Born in 1945, Mallory received his A.B. in History from Occidental College in California in 1967, then served three years in the US Army as a military police sergeant. He received his Ph.D. in Indo-European studies from UCLA in 1975. He has held several posts at Queen's beginning in 1977, becoming Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology in 1998.
Professor Mallory's research has focused on Early Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe, the problem of the homeland of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, and the archaeology of early Ireland. He favors an integrative approach to these issues, comparing literary, linguistic and archaeological evidence to solve historical puzzles.
One consequence of this preference for an integrated approach is that Professor Mallory has been strongly critical of the widely publicised theory of Indo-European origins held by Colin Renfrew which locates the urheimat or homeland of this language family in early Neolithic Anatolia and associates its spread with the spread of agriculture. A key element of his criticism has been a vigorous defence of linguistic palaeontology as a valid tool for solving the Indo-European homeland problem, arguing that Renfrew is sceptical about it precisely because it offers some of the strongest evidence against the latter's own model. Professor Mallory recently published a new book with D.Q. Adams, entitled The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World and published by Oxford University Press, where doubtless the debate with Renfrew will resume in earnest.
He is the editor of the Journal of Indo-European Studies, published by the Institute for the Study of Man of which Roger Pearson is the founding editor.