William Stukeley was an English antiquary and one of the founders of field archaeology, who pioneered the investigation of Stonehenge.
William Stukeley was born on the 7th November 1697 in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, the son of a lawyer. He studied classics, theology and science at Corpus Christi college, Cambridge, going on to study Medicine at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.
In true Enlightenment fashion, Stukeley’s interests were wide. He was interested in other aspects of British history, including the story of Robin Hood, wrote music for the flute and produced treatises on earthquakes and medical subjects.
He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1717, helped establish the Society of Antiquaries as its first secretary in 1718 and was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1720. In 1721 he became a freemason and, in 1722 co-founded the Equites romani or Society of Roman Knights, a group dedicated to the study of Roman Britain (which lasted for only four years).
After 1726 he became increasingly interested in the Druids, something which might seem at odds with his ordination as a cleric in the Church of England in 1729. His main antiquarian works were on Stonehenge and Avebury in 1740 and 1743 although, by then, he was already well established as one of the nation’s leading antiquarians. Shortly after these two publications he was instrumental in encouraging acceptance of the fake Roman itineraries touted by Charles Bertram, the so called De situ Britanniae, which were not to be proven as bogus for another century.
In later life, his increasing tendency to interpret ancient remains in accordance with set notions of the nature of primeval religion caused his work to be to taken less seriously, the Royal Society rejecting his submitted papers.
Stukeley died on the 3rd of March, 1765.
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