TT Profile with Archaeologist John Henry Phillips

28 September 2020

Back in July we read this tweet from John Henry Phillips "Just read an academic journal specifically about there not being a single Roma archaeologist. I am an archaeologist and I am Roma so there ya go, 1 of us. Party on"

It caught our eye so TT caught up with Romany archaeologist John Henry Phillips to talk about the inspirations behind his work, the documentary 'No Roses on a Sailer's Grave', and his ambitions for the future. 

The archaeologist told Travellers' Times: "I went to see the first world war battlefields with my dad just as a  little trip and the scope of that war was so much that you can literally find things sticking out of the ground till this day. I found pieces of barb-wire from the trenches and a grenade laying on the ground. To me that was mindblowing so when I went home I decided to go to university and study archaeology."

He added: "My grandfather was also a second world war veteran, he died when I was 21 and I went to university about 22 and it was always in the back of my mind that I hadn't asked enough about my own relative's stories."

 John Henry Phillips talks about his role in co-producing the documentary 'No Roses on a Sailer's Grave' which developed from a friendship between himself and ninety-six-year-old,  Royal Navy veteran, Patrick Thomas.  

The archaeologist became dedicated to making sure that Patrick's story was heard and remembered by the world. This dedication led to an expedition to undercover a lost battleship that sank to the bottom of the channel during world war two. Patrick was one of the only survivors with thirty - five men falling into the ocean never to be seen again. The full documentary will be available for viewing later this year.


John Henry Phillips is currently writing a book about the shipwreck search and is exploring ways to shine a light on Romany ethnicity through his practice in archaeology. He can be contacted online via Instagram @battlefieldarchaeologist