John Oxley is an independent archaeologist, and former York City Archaeologist 1989-2019. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
He is passionate about communicating with different audiences and encouraging people to write their own archaeological stories. He has lectured throughout the UK to academic and non-academic audiences. He has lectured, advised and worked on archaeological projects in China, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and Russia.
His archaeological research interests are concerned with urbanism in Roman and post-Roman Europe, the theory and practice of heritage management, World Heritage issues, and the crossover between archaeological and psycho-geographical approaches to understanding place. He has recently developed an unhealthy interest in the prehistoric landscapes of the Tabular Hills and North York Moors.
What first sparked your interest for archaeology?
"When I am twenty I want to be an archaeologist ... it is an exciting life". I wrote those words aged 8 in a short essay when I was in Miss Madden's class at St William's Primary School in Darlington. Where on earth did I as an 8 year old in 1965 get the idea that I would be an archaeologist? As a family we visited archaeological sites - Hadrians Wall, Durham Cathedral, Easby Abbey. But archaeology? It was only just appearing on television - Animal Vegetable Mineral with Glyn Daniel and Sir Mortimer Wheeler in glorious black and white. Are they to blame? Possibly. Whatever stirred that 8 year old in 1965 led him to a long and hugely enjoyable career in archaeology that continues to this day.
If you can – which is your favourite archaeological/historical site?
Wow .. there's a question ... where to start? Durham Cathedral of course is one candidate, the position above the River Wear, the awe-inspiring Romanesque columns, St Cuthbert, the fact that it has been part of my life for as long as I can remember ... Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, is another: a perfect gem of a medieval church with its later box pews and perfect 14th century stained glass east window, in the shadow of but far from overshadowed by York Minster ... in both places I feel as though I am standing next to the people who used those spaces five six seven eight hundred years ago - I really feel in touch with the past in these and many other places too of course.