Julian Thomas


Personal profile


Qualifications - Academic and Professional

Bachelor of Technology in Archaeological Sciences, Bradford University (1981)

Master of Arts in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy, Sheffield University (1982)

Doctor of Philosophy in Archaeology, Sheffield University (1986)


Previous Employment and Appointments Held

1987 - 1993: Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Wales, Lampeter

1994 - 1996: Lecturer in Archaeology, Southampton University

1996 - 1998: Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Southampton University

1998 - 2000: Reader in Archaeology, Southampton University


Research interests

Research Interests

  • Theory and philosophy of archaeology, history of archaeological thought;
  • Neolithic Britain and Europe;
  • Archaeology and modernity;
  • Archaeology of place and landscape, architecture and monuments;
  • Relationship between archaeology and anthropology;
  • Material culture and 'thing theory';
  • Phenomenology and the 'new materialisms'.


Academia Page

Many of my publications can be downloaded from my Academia page:


Current Projects

1.     Dorstone Hill Neolithic Landscape

Since 2011 I have been directing excavations, jointly with Herefordshire County Council and Nexus Heritage, at Dorstone Hill in southwest Herefordshire. Investigations have revealed three Neolithic long mounds, each strikingly distinct architecturally, and each constructed on the footprint of a burnt timber building of some form. The latter have produced radiocarbon dates in the 39th century BC. Geophysical survey has revealed the presence of a causewayed enclosure on the same hilltop, which was excavated in 2017 and 2018, revealing a sequence of multiple recuts, pottery and animal bone.


2.     The Stonehenge Riverside Project

Between 2004 and 2009 I was a PI on the AHRC funded Stonehenge Riverside Project, along with Mike Parker Pearson and Chris Tilley. The project is being readied for publication, and the first monograph (which includes my excavations at the Greater Stonehenge Cursus and Amesbury 42 long barrow) will be published in the coming year.


3.     Neolithic Britain: The Transformation of Social Worlds

A semi-popular book co-written with Keith Ray. It is intended to bring current thinking about the Neolithic to an informed non-specialist audience, and has just been published by Oxford University Press.


4.     Chaco Landscapes: Data, Theory and Management

The Chaco ‘white paper’ is a document written by Ruth Van Dyke (Binghamton University), Stephen Lekson (University of Colorado) and Carrie Heitman (University of Nebraska), and I have contributed as international member of the panel. It is intended as a policy instrument employed by the US National Parks Department in safeguarding archaeological landscapes in the wider hinterland of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in response to encroachment by the oil and gas industry. Having taken part in fieldwork and writing activities in 2015, I returned in 2017 for a follow-up meeting intended to generate further collaborative research.


5. The Society for Archaeological Sciences Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Sciences

I have been invited by Prof. Sandra Lopez Varela, on behalf of the Society for Archaeological Sciences, to edit one volume of the forthcoming multi-volume Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Sciences, to be concerned with the philosophy of archaeological science. This encyclopaedia will be published by Wiley-Blackwell, and my volume will contain around fifty contributions from a range of authors from around the world. The Encyclopaedia will be published in October 2018.


Media contributions and coverage

My archaeological fieldwork has often been of interest to the print and broadcast media. The Stonehenge Riverside project in 2004-9 was the subject of TV programmes for Time Team, Nova and National Geographic, and was featured heavily in TV, radio and online news. In 2012-13, I was academic consultant for a series of three programmes entitled Sacred Wonders of Britain, covering sites from the Palaeolithic to the Reformation, and aired on BBC 2 in November 2013. The series achieved 2.5 million viewers, and positive press reviews.

In 2013, the Dorstone Hill excavations were reported in the Times, Financial Times and Daily Mail (amongst others), and I spoke about the site on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

In January 2014, I was one of the three presenters in a public debate on the beginning of the Neolithic organised by the Royal Archaeological Institute at the Society of Antiquaries, London. This debate formed the basis for an extensive article in Current Archaeology, a popular magazine.

In March 2014, I was one of a panel discussing the significance of Stonehenge on BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Belief. In May 2017 I was again on Beyond Belief, discussing ancestors and genealogy. In May 2014, I spoke about my excavations at Dorstone Hill to an audience of 400 at the Hay on Wye literary and arts festival. I have also recently spoken to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society.

In 2017, excavations at Dorstone Hill featured in Series 6 of the BBC2 series, Digging for Britain.

In June 2018, I again appeared at the Hay Festival, in an event connected with the publication of my book with Keith Ray, Neolithic Britain: The Transformation of Social Worlds.


