Skip to main content

Professor Chris Scarre

Emeritus Professor


AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Emeritus Professor in the Department of Archaeology227 


Chris Scarre is a specialist in the prehistory of western Europe, with a particular interest in the archaeology of the Atlantic façade (Portugal, France, Britain & Ireland). He took his MA and PhD at Cambridge, the latter a study of landscape change and archaeological sites in western France. From 1990-2005 he was Assistant (later Deputy) Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge. In January 2006 he took up the position of Professor of Prehistory at the Department of Archaeology at Durham. From 2013 to 2017 he was Editor of the leading international journal "Antiquity".

Chris has wide interests within archaeology and is editor of "The Human Past" (London: Thames & Hudson, revised 4th edition February 2018). He is also author with Brian Fagan of the textbook "Ancient Civilizations" (revised 4th edition 2016).

Chris has participated in fieldwork projects in Britain, France and Greece and has directed excavations at Neolithic settlement and mortuary sites in Portugal and western France. From 1995-2004 (together with French colleagues) he ran a major excavation of the Neolithic long cairn at Prissé-la-Charrière in western France. He then(2006-8) directed a study of landscape, visibility and materiality in Portugal, focusing on the excavation of two megalithic chambered tombs (Anta da Lajinha & Cabeço dos Pendentes) coupled with palaeoenvironmental analysis and field survey. In 2008 he initiated an AHRC-funded project on the buried prehistoric land surfaces associated with megalithic tombs on the small Channel Island of Herm. Four further seasons of excavation led to a radical revision of the geomorphological history of the island and the context in which the Neolithic tombs were built.

Chris completed a book "Landscapes of Neolithic Brittany" published by Oxford University Press in February 2011. This developed further his arguments about the links between landscape and monumentality, and was the fruit of 15 years research on the Breton Neolithic. His latest monograph publication (January 2020) is the edited volume "Megalithic Tombs in Western Iberia" which reports on the excavations and envrionmental work at the Anta da Lajinha, and places them in their broader geographical and cultural context of Atlantic Iberian prehistory. Other recent publications include studies of istopes and human mobility in Neolithic Britain, aDNA of megalithic burial populations in western Europe, megalithic chronologies in western Iberia, and artefacts from the Chalcolithic mega-site of Valencina de la Concepcion in southern Spain.

From 2012-2014 Chris was PI and co-director of project focusing on patterns of burial evidence in Britain and the Levant from the Neolithic to the Roman period. Funded by the John Templeton Foundation this project is collaborative with Durham colleagues Graham Philip and Charlotte Roberts (Archaeology) and Douglas Davies (Theology). The aim is to explore the patchiness of burial evidence from prehistory and to challenge the expectation that burial was a 'normative' practice in early societies. The proceedings of the conference held in 2014 "Engaging with the Dead" (eds. Bradbury & Scarre, Oxbow 2017) were published in 2017, and research on the project is resuming in 2021.

Chris has also had a major research interest in the auditory and acoustic environment of prehistoric sites and monuments (Scarre & Lawson eds. "Archaeoacoustics" 2006), and in 2009 co-organised an AHRC Research Cluster on this theme. He was co-investigator on the AHRC-funded project "Songs of the Caves: acoustics and prehistoric art in Cantabrian caves", and part of a UK-Spanish team that undertook acoustical measurements at five Upper Palaeolithic painted caves in July 2013. Analysis to determine whether acoustical properties played a role in the placement of the art has been published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in 2017.

Chris was founder-convenor of the European Megalithic Studies Group which has held four meetings since 2004, including in Rennes (May 2012). He was appointed a member of the NERC Radiocarbon Facility Steering Committee from 2011 to 2015. He also served on the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration from 2011 to 2018. In December 2017 he received a Distinguished Service Award from the Shanghai Archaeology Forum for his editorship of Antiquity, and in April 2018 an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Rennes 1. He delivered a keynote address at the Shanghai Archaeology Forum in December 2019.

Chris has supervised a number of successful PhDs on the Neolithic of Britain and western Europe.

Research interests

  • Neolithic of Atlantic Europe
  • Prehistoric monuments
  • Development of world prehistory
  • Island societies in Atlantic Europe

Research groups

  • Landscapes of Complex Society
  • Prehistoric Worlds

Research Projects

  • eSCOPES project. Evolving spaces: coastal landscapes of the Neolithic in the European Land’s Ends
  • Island of the dead? The buried Neolithic landscape of Herm (Channel Islands)
  • The ‘Invisible Dead’ and the Development of Early Human Beliefs about the Body

Esteem Indicators

  • 2018: Honorary Doctorate: Docteur ;Honoris Causa, Université de Rennes I (April 2018)
  • 2017: Distinguished Service Award: Distinguished Service Award, Shanghai Archaeology Forum (December 2017)
  • 2013: Editor of Antiquity: Editor of Antiquity, leading journal of world archaeology (2013-2017)
  • 2011: Advisory Board Member, National Geographic: Advisory Board member on new National Geographic Global Exploration Fund for Northern Europe (from 2011 to present, and continuing)
  • 2011: Steering Committee NRCF: Member of the Steering Committee of the National Radiocarbon Facility (from 2011-2015)
  • 2009: : Fellow of AHRC Peer-Review College
  • 2008: : Member of Irish Government Expert Advisory Committee on Archaeological Policy and Practice
  • 2007: : Trustee, Council for British Archaeology
  • 2006: : Invited lecturer at Collège de France (February-March)
  • 2006: Felix Neubergh Prize: Felix Neubergh Prize and Lecture, University of Göteborg, September 2006
  • 2005: : Editor, Cambridge Archaeological Journal (1991-2005)
  • 2004: : Member of the Comité Scientifique du Congrès du Centenaire of the Société Préhistorique Française 2004
  • 2003: : Annual Taft Lecture, University of Cincinnati (April 2003)

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • History & Archaeology: Early farming societies of Britain and France
  • European Prehistory: Early farming societies of Britain and France
  • History & Archaeology: Megalithic tombs and stone circles
  • European Prehistory: Megalithic tombs and stone circles
  • History & Archaeology: Archaeology of France
  • European Prehistory: Archaeology of France


Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

  • Scarre, Chris (2011). The living stones of Brittany. British Archaeology 121: 36-41.

Supervision students