David Gibbins's Story
David travelled to the eastern Mediterranean in 1989, studying museums and institutions across the region in order to improve his understanding of maritime heritage management internationally and to bring those experiences back to his work as an archaeologist in the UK.
David’s Fellowship came at a formative period in his career as a maritime archaeologist, but then led him in a direction that he could scarcely have imagined at the time. He had been an avid diver since the age of 15 in 1977 – he first dived under ice and on wrecks while still at school – and at university he was able to combine that with his passion for archaeology, first at Bristol and then as a Research Scholar of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. As a student he’d led a number of expeditions to investigate ancient shipwrecks off Sicily. He applied for a Fellowship to study archaeological management more widely in the Mediterranean region, with a particular focus on Turkey, Israel and Greece.
One immediate outcome of his Fellowship was an edited special section in the journal Antiquity that included proposals for the better protection of maritime sites in the UK - something that David then used as a basis for teaching maritime archaeology as a university lecturer in the UK during the 1990s. His Fellowship also led to his involvement in several major field projects, including directing underwater excavations at Carthage in Tunisia as part of a UNESCO programme in the early 1990s and two seasons in 1999-2000 as an Adjunct Professor of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Bodrum, Turkey, excavating a classical Greek shipwreck.
After that David decided to leave his teaching career in order to focus on fieldwork and writing. In 2005 he published his first novel, Atlantis – a bestseller internationally that sold over a million copies. To date his ten novels have sold over three million copies and have been published in thirty languages, including the London Sunday Times and New York Times top-ten bestsellers. His novels are archaeological and historical thrillers rooted in his own experiences, and he can point to many storylines – on seafaring in the Neolithic, on the rise of the first great maritime civilisations of the Bronze Age, on the spread of early Christianity – that germinated during his travels.
His novels allow him to bring across the same passion for archaeology that underpinned his teaching, and to reach an ever-larger audience in the UK and internationally – something that he puts down in no small part to his Fellowship travels. Those experiences taught him that instilling a fascination with the past, whether through fiction or non-fiction, through TV or lectures, is as important for heritage management as any protective legislation, and he remains committed to this aim into the future through his books and fieldwork.