Thomas Dowson

Founder of Archaeology Travel

Despite a strong dislike of history at school I went on to university to study archaeology, more specifically the cave paintings and engravings of southern Africa. After working for about ten years at the University of the Witwatersrand, where I curated the first exhibition of San hunter-gatherer art in a South African art gallery, I moved to the United Kingdom to set up the World’s first postgraduate degree course in the study of prehistoric art at the University of Southampton. My research interests have taken me all over the World, from Alaska to Austalia, Argentina to Alta in Norway. After many years teaching archaeology to university students, and researching cave art, I gave up the Ivory Tower and moved to France and ran a B&B and holiday cottage.

Thomas Dowson, Archaeology Travel Guide

My first visit to the Colosseum in Rome, March 2012.

Besides learning some great French cooking, I became aware of the lack of decent information about archaeological sites in Normandy for tourists. And looking further afield, when information is available the quality is inconsistent and in many cases misleading. In some regions there can be a number of different tourism websites, but often the information on the archaeological sites in an area are simple rehashed from one to the next. And hence the idea for this website.

On Archaeology Travel I combine my professional expertise in archaeology with my passion for travel and sharing experiences with others to provide the definitive interactive guide in English to the archaeological sites and museums open to the public around the World.

My Research in Archaeology
My principal field of archaeological interest is prehistoric art. I have written numerous articles, book chapters, and books on the subject. Many of these have been aimed at a general audience, not only an academic one. One of my books, Rock Engravings of Southern Africa published in 1992 by Witwatersrand University Press, was the first book to offer a detailed interpretation of the petroglyphs of southern Africa. It was a best seller in South African bookshops for a number of months.

Together with various colleagues over the years I significantly developed the shamanistic interpretation of rock arts around the World, most notably the Stone Age cave art of western Europe. This research was the focus of an episode of the BBC series Ape Man, which first aired in 2000 – a Millennium reflection on the origins of humanity. I have subsequently developed this interpretation further, and a book is in preparation.

My other research interests include the contemporary significance of archaeology, and looking at the way in which our attitudes, values and beliefs today influence archaeological re-constructions of the past. I am currently researching the way in which our contemporary attitudes of ‘the military’ today influence our ideas about the ancient Romans and our exaggerated focus on their military prowess. I presented some preliminary ideas resulting from this research at a conference in Buffalo (NY) in April 2013.