I came to Leicester in 1982 with a mixed background in mathematics, astrophysics and archaeology. After 2 years as a Research Assistant in the Department of Mathematics working on statistical applications in archaeology I went on to teach in Computing Studies (later Mathematics and Computer Science) before transferring in 1997 into the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, where I became Professor of Archaeoastronomy in 1999.
I have served as President of the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture (1999-2005), the Prehistoric Society (2006-10), and the International Astronomical Union (IAU)’s Commissions for the History of Astronomy (2009-12) and Astronomy and World Heritage (2015-18).
From 2008 to 2018 I coordinated the IAU’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative jointly with UNESCO and I continue to advise governments on potential World Heritage nominations relating to astronomy.
In 2017 I was greatly honoured to be awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s Agnes Mary Clerke Medal for a “lifetime of distinguished work in the overlapping areas of archaeology astronomy and the history of science”.
I have spent a lifetime investigating ancient people’s perceptions of the sky and the uses they make of what they see there. Archaeoastronomy is an interdisciplinary field prone to misinterpretation and speculation and my particular concern is to find the best ways to combine approaches from “hard science” and anthropology in order to reach sensible and robust conclusions.
My early career focused on Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain and Ireland, where the scientific evidence base is derived mainly--but by no means exclusively--by studying the design landscape setting and orientation of ancient buildings and monuments in relation to the sky. Since then I have worked in many parts of the world and focused on a wide range of time periods up to and including modern indigenous societies. Currently I have ongoing fieldwork projects in Peru and the Hawaiian Islands but I continue to be involved in research projects in the UK, particularly relating to Stonehenge and its landscape and what appear to be precursor sites in Pembrokeshire.
I was co-discoverer in 2005 of the 2200-year-old monumental solar observatory at Chankillo in Peru, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021.
My books include:
Stonehenge: Sighting the Sun. Liverpool University Press/Historic England. In press. (With Amanda Chadburn)
The World at Night: Preserving Natural Darkness for Heritage Conservation and Night Sky Appreciation. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), WCPA Technical Report series. In press. (With David Welch and others)
Heiau, ʻĀina, Lani: The Hawaiian Temple System in Ancient Kahikinui and Kaupō, Maui. University of Hawaii Press, 2019. (With Patrick V. Kirch)
Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the Context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: a Thematic Study, vol. 2. ICOMOS, Paris, 2017.
Nā Inoa Hōkū: Hawaiian and Pacific Star Names. 2nd edition. Ocarina Books / University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2015. (With Rubellite K. Johnson and John K. Mahelona)
Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy (3 volumes). Springer, New York, 2014. (Editor-in-chief)
Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy: Building Bridges between Cultures. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011. (Editor)
Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the Context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: a Thematic Study. ICOMOS, Paris, 2010. (With Michel Cotte).
Cultural Astronomy in New World Cosmologies. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, 2007, 2010. (Edited with Gary Urton)
Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 2005.
Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999.
Records in Stone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, 2003. (Editor)
While I remain active in research I no longer teach on any degrees or modules.
I am happy to speak on topics relating to archaeoastronomy and cultural astronomy.