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Rahtz was born in Bristol. After leaving Bristol Grammar School, he became an accountant before serving with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. During war service, Rahtz became friends with the archaeologist Ernest Greenfield (excavator of Great Witcombe Roman Villa, Gloucestershire). This friendship sparked a personal interest in archaeology and a professional career, which began with the excavations at Chew Valley Lake (north Somerset) in 1953.
A wide range of excavations in the area followed including Old Sarum in 1957, Glastonbury Tor in 1964–1966 and a Romano-Celtic Temple at Pagans Hill, Chew Stoke. He has also excavated at Bordesley Abbey.
Rahtz later ran summer school excavations for the University of Birmingham. He achieved his first permanent job as a lecturer at Birmingham University in 1963, and in 1978 he was appointed professor and first head of department at the University of York.
In 2003 he was awarded the Frend Medal for his outstanding contribution to the archaeology of the early Christian Church.
- Philip Rahtz and Susan Hirst (1976). Bordesley Abbey, Redditch, Hereford-Worcestershire : first report on excavations 1969–1973. OCLC 463160533.
- Philip Rahtz (1985). Invitation to archaeology. ISBN 0631141065. OCLC 11728349.
- Philip Rahtz, Susan Hirst and Susan M. Wright (2000). Cannington Cemetery: excavations 1962-3 of prehistoric, Roman, post-Roman, and later features at Cannington Park Quarry, near Bridgwater, Somerset. Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. ISBN 0-907764-26-6.
- Philip A. Rahtz (1997). St. Mary's Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire fieldwork, excavations, and structural analysis, 1971–1984. Society of Antiquaries of London and the British Archaeological Association. ISBN 0851156878.
- Philip Rahtz (2001). Deerhurst Above and Below Ground. Friends of Deerhurst Church. ISBN 0-9521199-5-1.
- Philip Rahtz (2001). Living Archaeology. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-1925-0.
- Philip Rahtz and Lorna Watts (2003). Glastonbury: Myth and Archaeology. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2548-X.
- Philip A. Rahtz, Lorna Watts, Trevor Ashwin and Chris Philo (2004). Wharram, a study of settlement on the Yorkshire Wolds. Department of Archaeology, University of York. ISBN 0946722196.
- "Philip Rahtz (1921–2011)". Historian on the edge. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- "Manuel Excyclopedique de Prehistoire ... – Google Books". books.google.com. 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Hills, Catherine (29 July 2011). "Philip Rahtz obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
- "Philip Rahtz". University of York. Archived from the original on 24 June 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
- "Philip Rahtz (1921–)". A Brief History of Archaeological Research in Somerset. Somerset County Council. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
- No. 1015675: "Old Sarum". English Heritage (London), 2014. Accessed 3 January 2015.
- P. Rahtz, P. and Harris, L.G. 1958. "The temple well and other buildings at Pagans Hill, Chew Stoke, North Somersetshire", Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. pp: 25-51
- Hucker, Ernest (1997). Chew Stoke Recalled in Old Photographs. Ernest Hucker.
- Boon, George C. (1989). "A Roman Sculpture Rehabilitated: The Pagans Hill Dog". Britannia (Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies) 20: 201–217. doi:10.2307/526163. JSTOR 526163. Retrieved 3 January 2007.
- Gelling, Margaret. "Temples in Somerset and neighbouring areas" (PDF). Archeology Data Service. Retrieved 3 January 2007.
- Cramp, Rosemary J (2003). "Anniversary Address 2003". The Antiquaries Journal 83. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
- "Philip Rahtz; a day conference to celebrate his life and work in Somerset on 2 February 2013". Victoria County History. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.