28 May 1910|
|Died||23 September 1996 86)(aged|
Born in Petersfield, Hampshire, Piggott was educated at Churcher's College and on leaving school in 1927 took up a post as assistant at Reading Museum where he developed an expertise in Neolithic pottery.
In 1928 he joined the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and spent the next 5 years producing a revolutionary study of the site of Butser Hill, near Petersfield. He also worked with Eliot and Cecil Curwen on their excavations at The Trundle causewayed enclosure in Sussex.
In the 1930s he began working for Alexander Keiller, an amateur archaeologist who funded his work from the profits of his Dundee marmalade business. The two dug numerous sites in Wessex including Avebury and Kennet Avenue. In 1933, he joined his friend Grahame Clark in writing the highly significant, ‘The age of the British flint mines’, (Antiquity,1933); the resultant controversy brought about the founding of the Prehistoric Society. Still without any formal archaeological qualification, Piggott enrolled at Mortimer Wheeler's Institute of Archaeology, taking his diploma in 1936 and where he also met his wife, Peggy (Margaret Guido). In 1937 he published another seminal paper, The early Bronze Age in Wessex and with his wife went on in June 1939 to join the burial chamber excavations at Sutton Hoo at the invitation of Charles Phillips.
During the Second World War Piggott worked as an air photo interpreter and was posted to India where he spent time studying the archaeology of the sub-continent, eventually leading him to write the books Some Ancient Cities of India (1946) and Prehistoric India (1950). These experiences provided him with a valuable external view of European prehistory, which was to prove useful on his return to Britain.
After the war he went to Oxford studying the work of William Stukeley but in 1946 was soon offered the Abercromby Chair in archaeology at Edinburgh University (now part of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology) succeeding Vere Gordon Childe. Piggott succeeded in making Edinburgh an archaeology department of international standing. He continued to publish widely including Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles (1954) which was considered highly influential until radiocarbon dating tests did not match its chronology. Piggott said that radiocarbon dating was "archaeologically unacceptable", because every other shred of evidence pointed towards his dates being correct. Ancient Europe (1965), however remained a popular survey of Old World prehistory for more than twenty years, demonstrating his view of the solidarity and continuity of the past in Europe. In 1956 his childless marriage ended.
In 1958 Piggott published a survey of Scottish prehistory, Scotland before History and, in 1959 one of a popular introductory volume, Approach to Archaeology. He was president of the Prehistoric Society from 1960 to 1963, then president of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 1963 to 1967, then president of the Council for British Archaeology from 1967 to 1970, and a trustee of the British Museum between 1968 and 1974). In 1963, he produced a thorough analysis of the Beaker culture in Britain, published as part of a Festschrift dedicated to Cyril Fox. Piggott's interest in the early history of the practice of archaeology led to him writing The Druids in 1968 whilst other books included Prehistoric Societies (with Grahame Clark), The Earliest Wheeled Transport (1983), followed by its sequel Wagon, Chariot and Carriage (1992) . His final book was Ancient Britain and the Antiquarian Imagination (1989).
Sites he excavated (often with Richard Atkinson) included:
- Cairnpapple Hill in West Lothian
- Wayland's Smithy in Oxfordshire
- West Kennet Long Barrow and Stonehenge in Wiltshire
He received the CBE in 1972, and was awarded numerous academic awards from scholarly institutions in Britain and abroad. He retired from the Abercrombie Chair in 1977 and awarded the gold medal of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1983 and the Grahame Clark medal of the British Academy in 1992.
Reception and legacy
Megaw noted that "as he himself has said, although he has done his fair share of field work and excavation, his prime concern has been to produce works of synthesis and interpretation". Megaw noted that Piggott viewed "archaeology as an oyster to be savoured whole and not simply to be subjected to the minutiae of macrofaunal and calorific analyses."
In 1968 a number of Piggott's former pupils and colleagues assembled a collection of essays in dedication to him, titled Studies in Ancient Europe. In 1976 Megaw then published a second festschrift which brought in consideration of Piggott's work on the archaeology of Asia and the Americas too.
|Year of publication||Title||Co-author(s)||Publisher|
|1935||The Progress of Early Man||–||A. and C. Black (London)|
|1944||Some Ancient Cities of India||–||Oxford University Press (Bombay)|
|1948||Fire Among the Ruins||Oxford University Press (London)|
|1949||British Prehistory||Oxford University Press (London)|
|1950||Prehistoric India to 1000 BC||Penguin (Harmondsworth)|
|1950||William Stukeley: An Eighteenth Century Antiquary||Clarendon Press (Oxford)|
|1951||Cairnpapple Hill, West Lothian||HMSO (Edinburgh)|
|1951||A Picture Book of Ancient British Art||Glyn Daniel||Cambridge University Press (Cambridge)|
|1953||William Camden and the Britannia||Oxford University Press (London)|
|1954||The Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles||Cambridge University Press (Cambridge)|
|1958||Inventaria Archaeologica GB 25-34: Early and Middle Bronze Age Grave-Groups and Hoards from Scotland (edited volume)||Margaret Stewart (editors)||Garraway (London)|
|1958||Scotland Before History||Nelson (London)|
|1959||Approach to Archaeology||A. and C. Black (London)|
|1961||The Dawn of Civilization (edited volume)||Thames and Hudson (London)|
|1962||The Prehistoric Peoples of Scotland (edited volume)||Routledge and Kegan Paul (London)|
|1962||The West Kennet Long Barrow: Excavations 1955–56||HMSO (London)|
|1963||West Kennet Long Barrow: Wiltshire||HMSO (London)|
|1965||Ancient Europe from the Beginnings of Agriculture to Classical Antiquity: A Survey||Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh)|
|1965||Prehistoric Societies||Grahame Clark||Hutchinson (London)|
|1967||Celts, Saxons and the Early Antiquaries||Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh)|
|1968||The Druids||Thames and Hudson (London)|
|1970||Early Celtic Art||Derek Allen||Edinburgh University Press for the Arts Council of Great Britain (Edinburgh)|
- Megaw, Vincent (1976). "Editorial Preface". In J. V. S. Megaw (eds). To Illustrate the Monuments: Essays on Archaeology Presented to Stuart Piggott. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 9–10.
- Robertson, Marjorie (1976). "Bibliography of Stuart Piggott's Publications". In J. V. S. Megaw (eds). To Illustrate the Monuments: Essays on Archaeology Presented to Stuart Piggott. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 320–331.
- Bradley, R. "Obituary: Stuart Piggott", British Archaeology, No. 19, November 1996.
- Daniel, Glyn Edmund; Chippindale, Christopher. The Pastmasters: Eleven Modern Pioneers of Archaeology: V. Gordon Childe, Stuart Piggott, Charles Phillips, Christopher Hawkes, Seton Lloyd, Robert J. Braidwood, Gordon R. Willey, C.J. Becker, Sigfried J. De Laet, J. Desmond Clark, D.J. Mulvaney. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1989 (hardcover, ISBN 0-500-05051-1).
- Mercer, R. "Piggott, Stuart Ernest (1910–1996)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.