Francis Pryor bigraphy, stories - Archaeologists

Francis Pryor : biography

13 January 1945 -

Francis Manning Marlborough Pryor, MBE, FSA (born 13 January 1945) is an English archaeologist specialising in the study of the Bronze and Iron Ages in Britain. He is best known for his discovery and excavation of Flag Fen, a Bronze Age archaeological site near Peterborough, as well as for his frequent appearances on the Channel 4 television series Time Team.PRYOR, Dr Francis Manning Marlborough’, Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2011 ; online edn, Nov 2011

Born to a wealthy aristocratic family, Pryor studied at Eton College before going on to study archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge. With his first wife, he moved to Canada, where he worked as a technician at the Royal Ontario Museum for a year before returning to England.

He has now retired from full-time field archaeology, but still appears on television and writes books as well as being a working sheep farmer.


Pryor is the son of Barbara Helen Robertson and Robert Matthew Marlborough Pryor MBE TD (known as Matthew), as well as being the grandson of Walter Marlborough Pryor DSO DL JP; both his father and grandfather had been soldiers, serving in the First and Second World Wars respectively.Burke's Peerage and Gentry: Pryor of Weston He was educated at Eton College alongside his first cousin William Pryor, before studying archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining a PhD in 1985.

He married Sylvia in 1969, and migrated with her to Toronto, Canada, on a landed immigrant scheme. There he started working at the Royal Ontario Museum as technician, working for Doug Tushingham who helped fund Pryor's first project in the United Kingdom. This was at North Elmham and the excavation was directed by Peter Wade-Martins who exposed Pryor to the benefit of opening large area excavations.

Pryor returned to the UK in 1970, where the construction of the new town at Peterborough offered the opportunity to do large scale archaeology ahead of the planned development work. Between 1970 and 1978, he alternated between digs in the UK and writing up the excavation reports and giving presentations on his work in Canada. Pryor and his first wife were divorced in 1977, and during the course of these projects, he met his second wife, Maisie Taylor, an expert in prehistoric wood; they worked together on the series of projects in the Peterborough area, the most famous of which is Flag Fen. He has a daughter, Amy, from his first marriage. He was a founding member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists in 1982.

In 1991 he published his first book about Flag Fen, entitled Flag Fen: Prehistoric Fenland Centre, for a series co-produced by English Heritage and B.T. Batsford. The final monograph on the site – entitled The Flag Fen Basin: Archaeology and environment of a Fenland Landscape – was published in 2001 as an English Heritage Archaeological Report. Pryor followed this with a third book on the site, published by Tempus in 2005; entitled Flag Fen: Life and Death of a Prehistoric Landscape, it represented what he considered to be a "major revision" of his 1991 work, for instance rejecting the earlier "lake village" concept that he had come to reject. Pryor was awarded an MBE "for services to tourism" in the 1999 Queen's Birthday Honours.

After his retirement from archaeology, Pryor would devote his time to sheep farming, being the owner of 40 acres of fenland pasture in Lincolnshire. In an interview with the Financial Times, he asserted that through this vocation, he felt a connection with the people of Bronze Age Britain, who also lived off this form of subsistence, before also expressing his opinion that human overpopulation represented a significant threat to the human species, urging people to have fewer children and eat less meat.

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