Mike Parker Pearson

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Mike Parker Pearson
Born Michael Parker Pearson
1957 (age 56–57)
Nationality English
Other names Michael Parker Pearson
Alma mater University of Southampton, King's College, Cambridge
Occupation Archaeologist
Known for Stonehenge Riverside Project

Michael 'Mike' Parker Pearson, FSA, FSA Scot (born 1957) is an English archaeologist specialising in the study of the Neolithic British Isles, Madagascar and the archaeology of death and burial. A lecturer at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, he has previously worked for 25 years as a professor at the University of Sheffield in England, and was the director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.[1] A prolific author, he has also written a variety of books on the subject.

Parker Pearson gained his BA in archaeology from Southampton University in 1979. Supervised by Ian Hodder, at university Parker Pearson was a contemporary of Sheena Crawford, Daniel Miller, Henrietta Moore, Christopher Tilley and Alice Welbourn; these students adopted Hodder's structuralist ideas, then a pioneering part of the post-processualist current within archaeological theory. He went on to gain his PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1985, producing a thesis on burials and bog bodies in Iron Age Denmark.

A media personality, Parker Pearson has appeared several times in the Channel 4 show Time Team in particular in one looking at the excavation of Durrington Walls. He also appeared in the National Geographic Channel documentary Stonehenge Decoded, along with the PBS programme "NOVA: Secrets of Stonehenge".[2]


Early life: 1957–1985[edit]

Parker Pearson was born in 1957.[3] He would later inform interviewers that he first took an interest in the past when searching for fossils in his father's driveway gravel aged 4, extending that interest into the human past aged 6 when he read a library book entitled Fun with Archaeology.[4] Deciding to study the subject at the undergraduate level, he attended the University of Southampton, attaining a first class BA with honours in Archaeology in 1979.[5]

Parker Pearson became interested in Marxism, the socio-economic and political theory developed in the mid-19th century by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In the 1984 anthology Ideology, Power and Prehistory, edited by Daniel Miller and Christopher Tilley, Parker Pearson published a paper in which he examined the pre-state societies of Jutland from a Marxist perspective. At the start of this paper, he noted that it had repurcussions for Marxism in that its findings discerned "a certain blurring between capitalism and non-capitalism."[6] He obtained his PhD from King's College, University of Cambridge in 1985, for a thesis which he had titled "Death, society and social change: the Iron Age of southern Jutland 200 BC - 600 AD" in which he discussed what was known about the bog bodies of Denmark; it would remain unpublished.[5][7][8]

Early career: 1985–2003[edit]

From 1984 through to 1990, Parker Pearson worked as an Inspector of Monuments for English Heritage,[5] and in 1989 he received membership to the Institute for Archaeologists.[5] In 1990, he secured an academic teaching position at the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, where he would work for the next 21 years.[5] In 1991 he was admitted as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and in 1996 then became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.[5]

Stonehenge Riverside Project and UCL: 2003–present[edit]

From 2003 through to 2009, Parker Pearson directed the Stonehenge Riverside Project. The project garnered three major archaeological awards: the Andante Travels Archaeology Award (2008), the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries Award (2009), and the UK Archaeological Research Project of the Year (2010).[5] His work in leading the project also led to Parker Pearson being personally awarded the UK Archaeologist of the Year award in 2010.[5]

From 2006 through to 2009, he served as the Vice-President of the Prehistoric Society.[5] Interacting with various parts of the media, Parker Pearson has published articles in a variety of different sources, such as on the BBC website,[8] has given interviews to groups such as Pagans for Archaeology[4] and most recently discussed his career in an interview with Papers from the Institute of Archaeology.[9]

In 2012, Parker Pearson left the University of Sheffield and began teaching at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, as Professor of British Later Prehistory.[5]

Bluestonehenge digital reconstruction - oval configuration..PNG
Bluestonehenge digital reconstruction – oval configuration
Mike Parker Pearson is located in Wiltshire
Mike Parker Pearson
Map showing Bluestonehenge's location
Location Wiltshire, England
Coordinates 51°10′17″N 1°47′53″W / 51.1714°N 1.798°W / 51.1714; -1.798Coordinates: 51°10′17″N 1°47′53″W / 51.1714°N 1.798°W / 51.1714; -1.798

Bluestonehenge Research[edit]

Mike Parker Pearson and his team of researchers played a key role in the discovery of a new henge site along the River Avon that links to Stonehenge. This new site was uncovered through excavation during the Stonehenge Riverside Project and was given the name “Bluestonehenge” or “Bluehenge” because traces of bluestones were found during the excavation. The term “henge” is often incorrectly thought to mean a circular structure of stone[10]. In fact, henge refers to an enclosed structure made of compressed earth containing a ditch on the inside of the bank, giving the perception of keeping something inside the enclosure, rather than keeping out others. This would imply that Stonehenge is actually improperly named, as its ditch is located on the outside of the bank which means that it is not really a henge by the original definition.

