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Dr Jim Leary
Senior Lecturer in Field Archaeology



Jim completed a BA in Archaeology at the University of Cardiff in 1998 and the same year joined Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd in London. In 2005 he moved across to the Research Department at what was then English Heritage as ‘Archaeologist (Prehistory)’, conducting major excavations into Silbury Hill in 2007 and 2008, as well as in the Pewsey Vale. Alongside this, between 2007 and 2013 he undertook a part-time PhD at Manchester, which looked at perceptions of and responses to sea-level rise in the Mesolithic. In 2012 Jim took a sabbatical to be the ‘Field Archaeologist in Residence’ at the McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge, and then left in 2013 to join the University of Reading as the Director of the Archaeology Field School, conducting major excavations in Wiltshire. He joined the University of York as Lecturer in Field Archaeology in 2018.

His research focuses on later prehistoric landscapes, monuments, and mobility and movement in archaeology.

In 2015 Jim was a BBC/AHRC ‘New Generation Thinker’ finalist, and in 2018 was nominated for Current Archaeology’s ‘Archaeologist of the Year’ Award.



In 2007 and 2008 Jim directed major excavations into Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, which included excavating a tunnel into the centre. He managed the post-excavation programme afterward and co-authored the monograph of this work, as well as a popular account (with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough). He followed this by dating Marlborough Castle Mound, showing for the first time that its origins are prehistoric and contemporary with Silbury Hill. This led to the Leverhulme Trust-funded Round Mounds project, which looked at numerous mottes up and down the country between 2015 and 2017. From 2010 Jim has been directing excavations into Neolithic monuments in the Vale of Pewsey, the landscape lying between Stonehenge and Avebury. This work has investigated an Early Neolithic timber hall and long barrow at Cat’s Brain, a Late Neolithic henge at Wilsford, and Marden henge, the largest henge in the country, which revealed one of the best-preserved Late Neolithic buildings in England. This work is currently being assessed and analysed and will then be published.

Jim’s theoretical interests include ways of understanding mobility in archaeology, particularly how mobility-informed approaches can be applied to the past. To develop this, he has undertaken interdisciplinary research, applying recent theoretical developments on mobility from other disciplines to archaeology. This will be published in a book entitled ‘Roam’. He is also interested in, and undertaken research on, the perceptions of, and responses to, sea-level rise in the past, which was published in his book ‘The Remembered Land’.



  • AHRC Research Grant (Early Career), AH/M008304/1, ‘Neolithic Pilgrimage? Rivers, mobility and monumentality in the land between Avebury and Stonehenge’. (Collaborative with Historic England and Wiltshire Museum). Principal Investigator.
  • Leverhulme Trust Research Grant, RPG-2014-335, ‘Extending histories: from medieval mottes to prehistoric round mounds’. Principal Investigator.


Previous projects

  • 2012–13, Priddy Circle 1 excavations (funded by EH following landowner damage).
  • 2011–12, Marlborough Mound dating project (funded by Marlborough College).
  • 2010–11, Marden Henge Research Project (funded by English Heritage.
  • 2007–13, Silbury Hill Conservation Project (funded by English Heritage).


  • 2015–2019, AHRC Research Grant (Early Career), AH/M008304/1, ‘Neolithic Pilgrimage? Rivers, mobility and monumentality in the land between Avebury and Stonehenge’. Principal Investigator.
  • 2015–2017, Leverhulme Trust Research Grant, RPG-2014-335, ‘Extending histories: from medieval mottes to prehistoric round mounds’. Principal Investigator.

Available PhD research projects

I am interested in supervising any topics related to the later prehistory, particularly those involving landscapes and monuments, and/or field archaeology and heritage management. I am also very keen to supervise projects related to movement and mobility of any period.


Current PhD students:

  • David Stapley, The archaeology of the Woodsmith Mine corridor – exploring ways of integrating curatorial and community archaeology in the North York Moors National Park.
  • Devakumar Thenchery, Interpreting Ritualistic Landscape of India; Kalamezhuth Paatt, a Case Study.

Completed PhD students:

  • Claire Nolan, Therapeutic Landscapes of the Neolithic:  Exploring the potential for Britain’s Neolithic heritage to promote wellbeing amongst present-day visitors and communities.
  • Katy Whittaker, The role of sarsen stone in Neolithic and early Bronze Age southern Britain. An archaeological and ethno-historical approach to an ancient industry.
  • Elaine Jamieson, Memory, Mobility and the Perception of Place: a view of elite landscapes in medieval England.



  • Field Archaeology
  • The Neolithic of Britain and Ireland

External activities


  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (FSA)
  • Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the Council for the Theoretical Archaeology Group (2015-2018)
  • Member of the Council of the Prehistoric Society (2012-2015)

Invited talks and conferences

  • 2017, Discussant at ‘Ritually Mounded Landscapes’ session at SAA (Vancouver).
  • 2016, ‘Scales of Movement’, Cluster of Excellence 264 – TOPOI (Berlin).
  • 2016, Prehistoric Society/Devon Arch Soc annual lecture. Exeter County Hall.
  • 2015, European Association of Archaeologists conference, Glasgow, Scotland.
  • 2014, European Association of Archaeologists conference, Istanbul, Turkey.
  • 2013, World Archaeology Conference, Jordan.
  • 2012, McDonald Institute seminars, Cambridge University.
  • 2011, Society of American Archaeology conference, Sacramento, California.
  • 2010, International Conference on the Mesolithic in Europe, Santander, Spain.
  • 2009, European Association of Archaeologists conference, Riva del Garda, Italy.

Conference sessions organised:

  • 2018, ‘Houses of the Dead?’ Neolithic Studies Group, British Museum.
  • 2014, ‘Society, power and influence in Atlantic Europe’, European Association of Archaeologists, Istanbul, Turkey.
  • 2012, ‘Movement and mobility in the Neolithic’. Neolithic Studies Group, British Museum.
  • 2012, ‘Henges: a Late Neolithic conundrum’. Oxford University.
  • 2011, ‘Past mobilities’. Session at Theoretical Archaeology Group
  • 2010, ‘Hunter gatherers in a changing world’. Session at International Conference on the Mesolithic in Europe, Santander, Spain.

Media coverage

  • Considerable coverage in the media, through newspaper, live radio, and television (e.g. Radio4: Today programme, PM programme, Inside Science, Costing the Earth; Radio3: Nightwaves; BBC1: Countryfile; BBC4: Digging for Britain; C4: Walking through History); Discovery Channel.
  • Profiled in the popular press (British Archaeology ‘My Archaeology’; Wiltshire Life ‘My Wiltshire’; Digital Digging ‘Grave Goods’; BBC History magazine ‘History Explorer’; EH Member’s Magazine).

Contact details

Dr Jim Leary
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 324442