Peter Yeoman has worked as an archaeologist throughout the UK for more than 40 years, directing and publishing major excavations, while also writing a number of books. He studied Archaeology and History of Art at the University of Leicester.
Until recently Peter was Head of Cultural Heritage and then Principal Heritage Researcher at Historic Scotland, working across their 340 properties in care, along with management of World Heritage Sites. He now works independently to pursue his own research interests and to provide heritage consultancy services. He has researched mediaeval and ecclesiastical architecture and the Norman period of Sicily is of particular interest. He especially enjoys leading archaeology tours at home and abroad.
What first sparked your passion for archaeology?
serendipity, growing up in the north-east of Scotland, as children we were often taken for days out to wonderful late medieval castles nearby, such as Dunnottar. And by extraordinary good luck, a neighbour was running a major amateur excavation project on a promontory fort at Cullykhan, which I took part in from the age of 14. This project launched the careers of a generation of professional and academic archaeologists.
What does archaeology mean to you?
Having as direct encounters as possible with the people who shaped the world we live in today.
What is the most memorable thing to happen to you on a tour?
Working closely with the top art historian Andrew Graham Dixon on a Sicily Art and Archaeology tour, listening to his amazing description of the Caravaggio Santa Lucia painting in Ortygia, standing in front of the altarpiece itself, while he expertly revealed the circumstances of its creation.
What is your favourite archaeological site?
Abroad it would have to be the Greek and Roman city of Butrint in Albania – never before has the title ‘World Heritage Site’ been better applied. At home it would have to be Iona Abbey which I re-interpreted for Historic Scotland before leaving their employ, and where I am still part of the ongoing excavation of an astonishing 7th century building at the heart of the monastery.
How many tours have you led for Andante?
Five so far, as most of my guiding work to date has been for Brightwater. I have designed the new Discovering the Picts: Warriors, Kings and Artists for Andante for 2020, allowing us to explore the fantastic heritage of the once-shadowy people who shaped early medieval Scotland.
Have you written any books or featured in any TV programs?
I’m the author of the current official guidebooks to Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Iona Abbey – although these popular books are designed to enable easy understandings of these iconic and complex monuments, they nevertheless reflect the gathering together of all the latest thinking and research. For anyone considering an exploration of Pictland with me, I would recommend Prof Gordon Noble’s new book The King in the North. Further insights can be gained by listening to a wonderful episode of BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time series, recorded in 2018 and reflecting excellent contemporary scholarship, permanently available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09cvx7b.