Pryor, Francis 1945–

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Pryor, Francis 1945–


Born 1945, in London, England. Education: University of Cambridge, M.A., Ph.D.


Archaeologist, writer, educator, and farmer. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, assistant curator, 1969-70; Welland Valley field officer (Cambridgeshire Archaeological Committee), Cambridgeshire, England, 1979-82; Etton Excavations, Cambridgeshire, director, 1982-87; Fenland, Flag Fen, Peterborough, England, director of archaeology, 1987—; University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England, special lecturer in archaeology, 2001—. Also runs a sheep farm and is a member of the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee (AMAC) at English Heritage, 1995—, and of the steering panel of Department for Culture, Media, and Sport/Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DCMS/DETR) Historic Environment Review. Has appeared as himself on several British educational television series and miniseries.


Council for British Archaeology (president).


Excavation at Fengate, Peterborough, England: The Second Report, Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1978.

Excavation at Fengate, Peterborough, England: The Third Report, Northamptonshire Archaeological Society (Leicester, England), 1980.

A Catalogue of British and Irish Prehistoric Bronzes in the Royal Ontario Museum, drawings by Jirina Hosek and the author, metal analyses by Paul Craddock, The Museum (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1980.

English Heritage Book of Flag Fen: Prehistoric Fenland Centre, B.T. Batsford: English Heritage (London, England), 1991.

(And photographer, with C.A.I. French)The Southwest Fen Dyke Survey Project, 1982-86, contributions by M.Armour-Chelu and others, illustrations by C.A.I. French and others, Fenland Archaeological Trust (Fengate, Peterborough, England), 1993.

The Flag Fen Basin: Archaeology and Environment of a Fenland Landscape, contributions by J.C. Barrett and others, illustrations by J. Coombs and others, English Heritage (London, England), 2001.

Seahenge: New Discoveries in Prehistoric Britain, HarperCollins (London, England), 2001.

Britain B.C.: Life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans, HarperCollins (London, England), 2003.

Britain A.D.: A Qwest of Arthur, England and the Anglo Saxons, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004.

(With Charles French)Archaeology and Environment of the Etton Landscape, contributions by others, principal illustrations by C. French, R. Hatton and R.A. Parkin, photographs by C. French, R. Hatton and F. Fryor, Fenland Archaeological Trust (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England), 2005.

Flag Fen: Life and Death of a Prehistoric Landscape, Tempus (Stroud, Gloucestershire, England), 2005.

Farmers in Prehistoric Britain, Tempus (Stroud, Gloucestershire, England), 2006.

Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History, HarperPress (London, England), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Managing Archaeology, edited by M. Cooper, A. Firth, J. Carmen, and D. Wheatley, 1995. Contributor to professional journals, including Current Archaeology and Antiquity.


Francis Pryor is an archaeologist who specializes in the Bronze and Iron Ages. He has discovered and worked on a number of important archaeological sites. "I have had the extraordinary good fortune to unearth what is probably the oldest (2500 BC) field system in Britain, at Fengate; not to mention sundry Bronze and Iron-Age settlements; a partially waterlogged Neolithic causewayed enclosure (3800 BC) at Etton; and last, but by no means least, the strange, later Bronze-Age timber causeway at Flag Fen (1300-900 BC)," the author noted in an interview on the Web site. "I believe passionately that archaeology, which may only be based on sites in a few parishes, does not have to be parochial in scope or vision. Get to understand a small area thoroughly and the ‘big picture’ will look after itself."

Pryor is also the author of several books, including popular history books focusing on archaeology and British history in terms of new archaeological discoveries. Seahenge: New Discoveries in Prehistoric Britain, is a semiautobiographical look at his interests in various archaeological sites in Great Britain, including a site that emerged from the waters and sandy beach in Norfolk, England, in 1998. Pryor recounts the experience as he and his team arrive to excavate the site, which was a circle of wooden stumps with a large oak trunk placed head down in the middle. Pryor and his team date the site to 2000 BC. When they start removing timbers for preservation, however, they encounter a backlash from several groups and individuals who believe Pryor is dismantling a sacred site. The author recounts the following uproar, which landed him on television, and presents his views of what the site may have been. "Archaeology has never been made more interesting," wrote a contributor to the Contemporary Review. Joyce L. Ogburn, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "vividly and clearly [brings] to life the personal thrill of archaeological discovery."

