Julian Thomas was born in Epsom in 1959, and educated at the Universities of Bradford (BTech in Archaeological Sciences, 1981) and Sheffield (MA 1982, PhD 1986). His doctoral research was concerned with social and economic change in the Neolithic of Southern England. He was a lecturer in archaeology at Lampeter University between 1987 and 1993, and taught at Southampton from 1994 to 2000. He took up the Chair of Archaeology at Manchester in April 2000.
Julian has been a Vice President and member of Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and is now a member of the Institute's Awards and Honours Committee. He was the Secretary of the World Archaeological Congress between 1994 and 1999. He is a life member of the Collingwood Society, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He is editor of the Routledge series, 'Themes in Archaeology', which has recently published volumes by Chris Fowler, Gavin Lucas and Tim Insoll.
In the course of his career, Julian has been involved in a series of archaeological field projects. Between 1994 and 2002 he was director of a collaborative project with Historic Scotland, concerned with the investigation of a series of prehistoric monuments in Dumfries and Galloway. The first three of these sites, the henge at the Pict's Knowe, the cursus complex at Holywood, and the post alignments at Holm, form the basis for a recent monograph, Place and Memory (Oxbow Books 2007).The excavation of the palisaded enclosure at Dunragit and the monumental mound at Droughduil was published as A Neolithic Ceremonial Complex in Galloway (Oxbow 2015). Between 2004 and 2009, he has been one of the directors of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, together with Mike Parker Pearson (Sheffield), Joshua Pollard (Bristol), Colin Richards (Manchester), Chris Tilley (UCL) and Kate Welham (Bournemouth). Within this project, he has undertaken a re-excavation of the southern timber circle within the great henge of Durrington Walls, and in 2006 investigated two hengiform enclosures inside the Durrington monument. These proved to contain small buildings surrounded by timber palisades, in contrast to the Neolithic houses excavated by Parker Pearson at the east entrance of Durrington Walls. In the summers of 2007 and 2008 he directed excavations at the Greater Stonehenge Cursus and Amesbury 42 long barrow, successfully recovering material to radiocarbon date both monuments to the mid-4th millennium cal. BC.
Since 2010, Julian has been working in south-west Herefordshire, together with Tim Hoverd (Herefordshire Archaeology) and Keith Ray (Nexus Heritage). The first site investigated was the complex Bronze Age structured Cairn at Olchon Court Farm. Since 2011, work has been ongoing at Dorstone Hill, where three Neolithic long mounds were each constructed on the footprint of a burnt timber building, which have produced radiocarbon dates in the 39th century BC. Geophysical survey has revealed the presence of a causewayed enclosure on the same hilltop.
In his spare time Julian enjoys the countryside, reading, music, swimming, and the company of his children.