Biography

Here you can learn something about me. It is incredibly difficult to write an autobiography, no matter how brief, without appearing to be incredibly smug and self-satisfied. But here goes…

 I was lucky enough to be born in Bolton, Lancashire; a mill town with an extremely good Egyptology collection. The 19th century entrepreneurs who made their fortunes from the cotton trade had developed a strong interest in ancient Egypt and its possible links to the Bible. They sailed along the Nile collecting souvenirs ranging from the smallest of beads to coffined mummies. Back home they expanded their collections by buying from antiquities dealers, and they financed archaeological digs that entitled them to a share of the excavated finds. Their private acquisitions eventually made their way into local museums, so that Bolton, Burnley, Blackburn, Liverpool, Macclesfield and Manchester (to name just a few) today have extraordinarily rich Egyptology collections.

In 1972 the Treasures of Tutankhamen exhibition arrived in London. Well over a million visitors were inspired to make their way to the British Museum and so infectious was the atmosphere that the brave (some might say foolish) decision was taken to take my entire school to London. A train was chartered, and by the time it was realised that we could not travel on the day that schools had priority access to the Museum, it hardly seemed to matter. Off we went armed with packed lunches and waterproof coats. The day was not an unqualified success: after queuing in the grounds of the British Museum we left without having actually seen the exhibition. Nevertheless, my latent interest in the ancient world had been kindled.

From 1978-81 I studied archaeology at Liverpool University, and in 1986 I earned a doctorate in Prehistoric Archaeology from Oxford University, working on the handaxes (bifaces) produced by Neanderthal man. At the same time I developed useful fieldwork experience, working on archaeological sites of all ages in Britain, Europe and Egypt. In 1986 I won the Egypt Exploration Society’s Centenary Studentship, and used it to develop my own ground survey of the Prehistoric site at Nazlet Tuna, in Middle Egypt.

After an enjoyable year teaching prehistoric archaeology at Liverpool University I knew that I wanted to write about the ancient world: I aimed to provide scholarly yet accessible books which would bridge the gap between dry text books and inaccurate popular writings. However, that did not seem like a particularly safe career move: I therefore took a temporary “day job”, and trained as an accountant. That temporary career was to last for 20 years.

As my writing career developed I was able to experiment with a variety of styles, producing books for adults and children plus three books associated with successful television series. I was also able to gain valuable experience of teaching Egyptology to different audiences by working for various organisations, including Liverpool University, the WEA and U3A, and by becoming “Dr Dig” of Dig Magazine, answering questions submitted by children on any aspect of archaeology.

In 2007 was appointed lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester. Now a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Life Sciences, I am is responsible for the distance learning (on-line) Certificate Course, and have recently developed the Diploma in Egyptology (an extension to the Certificate Course) and Short Courses in Egyptology (a brief taste of Egyptology at Manchester University). Teaching Egyptology on-line has been a fantastic experience: the students attracted to our courses are highly motivated individuals who are eager to work hard at a subject that they love. Distance learning is never an easy option, and I am constantly in awe at the high standards that they achieve. You can read more about this work by clicking the Teaching tab at the top of this page.

In 2011 I was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bolton, and became an Honorary Research Associate of the Manchester Museum. I am also an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University, President of Bolton Archaeology and Egyptology Society, and a red belt in Karate.