Prizes and awards

1999-2002 Dunragit and Droughduil excavations, Dumfries and Galloway, funded by Historic Scotland. £60,000 over four years.

2002-2007 I was Associate Director of the AHRC Research Centre for Textile Conservation and Textile Studies (shared between Winchester School of Art, Manchester and Bradford Universities) £937,000 over five years.

2002 AHRB Research leave award, £13,153.

2005-2010 PI on the AHRC Stonehenge Riverside Project (shared between Bristol, Bournemouth, Manchester and Sheffield Universities and UCL) £472,751 over five years.

2009-2014 The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (shared with Professor Mats Larsson, Linnaeus University) £300,000 over five years, ‘North-west Europe in Transition’.

2010-2011 Leverhulme Artist in Residence (Mark Anstee), £15,000.

2010-2011 Historic Scotland teaching buy-out for publication of Dunragit and Droughduil, £10,000.

2014-2015 Historic Scotland publication subvention for Dunragit and Droughduil, £6,675.


Memberships of committees and professional bodies

1989-present Member of National Committee of the Theoretical Archaeology Group.

1994-1999 Secretary, World Archaeological Congress.

1995 Life Membership of the Collingwood Society.

2006- Visiting Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

2001-2004 and 2007-2010 Vice President of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

2012 Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

2015-present Awards and Honours Committee, Royal Anthropological Institute.

2017-present Finance Committee, Royal Anthropological Institute.

2018-present Member of Council, Royal Anthropological Institute.



1992-2004 Editorial Board, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

1993-2003 Advisory editor, Archaeological Dialogues

1995 - present Editorial Board, Journal of Material Culture

2005 – present. Editorial Board, Journal of Iberian Archaeology

2005 – present. Editorial Board, Time and Mind

2010 – present. Editorial Board, Journal of Social Archaeology

2011 – present. Editorial Board, Current Swedish Archaeology

1999-2003 Academic series editor (with Professor Martin Hall), One World Archaeology, Routledge (imprint of the World Archaeological Congress)

1997 Series editor, Themes in Archaeology , Routledge.



Results of Assessment of Teaching Ability

The average results (out of 5) from the past year are as follows:

                                                                                    Course                Lecturer

ARGY10061 History of Archaeology                                   4.35                 4.63

ARGY20111 Theory & Philosophy of Archaeology               4.91                 5.00

ARGY30132 Neolithic Britain                                              5.00                 5.00


Teaching Awards

2015-16 Manchester Teaching Awards: nominated for ‘Best Supervision (Postgraduate Research)’

(Nomination statement: Correctly balances critique and support to bring out the best work in PGR students.  Excellent personal support in regards to illness, personal crisis and mental health issues including 'going in to bat' for students.   Creates roles for PGR students within personal research projects especially in collaborative projects that open up opportunities beyond the PhD.   Continues to promote and support PGR students after graduation.  To sum up, Prof Thomas is supportive academically, professionally and with regards to personal issues including mental health. He works to enhance his PhD students beyond their current piece of research by creating opportunities and by promoting their work.


2014-15 Manchester Teaching Awards: nominated for ‘Most Inspiring Lecturer’

(Nomination statement: Julian Thomas is an inspiring lecturer because he not only has a vast wealth of knowledge, but is able to effectively convey his understanding in accessible ways, without having to reduce the complexity of ideas and arguments to the point where they become something else. His lectures are experienced as a performance: they have few hiccups and cover subjects in great detail. There is often so much subtlety that a notepad will not do it justice. Instead, a student can expect to listen to the recorded lecture and discover new things within its content each time.)


2014-15 Manchester Teaching Awards: nominated for ‘Best Humanities Lecturer’

(Nomination statement: Terrific, well thought out and organised lectures. Useful Powerpoint presentations and handouts. Makes what could be a dry subject interesting. Very good explanations of difficult material)


External Examining (Undergraduate)

2011-2015 Undergraduate external examiner in Archaeology, Edinburgh University.

2008-2010 Undergraduate and MA external examiner in Archaeology, Cardiff University.

2004-2007 Undergraduate external examiner in Archaeology, Bristol University.

1996-7 and 1999-2000 External moderator, Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology, Oxford University.


External Examining (Postgraduate)

I have externally examined 25 postgraduate theses, in Britain, Canada, South Africa, Sweden and France.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

External positions

Member of the Awards and Honours Committee, The Royal Anthropological Institute

2015 → …

Areas of expertise

  • CC Archaeology
  • Neolithic Archaeology
  • Theory & Philosophy of Archaeology


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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