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Glyn Daniel

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Glyn Daniel
Born23 April 1914
Died13 December 1986(1986-12-13) (aged 72)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Academic background
Alma materCardiff University
St John's College, Cambridge
Academic work

Glyn Edmund Daniel FBA FRAI (23 April 1914 – 13 December 1986) was a Welsh scientist and archaeologist who taught at Cambridge University, where he specialised in the European Neolithic period. He was appointed Disney Professor of Archaeology in 1974 [1] and edited the academic journal Antiquity from 1958 to 1985. In addition to early efforts to popularise archaeological study and antiquity on radio and television, he edited several popular studies of the fields. He also published mysteries under the pseudonym Dilwyn Rees.

Early life and education[edit]

Daniel was born in Lampeter Velfrey, Pembrokeshire, a small village between Narberth and Whitland in south-west Wales, as an only child. His father, John Daniel, was the village schoolmaster there.[2] When Glyn Daniel was five he moved with his parents to Llantwit Major in the Vale of Glamorgan.[3] He attended Barry County School for Boys in Barry, where his academic ability led to him being awarded a State Scholarship (which enabled him to go to the University of Cambridge) and a Glamorgan County Scholarship in 1931.[4] The Glamorgan County Scholarship allowed Glyn Daniel to study geology at Cardiff University and the church organ at Llandaff Cathedral for a year.[5] In 1932, he went up to St John's College, Cambridge, initially to read geography, and then archaeology and anthropology. He graduated with a first-class honours degree with distinction[6] and remained at St John's for the rest of his academic career.

World War II[edit]

During the Second World War, Daniel applied his talents at interpreting archaeological sites through aerial photography by working for the RAF's air photo reconnaissance unit at RAF Medmenham. He examined and analysed photos of enemy territory. In 1942, Daniel was sent to India to lead the Central Photographic Interpretation Section in Delhi, a mini-Medmenham for the South-East Asian theatre, ultimately achieving the rank of wing commander. A year after the war Daniel married one of his WAAF officers, Ruth Langhorne.[7]


Glyn Daniel at the Tinkinswood Chambered Tomb in 1963 talking to Cambridge University students

After the war Daniel returned to Cambridge to resume his academic life. In the years 1954-56, he presented the BBC archaeology programme Buried Treasure, which featured guests such as Kathleen Kenyon, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, and actress Noelle Middleton. He became Disney Professor of Archaeology in 1974. From 1958 to 1985, he was editor of the academic journal Antiquity. His main subject of study was Neolithic chamber tombs, although he also wrote books on the history of archaeology and archaeological thought.

Daniel appeared on television. He was the host, often with Sir Mortimer Wheeler as a guest, of the game show Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?.[8] He was named Television Personality of the Year in 1955.[9] In 1981, he appeared as the guest on Desert Island Discs.[10] He edited numerous popular studies of archaeological sites and cultures.

He died in Cambridge and the McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge, have named the Glyn Daniel Laboratory for Archaeogenetics in his memory.

Academic works[edit]

  • The Megalith Builders of Western Europe (1958),[11] (1963 pbk edition, ASIN B0000CLTFM)
  • The Prehistoric Chamber Tombs of France (1960),[12]
  • 150 Years of Archaeology (1976), and
  • a number of articles in archaeological journals.
  • His most accessible work for the general public is The Idea of Prehistory (1962), later updated in collaboration with Colin Renfrew, Edinburgh University Press, 1988.

Detective fiction[edit]

Daniel published two detective fiction novels. The Cambridge Murders (1945) was published under the pseudonym Dilwyn Rees, and later re-published in 1965 by Penguin Books under his own name. Welcome Death was published under his own name in 1954. The detective in both novels is Sir Richard Cherrington, an eminent but slightly eccentric archaeologist who is the Vice-President of Fisher College. An obituary of Daniel by Norman Hammond in American Antiquity says that Sir Richard was "transparently based on Mortimer Wheeler".[13]


  1. ^ Colin Renfrew, 'Daniel, Glyn Edmund (1914–1986)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  2. ^ Daniel 1986, p. 9.
  3. ^ Daniel 1986, p. 11.
  4. ^ Daniel 1986, pp. 45-47.
  5. ^ Daniel 1986, p. 48.
  6. ^ Anon (19 March 1937). "University News: Awards at Oxford and Cambridge", The Times (UK).
  7. ^ Taylor Downing, Spies In The Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence during World War II, Abacus, 2012 (2nd edition), 419 p, ISBN 978-0349123400
  8. ^ Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?
  9. ^ "University of Cambridge, Division of Archeology, Glyn Daniel". Glyn Daniel — Division of Archaeology. Retrieved 30 April 2017.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Desert Island Discs: Professor Glyn Daniel". BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  11. ^ De Valera, R. (1959). "Review of The Megalith Builders of Western Europe by Glyn Daniel". Antiquity. 33 (130): 140–141. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00029173. S2CID 164063422.
  12. ^ Piggott, Stuart (1961). "Reviewed work: The Prehistoric Chamber Tombs of France by Glyn Daniel". American Journal of Archaeology. 65 (3): 315–316. doi:10.2307/501697. JSTOR 501697.
  13. ^ Hammond, Norman (1989). "Obituary: Glyn Edmund Daniel, 1914-1986". American Antiquity. 54 (2): 234–239. doi:10.1017/S0002731600074138. S2CID 164574783. Retrieved 9 January 2022.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Disney Professor of Archaeology, Cambridge University
Succeeded by