: 

  • Granular Mechanics and Industrial Infrastructure
  • Structural Engineering
Dr James Riley Snyder
Dr James Riley Snyder


I am an RA on a three-year Leverhulme-funded project, called Earthen Empire, on earth and turf construction in the Roman North-West. With Ben Russel (PI), Chris Beckett (Co-I) and Tanja Romankiewicz (RA), our team will examine archaeological remains for earth and turf buildings and their architectural and geotechnical properties in order to explore how these overlooked materials were employed, where and why, and what this can tell us about the persistence of pre-Roman building traditions as well as the movement of techniques following the Roman conquest. I am also involved in the upcoming Gölyazı (Apolonia ad Rhyndacum) Survey with Uludağ University’s Department of Archaeology. This project will explore the extensive infrastructure remains, including the fortifications and water supply, of the ancient town of Apollonia ad Rhyndacum, located around 35km west of Bursa, Turkey and dating back to at least the 2nd century BC.

I completed my undergraduate degree at Miami University in mechanical engineering and anthropology. I came to the University of Edinburgh in 2006 to undertake an MSc in European Archaeology and went on to complete a PhD at Edinburgh in 2013.  

Before returning to Edinburgh, I was a Research Assistant at the British Institute at Ankara (BIAA) (2012-2013) where I worked on the digital conversion of the BIAA’s extensive photographic archive. In 2014, I was the Early Career Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Bologna. During this period, I lived and worked in Ravenna, researching Late-Antique and Byzantine construction techniques and materials.

Prior to my current role, I was a postdoctoral research associate (2015-2018) on a Leverhulme-funded project at the University of Edinburgh on the engineering of the water supply system of Constantinople.

Research Interests: 

My research combines engineering, architecture, geology and computer modelling within the discipline of archaeology. I have used various analytical techniques to investigate the nature of construction (i.e. material resources, project management, building economy) in antiquity and the early medieval period. Through microscopic analysis of architectural materials such as mortar, brick, stone and earthen materials, I am interested in the identification of their raw material components as well as the production and application methods. Through macroscopic modelling techniques, I am also interested in identifying the organisation of material and human resources behind large-scale building projects.

Further Information: 


Snyder, J.R. (in press) “Bricks in the wall: an examination of brick procurement in fifth-century Ravenna”, in Economia e territorio nell’Adriatico centrale tra tarda Antichità e alto Medioevo (IV-VIII secolo), Ravenna 2014.

Snyder, J.R., O. Dilaver, L. Stephenson, J. Mackie, and S.D. Smith (2017) Agent-based modelling and construction – reconstructing antiquity’s largest infrastructure project, Construction Management and Economics.

Snyder, J.R. (2017) “Manipulating the Environment: the impact of the construction of the Water Supply of Constantinople”. In Baron, H. and Daim, F. (Eds.), A Most Pleasant Scene and an Inexhaustible Resource? Steps Towards Environmental History of the Byzantine Empire, Byzanz zwischen Orient und Okzident: Veröffentlichungen des Leibniz-WissenschaftsCampus, Mainz.

Ruggeri, F., Crapper, M., Crow, J. and Snyder, J.R. (2017) “A GIS-based assessment of the Byzantine water supply system of Constantinople”, Water Science & Technology: Water Supply, 17(4).

Snyder, J.R. (2016) “Building the longest water supply system: large-scale construction in Constantinople’s hinterland” Annual of Istanbul Studies, 5.

Snyder J.R. and Dilaver O. (2014) “Re-constructing the Water Supply of Constantinople”, Heritage Turkey, 4.

Snyder J.R. (2012) “Large-scale Construction in the Hinterland of Constantinople”, Heritage Turkey, 2.

Snyder, J.R. (forthcoming) “Examination of mortars from Area II, Utica”. Chapter in upcoming book on the excavations of Utica, Tunisia by the Tunisian-British Utica Project.

Snyder, J.R. and Astolfi, M. (forthcoming) “Report on Mortars from Dariali Fort and nearby fortifications”, in Sauer, E. et al.. The Caspian Gates in the Caucasus from Antiquity to the Age of the Huns in the Middle Ages. Oxbow, Oxford.

Astolfi, M. and Snyder, J.R. (forthcoming) “Report on Mortars from the Gorgon Wall”. Chapter in upcoming book on the excavations and survey carried out on the Gorgon Wall by the ‘Persia and its Neighbours’ projext.

Snyder, J.R. (forthcoming) “From Forest to Trowel: The Economics of Mortar Production in Late Antiquity” in Courault, C. (ed.), Aspectos Económicos de Construcción de los Edificios Públicos en el Occidente Romano.

Intagliata, E.E., Naskidashvili, D. and Snyder, J.R. (Forthcoming) Preliminary report of the “Forgotten Borderlands” project in Guria and Adjara (Georgia). Several remarks on the results of the structural survey at Tsikhisdziri. 11th ICAANE proceedings, Munich, 2018.

Snyder, J.R. and Intagliata, E.E. (forthcoming) “The ancient infrastructure of Apollonia ad Rhyndacum: Gölyazı Survey 2019”, Heritage Turkey 8.