In Britain B.C.: Life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans, Pryor writes about nearly a 500,000-year period in history with a special emphasis on the last 6,000 years before the arrival of the Romans in Great Britain in AD 43. He discusses such issues as how the isolated islands of Great Britain and Ireland created a unique identity via social structures and beliefs that was never wiped out by various invaders. "Britain B.C. is a ripping yarn, personal without being self-indulgent, thoroughly enjoyable, and soundly informative," wrote Frances Healy on the Prehistoric Society Web site. A contributor to the Contemporary Review called Britain B.C. "a valuable and necessary correction to our understanding of British and Irish history."

Flag Fen: Life and Death of a Prehistoric Landscape, is an account of a time from the Neolithic to the Iron Age in an area around Peterborough, England. "Francis Pryor has been a denizen of the Fens since 1971 and, over the last thirty-six years, has revolutionised our knowledge of prehistoric landscape in this flat part of Britain," wrote Mike Parker Pearson on the Prehistoric Society Web site. Pearson went on in the same review to call Flag Fen "an excellent summary of an outstanding career, a remarkable sequence of excavations on which generations of professionals were trained, and a far-sighted vision that links wetland and dryland archaeology."

Farmers in Prehistoric Britain focuses on what the author sees as a transformation during the second millennium BC that focused on new cooperative and communal efforts in farming. In a review of the book on the Prehistoric Society Web site, Frances Healy commented that the book "is enriched by Francis Pryor's other life as a farmer and his experience of that life's priorities and preoccupations, as well as of its numberless low-tech skills, many of which must go back into prehistory."

In his 2007 book,Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History, the author discusses the increased efforts in archaeological research in Great Britain over the past several years and the technological advancements in the field. He goes on to present a new view of the Middle Ages in Great Britain based on archaeological research. Making the case that the Middle Ages was far from the stagnant period of time many scholars have believed, the author instead presents his case that it was during this time period that the foundation for modern civilization was established. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Britain in the Middle Ages "an interesting take on an age that continues to influence the world." Nicholas Orme, writing in History Today, noted that the author "provides a readable and enjoyable survey, simply and clearly explained."

Among the author's other books is Archaeology and Environment of the Etton Landscape, written with Charles French. The book focuses on the Etton Landscape project that examined river systems and floodplain areas near Etton, England. Patrick Clay, writing on the Prehistoric Society Web site, noted that "the results are very well presented and the information is very well integrated and illustrated."



Archaeology, July, 1992, "Flag Fen," p. 74; November-December, 2001, review of Seahenge: New Discoveries in Prehistoric Britain, p. 57.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July, 2007, E.J. Kealey, review of Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History, p. 1975.

Contemporary Review, September, 2001, review of Seahenge, p. 190; March, 2004, review of Britain B.C.: Life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans, p. 188.

History Today, November, 2003, review of Britain B.C., p. 66; September, 2006, Nicholas Orme, review of Britain in the Middle Ages, p. 64.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2007, review of Britain in the Middle Ages, p. 65.

Library Journal, September 1, 2001, Joyce L. Ogburn, review of Seahenge, p. 203.

New Scientist, September 28, 1991, Bryony Coles, review of English Heritage Book of Flag Fen: Prehistoric Fenland Centre, p. 49; August 4, 2001, review of Seahenge, p. 48.

Spectator, June 9, 2001, John Michell, review of Seahenge, p. 37.

Times Higher Education Supplement, January 3, 2003, Chris Gosden, "Running round in Rings," review of Seahenge, p. 25; September 8, 2006, Brian Fagan, "Footprints of Ancient Towns and Fields upon which a Nation Rose," review of Britain in the Middle Ages, p. 22.

Times Literary Supplement, October 18, 1991, review of English Heritage Book of Flag Fen, p. 8; October 10, 2003, Christopher Chippindale, "Not a Homo Sapien to Be Seen," review of Britain B.C., p. 29; January 26, 2007, Mark Horton, "Blessed Plots," review of Britain in the Middle Ages, p. 8.


British Archaeology, (December 6, 2007), Simon Denison, "This Sheppard Won't Follow the Flock" (interview with author)., (December 6, 2007), "Francis Pryor," interview with author.

Flag Fen Web site, (December 6, 2007), profile of author.

Internet Movie Database, (December 6, 2007), lists author's film and television appearances.

Prehistoric Society Web site, (December 6, 2007), Frances Healy reviews of Britain B.C., Seahenge, and Farmers in Prehistoric Britain; Patrick Clay review of Archae-ology and Environment of the Etton Landscape; Mike Parker Pearson, review of Flag Fen.

University of Nottingham, Department of Archaeology Web site, (December 6, 2007), faculty profile of author.