Adkins, Roy 1951-

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ADKINS, Roy 1951-


Born 1951, in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England; married August 12, 1978; wife's name, Lesley (an archeologist and writer). Education: University College, Cardiff, B.A. (with honors).


Agent—Bill Hamilton, A. M. Heath & Co., Ltd., 79 St. Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4RE, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Archaeologist and writer.


Institute of Field Archaeologists, Society of Authors.


London Society of Antiquaries fellow.


(With Ralph Jackson) Neolithic Stone and Flint Axes from the River Thames, British Museum (London, England), 1978.


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 and Organizers, Council for British Archaeology (London, England), 1990.

Introduction to Romans, Apple Press (London, England), 1991.

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

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

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


The Biography of a Battle, for Penguin (New York, NY).


Husband-and-wife team of archaeologists Roy and Lesley Adkins are the authors of numerous books on archaeology and ancient history. They began their careers as field archaeologists in Great Britain, working in the town of Milton Keynes and then in South London, where they directed an excavation of a Roman villa in Beddington. Since 1985 they have also run an independent archaeological consulting firm; as consultants, they conduct both documentary research and excavation.

The Adkins' first book, A Thesaurus of British Archaeology, was published in 1982, and later published as The Handbook of British Archaeology. The couple took three years to write the book, and noted on their Web site that they decided to write it because "nothing was available giving explanations of the numerous technical terms in archaeology—the jargon that makes many people feel they are excluded from archaeology." They also commented that writing the book was such an exhausting process that "we firmly believed we would never write another book!" However, they have continued to write, producing many more volumes of archaeology and ancient history.

Introduction to the Romans is intended to provide a broad overview of this ancient culture, which still influences our own. On their Web site, the Adkins noted, "Of all our books, this is the one most often borrowed in public libraries."

Abandoned Places examines various prehistoric and historic sites worldwide, and explains the factors that led their former inhabitants to leave them—including war and natural disasters.

A Field Guide to Somerset Archaeology is a guidebook for those who wish to visit the prehistoric, Roman, and medieval sites of the county of Somerset in southwest England. The book gives directions to sites of interest, along with descriptions of the sites, information on car parking, opening times, and access for people with disabilities.

In Under the Sludge: Beddington Roman Villa Excavations at Beddington Sewage Works 1981-1983 the Adkins describe the archaeological site of a Roman villa found in Beddington, under acres of sewage sludge once spread by the Beddington Sewage Works. Development threatened the site, so the Adkins undertook an excavation, basing their work on the fact that a Roman bath was known to exist on the site. They found the bath, but also located a villa and a prehistoric settlement. The book tells the story of the excavation, and was written largely for the people of the area, many of whom volunteered in the work.

Archaeological Illustration is a detailed manual for those interested in recording archaeological evidence through drawings. After providing a brief history of the use of illustration in archaeological work, the book covers equipment, handling, and finishing techniques, and then discusses measurement in the lab and in the field, scaling and mapping methods, and terms for recording archaeological data. The authors also discuss technical aspects of printing processes and computer graphics. In American Antiquity, M. Jane Kellett praised the book's "extensive source and reference lists" and wrote that it provides "many techniques and useful quick tips."

Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome and Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece provide concise references about these societies, with chapters on their history, economy, religion, culture, and other topics. Both books are illustrated throughout with the Adkins' own line drawings and photographs.

In Dictionary of Roman Religion the Adkins go beyond many existing dictionaries of classical mythology to discuss various aspects of Roman religion, including priesthoods, sacrifices, temples, altars, cult objects, burial rites, superstitions, and magic, as well as the numerous Roman gods and goddesses.

In 2000, the Adkins published The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Read Hieroglyphics, which examines the quest to understand ancient Egypt's beautiful and mysterious form of writing. Hieroglyphs gained widespread attention in Europe after Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, leading to the discovery of the famed Rosetta Stone, which contained texts in two forms of ancient Egyptian writing, as well as in Greek. The Egyptian text was finally decoded by the brilliant scholar Jean-François Champollion, who was in competition with an Englishman, Thomas Young. The coauthors describe Champollion's process of decipherment, as well as the social milieu of post-revolutionary

France, which was often not kind to intellectuals. In Geographical, Chris Martin praised the book's suspenseful storytelling and its description of Champollion's travails, noting, "The book is remarkably tense for a dry subject." In the London Sunday Telegraph, Simon Singh described the book as "a ripping tale of obsession and rivalry."

In The Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphs the Adkins present a popular manual for readers interested in hieroglyphs, particularly those who wish to visit ancient Egyptian monuments and view them with more knowledge and enjoyment. The book explains how the writing system works, provides examples of hieroglyphs and what they mean, and discusses the various types of signs used in the writing. On their Web site, the Adkins commented, "With numerous pictures of hieroglyphs and easy-to-identify pictures of gods and goddesses, this book is essential to anyone wanting to know about Egyptian writing—and will show how anyone from Adrian to Zoe can write their own name in hieroglyphs."

The Adkins have traveled in Europe, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and have led groups on archaeological tours in the United Kingdom. They frequently lecture on archaeological topics, and have taught university adult-education courses.



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

Booklist, August, 1997, review of Handbook to Life in Ancient 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 The Keys of Egypt.

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

Sunday Telegraph (London, England), August 27, 2000, Simon Singh, review of The Keys of Egypt, p. 13.

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

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


Adkins Archaeology Web site, (June 10, 2003).