Construction Details[edit]

With an approximate outer henge diameter of 25 m, Bluestonehenge has been dated to have been built somewhere around 2469-2286 BC[11] by radiocarbon dating performed on an antler pick found in the site. However, the stone circle itself actually has a diameter of less than 10 m, and it is believed to have been constructed sometime between 3400-2500 BC[12] due to 2 flint chisel arrowheads being found, that were a style commonly used during that period. Within this stone circle there were imprints of the bases from the original stones. These imprints have been compared to the bluestones located in Stonehenge and have been found to have matching dimensions thus helping confirm this theory.

Ceremonial Significance[edit]

Bluestonehenge’s significance is believed to be in its role as part of a ceremonial route for the ancient civilization. Mike Parker Pearson hypothesizes that Bluestonehenge and the nearby Durrington Walls formed a multi-part funeral arrangement. It is thought that it was a ceremonial route from an area of life at Durrington Walls, though Bluestonehenge and along the "Stongehenge Avenue", to arrive at the location of their final resting place in Stonehenge. This final resting place of Stonehenge theory can be supported by the numerous cremation burials (over 200)[13] that have been uncovered during excavation work around Stonehenge. Analysis of these remains also leads researchers to believe it was a ceremony for the wealthier in the region, or of royal lineage, or even for those who helped initiate construction of Stonehenge. This select group of individuals was believed to be male adults who were 25-40 years old and whom seemed quite healthy. Mike Parker Pearson’s past experience working with a colleague from Madagascar also helped to shape his theory. He believes that the choice of stone material for Stonehenge is significant as past civilizations often reserved construction of their ancestor’s tombs with stone, while the perishable material, such as the wood used for the Durrington Walls timber circles, was reserved for the living. This helps to back up Mike Parker Pearson’s theory that Stonehenge may be the realm of the dead while Durrington Walls was the realm of the living.


Title Year Co-author(s) Publisher ISBN
Bronze Age Britain 1993 n/a English Heritage and B.T. Batsford 978-0713468564
Architecture and Order: Approaches to Social Space 1994 Colin Richards
(edited volume)
Routledge 978-0415067287
The Archaeology of Death and Burial 1999 n/a Sutton Publishing 978-0890969267
Between Land and Sea: Excavations at Dun Vulan, South Uist 1999 Niall Sharples, Jacqui Mulville, Helen Smith,
(edited volume)
Sheffield Academic Press 978-1850758808
In Search of the Red Slave: Shipwreck and Captivity in Madagascar 2002 Karen Godden Sutton Publishing 978-0750929387
Food, Culture and Identity in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age 2003 British Archaeological Reports 978-1841714950
Fiskerton: An Iron Age Timber Causeway with Iron Age and Roman Votive Offerings 2003 Naomi Field Oxbow 978-1842170649
South Uist: Archaeology and History of a Hebridean Island 2004 Niall Sharples and Jim Symonds The History Press 978-0752429052
Warfare, Violence and Slavery in Prehistory: Proceedings of a Prehistoric Society Conference at Sheffield University 2005 I.J.N. Thorpe
(edited volume)
British Archaeological Reports 978-1841718163
From Stonehenge to the Baltic: Living with Cultural Diversity in the Third Millennium BC 2007 Mats Larsson British Archaeological Reports 978-1407301303
Pastoralists, Warriors and Colonists: The Archaeology of Southern Madagascar 2010 Karen Godden
(edited volume)
British Archaeological Reports 978-1407306803
If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge 2010 Marc Aronson National Geographic Society 978-1426305993
Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Enigma 2012 n/a Simon and Schuster 978-0857207302
From Machair to Mountains: Archaeological Survey and Excavation in South Uist 2012 (edited volume) Oxbow 978-1842174517

External links[edit]




  • Parker Pearson, Michael; Pollard, Josh (2006), "Materializing Stonehenge - The Stonehenge Riverside Project and New Discoveries", Journal of Material Culture (SAGE Publications) 11: 227–261, doi:10.1177/1359183506063024 
  • Đermek, Anđelko (2013), "Stonehenge Triangle", STUDIA MYTHOLOGICA SLAVICA XVI: 47–53 
  • Parker Pearson, Michael (2012), "Stonehenge - EXPLORING THE GREATEST STONE AGE MYSTERY", Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0-85720-730-2 
  • Pitts, M. (2000), "Hengeworld", Arrow Books