Gibbins was born in 1962 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, to English parents who were both academic scientists. He travelled around the world with them by sea as a boy, including four years living in New Zealand, before returning to Canada. He attended the University of Bristol, England, where he was awarded a First Class Honours Degree in Ancient Mediterranean Studies. He then went to Cambridge University as a Research Scholar of Corpus Christi College, where he completed a PhD in Archaeology in 1990.
Gibbins learned to scuba dive at the age of 15 in Canada, and dived under ice, on shipwrecks and in caves while he was still at school.
He has led numerous underwater archaeology expeditions around the world, including five seasons excavating ancient Roman shipwrecks off Sicily and a survey of the submerged harbour of ancient Carthage. In 1999-2000 he was part of an international team excavating a 5th-century BC shipwreck off Turkey. His many publications on ancient shipwreck sites have appeared in scientific journals, books and popular magazines. Most recently his fieldwork has taken him to the Arctic Ocean, to Mesoamerica and to the Great Lakes in Canada.
After holding a Research Fellowship at Cambridge, he spent most of the 1990s as a Lecturer in the School of Archaeology, Classics and Oriental Studies at the University of Liverpool.
On leaving academia he become a novelist, writing archaeological thrillers derived from his own background. His novels have sold over two million copies and have been London Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers. His first novel, Atlantis, published in the UK in 2005 and the US in September 2006, has been published in 30 languages and is being made into a TV miniseries; since then he has written five further novels, published in more than 100 editions internationally. His novels form a series based on the fictional maritime archaeologist Jack Howard and his team, and are contemporary thrillers involving a plausible archaeological backdrop.
Gibbins, David, 1990. "Analytical approaches in maritime archaeology: a Mediterranean perspective". Antiquity 64 (243), pp. 376–389.
Gibbins, David and Christopher Chippindale, 1990. "Heritage at sea: proposals for the better protection of British archaeological sites underwater". Antiquity 64 (243), pp. 390–400.
Gibbins, David. 1993. "Bronze Age wreck's revelations." Illustrated London News 281 (7116), pp. 72–3.
Gibbins, David, 1993. "Das im Mittelmeer verborgene Museum." Mannheimer Forum 92/93. Ein Panorama der Naturwissen schaften. Mannheim: Boehringer Mannheim, pp. 175–243.
Gibbins, David, 1995. "What shipwrecks can tell us." Antiquity 69:263, pp. 408–411.
Gibbins, David J.L., Mike M. Emery and Keith J. Mathews, 1996. The Archaeology of an Ecclesiastical Landscape. Chester Archaeology Excavation and Survey Report No. 9. Chester City Council/The University of Liverpool. ISBN 978-1-872587-09-7
Gibbins, David, 1997. "Deleta est Carthago?" Antiquity 71 (271), pp. 217–219.
Gibbins, David. 1998. "Maritime archaeology". in Shaw, I. and R. Jameson (eds) Dictionary of Archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-17423-3
Gibbins, David. 2000. "Classical shipwreck excavation at Tektas Burnu, Turkey." Antiquity 74:283, pp. 199–201.
Gibbins, David. 2001. "Shipwrecks and Hellenistic trade." in Zofia H. Archibald et al. (eds.), Hellenistic Economies. London/New York: Routledge, pp. 273–312. ISBN 978-0-415-23466-5
Gibbins, David and Jonathan Adams (eds), 2001. Shipwrecks.World Archaeology 32.3. London: Routledge. ISSN 0043-8243
Gibbins, David and Jonathan Adams, 2001. "Shipwrecks and maritime archaeology." World Archaeology, 32:3, pp. 279–291.
Gibbins, David. 2001. "A Roman shipwreck of c. AD 200 at Plemmirio, Sicily: evidence for north African amphora production during the Severan period." World Archaeology 32.3, pp. 311–334.