John Gwynne Evans was a renowned prehistorian and a leading figure in the development of environmental archaeology, the study of past peoples in relation to their environment. Born in St. Albans in 1941, John was educated at University College School, then at the University of Reading, where he read Zoology. Though tempted by the prospect of postgraduate research in ecology with Charles Elton at Oxford, John chose instead to undertake research at the Institute of Archaeology, London, with two other notable pioneers, Geoffrey Dimbleby and I.W. Cornwall. His research was on the use of stratified land snails in Quaternary deposits as indicators of past environmental change. This earned John the soubriquet 'Snails Evans', in part in recognition of his innovative research on these neglected creatures, and in part to distinguish him from another Institute of Archaeology scholar, the Mediterranean prehistorian John D. Evans.
The thesis became an influential book in 1972, by which time John was Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at University College Cardiff, as it then was. Further books followed: The Environment of Early Man in the British Ides (1975) and Introduction to Environmental Archaeology (1978) quickly established themselves as standard works on the subject, and made a significant contribution to moving the study of past environmental change from the fringes of archaeology to its mainstream. For nearly two decades, from 1975 to 1994, John edited the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, making it the place to publish major excavation reports and research papers.
John was also an active field archaeologist, mainly involved with excavation and regional survey work in southern England, around Stonehenge, Maiden Castle and Avebury, and in South Wales, notably at Stackpole Warren, Dyfed. Although snails and sediments remained at the core of his research, John's breadth of knowledge and experience led him to a particularly deep and complex understanding of all archaeological evidence and the integration of that evidence to understand the role of past peoples in shaping, and responding to, the environment around them. …