Adkins, Lesley 1955-

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ADKINS, Lesley 1955-

PERSONAL: Born April 6, 1955, in East Bourne, England; married Roy A. Adkins, August 12, 1978. Education: University of Bristol, Bristol, England, B.A., 1976; University of Surrey, Guildford, M.Phil., 1982. Hobbies and other interests: Archaeology, gardening, photography.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Patrick Walsh, Conville & Walsh LTD., 118-20 Wardour St., London W1V 3LA England. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Archeologist; writer.

MEMBER: Institute of Field Archaeologists, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, Society of Authors.


Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the LostLanguages of Babylon, HarperCollins (London, England), 2003.


A Thesaurus of British Archaeology, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1982, published as The Handbook of British Archaeology, Macmillan (London, England), 1983, reprinted, Constable (London, England), 1998.

Under the Sludge: Beddington Roman Villa: Excavations at Beddington Sewage Works 1981-1983, Beddington, Carshalton & Wallington Archaeological Society (Carshalton, England), 1986.

Archaeological Illustration, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1989.

An Introduction to Archaeology, Apple Press (London, England), 1989.

Abandoned Places, Apple Press (London, England), 1990.

Talking Archaeology: A Handbook for Lecturers andOrganizers, Council for British Archaeology (London, England), 1990.

A Field Guide to Somerset Archaeology, Dovecote (Wimborne, England), 1992.

Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1994.

Dictionary of Roman Religion, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1996.

Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1997.

The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to DecipherEgyptian Hieroglyphs, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000, published as The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Read the Hieroglyphs, HarperCollins (London, England), 2000, also published as The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Crack the Hieroglyph Code, 2001.

The Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2001.

Keys of Egypt has been translated into Dutch, Spanish, Italian, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Taiwanese, and Japanese.

SIDELIGHTS: Archaeologist and author Lesley Adkins has written a dozen books with her husband, Roy Adkins, since 1982. After twenty years of writing as a team, the couple has recently decided to pursue separate writing projects. In 2003 Lesley published her first book as sole author, Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon.

Lesley and her husband have been field archaeologists in England from the mid-1970s and in 1987 started their own archaeology consultancy. Their work has taken them to Europe, Egypt, and Asia Minor, with specialties in Greek, Roman, and Egyptian archaeology. They also teach and lecture on archaeological subjects and run a library of archaeological photographs from their home base in Devon, England. The Adkinses' books range from reference volumes such as the Dictionary of Roman Religion and the Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece to the narrative nonfiction genre, with The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Crack the Hieroglyph Code and Lesley's Empires of the Plain.

A reviewer for Booklist found the Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece to be well arranged into ten chapters and then subdivided into topics, with a nicely done bibliography and index, as well as photographs, drawing, and maps. The contributor particularly praised the table of place names, which gives the anglicized version of ancient Greek names, the Greek, the modern name, and the country, for comparison by students. "The thematic arrangement of this volume makes it very useful for anyone desiring a brief overview of a specific aspect of Greek life all in one place," the contributor wrote.

M. Jane Kellet of American Antiquity was less impressed with the Adkinses' book Archaeological Illustration, even though she found it "does provide many techniques and useful quick tips" and is a manual "especially needed in these times of visual glut and furious deadlines." However, Kellet noted some repetition across chapters and found the book to be geared mostly toward English/European audiences when it is billed as international. The book is aimed at all levels of artistic ability, from the beginner to the professional artist and archaeologist. It has a solid four chapters, said Kellet, on techniques for scaling and mapping, measuring in the field and lab, and recording archaeological data.

The Adkinses' The Keys of Egypt is the story of Napoleon's discovery of ancient hieroglyphs when he invaded Egypt in 1798 and the subsequent race to decipher the Rosetta Stone. It involves the fourteen-year quest of Jean-François Champollion, the brilliant teenage son of a poor bookseller in rural France, to be the first to break the code of the hieroglyphs. Hounded and brutally criticized after Napoleon's downfall and struggling with poverty and ill health, Champollion continued in his race with English physician Thomas Young to complete the task and win the fame and fortune promised to the victor. His success, in 1822, opened the Nile Valley of the ancient Egyptians to modern society after thousands of years shrouded in mystery. Chris Martin, in a review of the book for Geographical, called it "remarkably tense for a dry subject." A Publishers Weekly contributor was disappointed that the Adkinses focused too much on Champollion's life and education and his competition with Young. The contributor wrote, "Instead of approaching the subject matter with new questions and fresh analysis, the authors' predictable narrative adds little to our knowledge" of Champollion or the process of deciphering the hieroglyphs. However, a critic for Kirkus Reviews praised the book, commenting, "The authors know their Egyptology, and in them Champollion has found worthy champions." Dr. Richard Parkinson of the British Museum described the book in the Times Higher Education Supplement as "an admirable work and a welcome addition to Egyptological bibliographies and history." Douglas Kennedy in the Times thought the book "a first-rate blend of high scholarship and narrative pace, this is one of those rare, wondrous books which turns an intellectual adventure into high drama."

A companion to The Keys of Egypt is the Adkinses' Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, which gives the beginner a fun and simple guide to learning the ancient symbols.

Lesley Adkins's Empires of the Plain is the story of nineteenth-century English soldier and adventurer Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, who spent a quarter of a century in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and India with the East India trade company and copied cuneiform scripts from a rock face at Bisitun in western Iran. Carved during the reign of King Darius of Persia, more than 2,000 years ago, the scripts ignited Rawlinson's exploration into the ancient kingdoms between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. He deciphered many inscriptions, competing with rival Edward Hincks, and uncovered the ancient world written about in the biblical Old Testament, proving that the people and places had really existed and had been documented long before the Bible was written. Rawlinson became famous for his discoveries of these once powerful empires.



American Antiquity, April, 1993, M. Jane Kellet, review of Archaeological Illustration, p. 387.

Booklist, August, 1997, review of Handbook to Life inAncient Greece, p. 1926.

Geographical, January, 2001, Chris Martin, review of The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Crack the Hieroglyph Code, p. 99.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2000, review of TheKeys of Egypt.

Publishers Weekly, October 9, 2000, review of TheKeys of Egypt, p. 85.

Times (London, England), October 11, 2000, Douglas Kennedy, review of The Keys of Egypt.

Times Higher Educational Supplement (London, England), March 30, 2001, Dr. Richard Parkinson, review of The Keys of Egypt.


Lesley and Roy Adkins Home Page, (May 8, 2003).