Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Ethan Doyle White - Researcher & Writer

I’ve always thought that the past was fascinating. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be able to visit castles, stone circles, and historic houses in various parts of southern England. Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories books and television shows like Time Team helped fuel this childhood interest in heritage. In my teenage years I joined a community archaeology group, enabling me to gain early experience in excavation and alerting me to the crucial importance of public engagement.

I went on to study for an undergraduate degree in archaeology at University College London (UCL) – and then stayed there for both a master’s degree and a PhD. For the latter I focused on the archaeological and historical evidence for ritual activity at watery places like rivers and wells in early medieval England. In these years, I gained a thorough grounding in archaeology as an academic endeavour by studying under several world-class archaeologists, helping to organise two scholarly conferences, and beginning to publish in peer-reviewed journals.

My Research Interests

As the interdisciplinary nature of my PhD thesis highlights, I am interested in the way that different disciplines can work together to shine light on the past. History and archaeology are two sides of the same coin, each telling us things that the other cannot. Archaeology’s relationship with folkloristics, or the study of folklore, is also fascinating. What can material culture tell us about the legends and oral traditions of past cultures? How do folk stories build up around the archaeological sites that people live alongside? Why do we draw on past societies to craft our own sense of identity in the present? These are the sort of questions that really intrigue me.

The topic that probably interests me most, however, is religion, ritual, and human relationships with the sacred and the supernatural. Much of my time at university was taken up with exploring these themes in prehistoric and early medieval Britain, but as an independent scholar I have also devoted considerable attention to modern Pagan religions, those traditions which actively look to Europe’s distant past as a source of inspiration. I am the author of several books on the topic, including Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Sussex Academic Press, 2016), Pagans: The Visual Culture of Pagan Myths, Legends and Rituals (Thames and Hudson, 2023) and The New Witches of the West: Tradition, Liberation, and Power (Cambridge University Press, 2024). I am also the co-editor of Magic and Witchery in the Modern West (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) and Cutting the Mistletoe: Studies on Modern Religious Druidry (forthcoming). I have published over twenty-five articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals or edited volumes, while my work has also appeared at the World Religions and Spirituality Project website and in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I teach courses on some of these topics at City Lit in London and have lectured to a wide selection of museums, universities, and community groups.

As a child, foreign travel was largely restricted to the occasional school trip to France, so in adulthood it has been a real privilege to travel more widely. Since my early twenties, I have really enjoyed exploring the Palaeolithic cave art of the Dordogne and seeing the megalithic temples of Malta, visiting Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses and climbing sacred mountains in South Korea and Japan. I also like to travel a lot in England, seeking out not just medieval parish churches and prehistoric barrows tucked away in rural areas but also tramping the city streets of places like London, where layer upon layer of history is there for those who know where to look. Archaeology Travel allows me to write about these and related things, which is a great opportunity to share my passions with others.

My Archaeology Travel Bucket List

There are still many sites out there that I would love to visit, most of them places of religious significance to peoples in both the past and the present. The Neolithic passage tombs of Ireland, the Serpent Mound of Ohio, and many of the historic temples of India all hold great appeal for me. Whether I make it to these sites or not, I am sure that wherever I go, I will find things that shine further light on the fascinating complexity and diversity of the human story.

My Contributions on Archaeology Travel

Monday, 9 January, 2023
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