Stronach was an expert on the city of Pasargadae. He was educated at Gordonstoun and St John's College, Cambridge, from which he obtained a Master of Arts in 1958. In the 1960s and 1970s he was director of the British Institute of Persian Studies in Tehran. In the 1990s, he excavated several parts of Nineveh. His scholarship earned him several honours and awards, including the invitation to deliver endowed lectures at Harvard and Columbia. He was also the recipient of the 2004 Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Gold Medal for "Distinguished Archaeological Achievement".
During his time in Iran, he met Ruth Vaadia (1937–2017), an Israeli archaeologist who was also working in Iran, and married her in 1966. They have two daughters, Keren and Tami. The family left at the time of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. He became a professor at Berkeley in 1981 and retired in 2004. Stronach's daughter Tami played the role of "The Childlike Empress" in the 1984 film The NeverEnding Story.
- "Stronach, David Brianlocked". Ukwhoswho.com. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
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- Waldbaum, Jane C (2004). "From the President: Gentleman and Scholar". Archaeology Magazine. 57 (2).
- Stronach, David (8 June 2004). "Archaeologist David Stronach, the 39th Recipient of the AIA's Gold Medal, Describes Highlights in a Long Career". College News and Events (Interview). Interviewed by Genevieve Shiffrar. University of California Berkeley. Archived from the original on 9 October 2004.
- Stronach, David (17 June 2004). "Interviews. David Stronach: The Spearhead for the Institute" (Interview). Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 13 November 2017.