Jim Rylatt

Director of Archaeology

Jim initially developed an interest in archaeology through a WEA course at the University of Nottingham in 1990. This led to intermittent employment with many of the commercial archaeology units working in the East Midlands. In an attempt to get more regular employment, he studied at the University of Sheffield and gained a degree in Prehistory and Archaeology and an MA in Landscape Archaeology. These courses nurtured an obsession with British prehistory, but there are still occasional moments of regret that he did not choose to specialise in the archaeology of much warmer and more exotic parts of the world.

After university Jim returned to commercial archaeology and ultimately became Senior Project Officer at Pre-Construct Archaeology (Lincoln), working on projects ranging from single person watching briefs to directing fieldwork programmes with teams of up to 40 people. A serious accident in 2004 marked the end of his regular employment in commercial archaeology (although he still carries out some consultancy work). During his recovery, he was able to carry on with the specialist analysis of flint other struck lithic artefacts. He returned to fieldwork when he joined the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2007, beginning a transition away from the study of the British Iron Age to a working life now dominated by the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.

In 2012, Jim became a supervisor at the Ness of Brodgar, in Orkney, and is now the source of innumerable theories about Structure 12 (as well as Structures 23, 24 and 28). He is also a participant in The Stones of Stonehenge Project, which is investigating the Welsh origins of Stonehenge; and volunteers on the Between the Monuments Project, which seeks to establish the character of human settlement in the Avebury landscape during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Past Participate represents a new chapter in Jim’s career, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to excavate in the Dorset AONB.

About Jim

Most fun I’ve had in a field: supervising on the Stonehenge Riverside Project when the weather was lovely.

Hardest project to date: supervising on the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2008, when the weather was horrendous, and it felt like the end of days!

Favourite archaeological landscape: Orkney - every ‘bump’ is something and there are a lot of bumps! https://www.orkney.com/things/history/other-sites

Most important discovery: ‘Bluestonehenge’ a.k.a. West Amesbury Henge which is located at the south-eastern end of the Stonehenge Avenue beside the River Avon

Most difficult archaeology encountered: The Ness of Brodgar… the things on top push down on deposits, while things at the bottom push deposits up. Small individual deposits represent 30 seconds of DIY to fix a hole in the floor, which have accumulated to form metres of deposits that represent centuries of activity. Absolutely mind-bending.

Best artefacts discovered: Difficult, as I have spent most of my career managing/watching other people dig things up, the best of which have to be a complete 6.5m long log boat and the most complete Iron Age spear found in the UK, which were both recovered from the Fiskerton Iron Age causeway in Lincolnshire.

Oldest artefact discovered: on 11 August 1999, I was working on a particularly uninteresting site in the Witham Valley, Lincolnshire. I decided to go into a field on the opposite side of the road to get a better view of the solar eclipse, where I unexpectedly found a Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition hand axe (manufactured by a Neanderthal c. 60-40,000 years BP)!

Most important thing I have learnt in archaeology: Every site is different and brings its own challenges and lessons, so if you assume you know what is going on it is likely that things are going to go wrong quite quickly!

Motto: “Digging is an artisan skill.”

Goals for 2021: To get back out in the field and keep digging. I really want to get a better understanding of the changing nature of prehistoric activity on Tenants Hill, plus there is still a lot of midden to move at the Ness of Brodgar, and there are even a few bluestone sources to track down in Preseli.

My aspirations for Past Participate: to provide interesting and engaging archaeological experience and training to people from a range of backgrounds and ages, whilst also producing high quality publications and other research outputs.

Selected publications written or co-authored by me

Rylatt, J., Teather, A., Pullen, R., Pinnell, J., Randall, S., Roberts, H. and Chamberlain, A. Forthcoming. Re-examining Stone Circles in Dorset: The results of recent research and non-intrusive surveys at Kingston Russell stone circle. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society.

Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C., Welham, K., Kinnaird, T., Shaw, D., Simmons, E., Stanford, A., Bevins, R., Ixer, R. Ruggles, C., Rylatt, J. and Edinborough, K. In Press. The original Stonehenge? A dismantled stone circle in the Preseli hills of west Wales. Antiquity.

Teather, A., Rylatt, J., Roberts, H., Chamberlain, A. and Pullen, R. 2020. The Prehistoric Landscape of Tenants Hill, West Dorset. Past: The Newsletter of the Prehistoric Society, 95: 12-14.

Chan, B. and Rylatt, J. with Pettitt, P. 2020. Lithics from stratified contexts. In M. Parker Pearson, J. Pollard, C. Richards, J. Thomas, Tilley, C. & K. Welham, Stonehenge for the Ancestors: Part 1: Landscape and Monuments. The Stonehenge Riverside Project Vol. 1. Leiden, Sidestone Press. Ch 5 – Bluestonehenge at West Amesbury: where the Stonehenge Avenue meets the River Avon: 279-295.

Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J. Rylatt, J., Thomas, J., and Welham, K. 2020. Bluestonehenge at West Amesbury: where the Stonehenge Avenue meets the River Avon. In M. Parker Pearson, J. Pollard, C. Richards, J. Thomas, Tilley, C. & K. Welham, Stonehenge for the Ancestors: Part 1: Landscape and Monuments. The Stonehenge Riverside Project Vol. 1. Leiden, Sidestone Press. Ch 5: 215-300.

Allen, M.J., Chan, B., Cleal, R., French, C., Marshall, P., Pollard, J., Pullen, R., Richards, C., Ruggles, C., Robinson, D., Rylatt, J., Thomas, J., Welham, K. & Parker Pearson, M. 2016. Stonehenge's Avenue and ‘Bluestonehenge’. Antiquity, 90 (352): 991-1008.

Palmer-Brown, C. & Rylatt, J. 2011. How Times Change: Navenby Unearthed. Saxilby, Pre-Construct Archaeological Services Ltd., Monograph 2.

Rylatt, J. 2009. The Flintwork. C. Allen, Exchange and Ritual at the Riverside: Late Bronze Age Life in the Lower Witham Valley at Washingborough, Lincolnshire. Saxilby, Pre-Construct Archaeology (Lincoln) Monograph Series, 1: 62-67.

Parker Pearson, M., Chamberlain, A., Field, N. & Rylatt, J. 2007. Fiskerton: La deposition votive et des eclipses lunaires en Angleterre et Europe. L’âge du Fer dans l’arc Jurassien et ses Marges: Dépôts, Lieux Sacrés et Territorialité à l’âge du Fer. Actes du XXIXe colloque international de l’AFEAF Bienne, 5 - 8 Mai 2005: 439-448.

Rylatt, J. & Bevan, B. 2007. Realigning the world: pit alignments and their landscape context. C.C. Haselgrove and T. Moore (eds), The Later Iron Age in Britain and Beyond, Oxbow Monographs, Oxford.

Field, N., Parker-Pearson, M. & Rylatt, J. 2003. The Fiskerton causeway: research past, present and future. In S. Catney & D. Start (eds.) Time and Tide: The Archaeology of The Witham Valley. Heckington, The Witham Valley Archaeological Research Committee: 16-32.

Palmer-Brown, C. & Rylatt, J. 2002. ‘Gifts to the Gods’ at Iron Age Fiskerton. Minerva, 13, (5): 37-8.

Links to interesting and accessible websites, reports, and videos about projects that I have been involved in

The Ness of Brodgar
A video lecture:

Stonehenge Riverside Project and The Stones of Stonehenge Project
A short summary video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvScpdMhQNk&ab_channel=UCL
And a longer video lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ2lR5_N0vc&ab_channel=CouncilforBritishArchaeology

Lincoln Eastern Bypass

Fiskerton Iron Age causeway