Professor Ian Ralston


Ian Ralston

Abercromby Professor of Archaeology, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh (2012-2019).

Ian Ralston studied under Professor Stuart Piggott CBE, FBA at Edinburgh University and took part in fieldwork in Britain, training on excavations from Orkney in the North with Drs Graham and Anna Ritchie, through lowland Scotland and the north of England with Dr Brian Hope-Taylor, to the exploration of Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, led by Professor Richard Atkinson. In Britain, his own fieldwork has focused on eastern Scotland north of the Tay, and has included work on a range of prehistoric and Early Historic sites, most recently at Burghead in Moray.

He has also worked in Europe, especially in France, on the Iron Age. He has carried out projects in Berry, initially at Levroux (with Dr Olivier Buchsenschutz). His PhD research was undertaken in Limousin. From the mid 1980s for a decade he worked on the late President Mitterand’s Grand Projet at the oppidum of mont Beuvray in Burgundy. From the mid 1990s he undertook collaborative fieldwork in and around the key mid-first-millennium BC centre at Bourges with Dr Buchsenschutz and the archaeological staff of the Municipal archaeological service. More recently he has carried out exploratory fieldwork at Bègues in Allier (with Dr Patrick Pion, Université de Paris X) and in 2011 at Meunet-Planches in Indre (with Dr Buchsenschutz).

From 1974 until 1985 he was successively Research Fellow and then Lecturer in Geography/Archaeology at Aberdeen University, whereafter he joined Edinburgh University. At Edinburgh he was promoted to a Senior Lectureship in 1990, and to a Personal Chair in Later European Prehistory in 1998, before being appointed to the Abercromby Chair of Archaeology in 2012. His main research interests have lain in later prehistoric settlements but (though only for Scotland) he has worked on evidence from all periods from the first settlers until the Pictish period and beyond. With the late Ian Shepherd, Regional Archaeologist for Grampian Region, he was part of Aberdeen Archaeological Surveys, which undertook aerial photography in the North-East from 1977. 

In 2006 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; and in 2009 was made an Officer of the British Empire for services to archaeology in Scotland. Until 2018 he maintained an active involvement in the applied sector as non-executive Chairman of CFA Archaeology Ltd, Musselburgh.

Ian Ralston has been a visiting professor at the Ecole normale supérieure, Paris, and a visiting lecturer at Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest. In 2006 he was Brown Fellow and Visiting Professor of Anthropology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. He retired at the end of 2019 and is now Emeritus Abercromby Professor of Archaeology.