Archer, Journey to Stonehenge, about the book

I’m an illustrator and painter, best known for my work as series illustrator on BBC 2’s Meet the Ancestors. I’ve created drawings and paintings for books, museums and television, working closely with archaeologists and curators to interpret evidence of the past. If you’d like to see some more images please visit my Illustration ArchiveI am always happy to consider commissions.

artist_interpretation_archer (2) - Copy - Copy

My original illustration of the Amesbury Archer made for Wessex Archaeology shortly after the discovery of his grave and used at the British Museum.

For information about the excavation:

I have written and illustrated a book for children about the adventures of this famous Archer who travelled to Stonehenge around 2300 BC.


Links to the National Curriculum at KS 2

Comic strip format

Detailed watercolour illustrations

Well researched



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It was recorded by Kim Biddulph of and is a conversation between Jane, Kim and Andrew Fitzpatrick, who excavated the Amesbury Archer for Wessex Archaeology.


 Creating the Story

At Amesbury, near Stonehenge archaeologists led by Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick dicovered the bones of a prehistoric man. His mourners had placed many precious objects in his grave including a pair of rare hair tress rings made from beaten gold and three copper daggers. Together these are the oldest metal artefacts found to date in the British Isles. The Amesbury Archer’s grave is the most richly furnished burial from the Beaker Period (c. 2900 – 1800 BC) anywhere in Europe. Radio carbon dating suggested that the man had died c. 2300 BC.



Hair tress rings of beaten gold


The copper daggersimages-4

One of the five Beaker pots

When Professor Andrew Fitzpatrick and his team examined the finds they discovered that though some were from Britain, many had come from mainland Europe. The five decorated bell-shaped pots were Beakers, so called because they appear to have been drinking vessels. Stable isotope analysis of the man’s teeth suggested he had grown up in a mountainous region of central Europe.


I based the young Archer’s face on the shape of his skull restored by Wessex Archaeology.


Metal from Spain had been used to make two of the small daggers, the other was cast from copper originating in Brittany.

daggers remade

The Archer’s daggers remade by Neil Burridge:


Some of the artefacts were metalworking tools. This shaped and polished stone could have been a small anvil or a hammer stone to beat gold and copper.



This bone pin might have fastened his cloak. Another very similar but older example was found in Vinelz, by Lake Biel in the Swiss Jura.

The Archer’s left kneecap was missing. The bones of his leg had grown thin and distorted because of muscle wastage. This was probably the result of a severe injury sustained when he was a young man. He would have have found walking difficult and perhaps this is why he never returned home.


The Archer’s bones and grave goods can be seen in Salisbury Museum


map (2)

Researching, Drawing, Writing

On the site where the Amesbury Archer had been excavated a primary school was built. It bears his name and the new head commissioned me to paint my first image of the man, life size, on the wall of it’s entrance hall. Later she was given funding for a second mural from neighbouring Boscombe Down Army Airbase who requested a painting of one of their test pilots to represent the ‘modern equivalent’ of the Archer. A young major came to model for the painting. Little did we know he was to become a world famous astronaut!


Major Tim Peake at the Amesbury Archer Primary School

As I worked the children asked me lots of questions about the Archer: ‘ Where did he come from? Why did he come here? What happened to him on the way?’

I decided I’d have a go at an illustrated story…

It was to Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, the excavation director, I turned first. He was by then deep into his post excavation research, excited by his findings and very generous in wanting to share them with me. I remember calling him to ask what he thought of my idea and trying to take in all that he was saying: Had I heard of the Bell Beaker cemetery at Sion in Switzerland, where anthropomorphic stones, or stelae, depict men and women in great detail? (In the UK we say Beaker but in the rest of Europe it’s Bell Beaker because the pots resemble upturned bells).

The people whose images were carved on the stones at Sion appear to be wearing clothes decorated with designs similar to those on some Beakers. They also wear belts and the men have bows and arrows. Some have sporran-like bags and some small daggers, very like those in the Archer’s grave. They wear jewellery, necklaces of what looks like amber or copper beads and some have new moon-shaped pendants; lunulae.

Professor Richard Harrison and Dr Volker Heyd of Bristol University had recently published a paper on the cemetery, which is known as Le Petit Chasseur. Andrew suggested I should have a chat with them.

(For further info: The Transformation of Europe in the Third Millennium BC, the example of ‘Le Petit-Chasseur’ by Richard Harrison & Volker Heyd).


This one has a dagger in his ‘sporran’ resembling those found with the ‘Archer.

Both Richard and Volker were encouraging and helpful. As I read their report I began to develop some understanding of Europe during the Beaker Period.

beaker wedding dress

I think best with a pencil and began to draw, starting to invent characters and their story through pictures. Here’s a proto-type of the Archer’s sister being kitted out in her wedding clothes.

A little about Beaker People

Beaker culture is identified by archaeologists largely from the contents of graves. The earliest Beakers have been found in Spain but the ideology or social structure, of which the pots were a part, spread quickly throughout Europe from around 2900 BC, continuing in some places for the best part of 1000 years.

Beaker graves usually contain a ‘package’ of objects. Typically, along with the pots, these can comprise archery gear; characteristic barbed and tanged flint arrowheads and sometimes wrist protectors, known as bracers, carved from stone. Metalwork too; daggers, knives, beads and very occasionally those basket-shaped gold ornaments interpreted as hair tress rings. Copper and gold had been in use in Europe long before the Beaker People appeared on the scene but they are often credited with introducing these metals into Britain.

The Amesbury Archer’s grave is exceptional. Most contain just a few of the things mentioned above but his mourners placed more than 100 objects beside his body.



The Beaker People were not an ethnically distinct group. Until the discovery of the Amesbury Archer archaeologists supposed that the ‘Beaker Package’ was spread through contact between neighbours. Now it is clear that some individuals made long journeys carrying their skills and ideologies in their hands and heads.

To be continued…