Several distinguished archaeologists who had close links to the Institute have died during the past year. Brief obituaries are given here and reference made to some of the many longer obituaries available elsewhere.

How to Cite: Obituaries. (2016). Archaeology International, 19(1).

Rights: Copyright: © 2016 The Author(s)



Published on
12 Dec 2016

Don Brothwell (1933–2016)

Don Brothwell (Fig. 1) was a pioneering figure in osteoarchaeology, and in archaeological science more generally. Having studied at Cambridge and following a notable early career at what was then the British Museum (Natural History), Don joined the Institute of Archaeology in 1974 on the retirement of I.W. Cornwall. He quickly gained a reputation as an innovative and effective, if sometimes unconventional, teacher and mentor. Don’s first love was the study of excavated human remains, for which his manual Digging Up Bones continues to be widely used. His research extended into soft tissues and parasitology as well, including important collaborations with colleagues in Egypt, Yemen and Mongolia. Animal remains also engaged his attention, and in 1981 Don co-authored what remains the standard work on the diagnosis of pathologies in ancient animal bones. He later became involved in forensic investigation of mass burials in the former Yugoslavia, in part for the opportunity to observe the early stages of corporeal decomposition, but in the main because his strongly-held pacifist beliefs drove him to use his scientific skills to humanitarian ends. In 1993, Don joined the University of York as Professor of Human Ecology, bringing his UCL experience to a small but expanding Department. Retirement in 1999 proved no obstacle, and he directed the innovative InterArChive project, an interdisciplinary investigation of the information inherent in the sediment matrix of human burials. Above all, Don supported, encouraged and enthused people. He held his own eminence lightly and had no time for other academics who would argue from authority rather than from facts. His recently-published memoirs are typical in their firm opinions gently expressed and in Don’s refusal to use hindsight to criticise others. The archaeological science community worldwide has lost a major figure, and many of us have lost a good friend.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Don Brothwell (Photo courtesy of University of York).

Terry O’Connor

Don died just before this issue was finalised and before extended obituaries had been published, but appreciations can be found at:

See also an interview at:

Beatrice de Cardi (1914–2016)

Beatrice de Cardi (Fig. 2) was a remarkable woman. She was one of the few people who can be said to have filled in huge gaps on the archaeological map and more than that, to have proved that the cultures she found were inter-related.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Beatrice de Cardi. (Photo Stuart Laidlaw).

De Cardi read economics at UCL and while doing so went to a lecture given by Sir Mortimer Wheeler which was to change her life. She worked under him at Maiden Castle and there learnt the ground rules of excavation. After her war service in China and India she became interested in working in the tribal ‘badlands’ of Baluchistan looking for sites with a particular type of pottery, found initially by Stuart Piggott, which was called Quetta ware. Wheeler, then in charge of archaeology in India, tried to dissuade her on the grounds that the area was too wild and unsettled. She ignored him and he relented and lent her his immensely knowledgeable foreman. Together they identified more than 40 new sites and collected a large amount of pottery including the Quetta ware.

Beatrice then returned to England where she became Assistant Secretary, and then Secretary at the Council for British Archaeology. While holding down her day job she managed to return to the Middle East in her leaves to continue her work, first at Bampur in Iran and then in the Persian Gulf which was to become her second home. She played a major part in persuading the rulers of the Emirates that their history was important, and in setting up national museums where their past could be displayed. She retained links with the Institute, and contributed her personal memories in a talk at the ‘Early History of the Institute’ afternoon in November 2009.

As she grew into old age Beatrice was loaded with honours, an OBE, gold medals from distinguished institutions, a fellowship of the British Academy, an honorary fellowship at UCL and an honorary visiting professorship at the Institute.

Harriet Crawford

Longer obituaries can be found at:

Juliet Clutton-Brock (1933–2015)

The discipline of Archaeozoology sadly lost one of its pioneers in September 2015 with the death of Juliet Clutton-Brock at the age of 82. Juliet, an Institute alumna (Fig. 3), was one of the UK’s most prolific writers on the relationship between humans and animals through history, authoring over 100 scientific papers and numerous scholarly and popular books on the subject, including the seminal Domesticated Animals from Early Times (1981) which inspired generations of archaeology students. For most of her career, Juliet was based at the Natural History Museum in London where she undertook archaeozoological research on assemblages from Britain, Europe, the Middle East and India, always keeping an open door – and offering wise advice – to international researchers visiting the osteological collections. She was a founder of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and for several years edited the Journal of Zoology.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Juliet Clutton-Brock in the Osteology Room at the Natural History Museum (Photo Caroline Grigson).

Juliet’s early career was forged at the Institute of Archaeology in St. John’s Lodge, Regent’s Park, of which she spoke fondly at an ‘Oral Histories Day’ in 2009. Entering the Institute in 1951 to register for a course on Archaeological Technique, she recalled being ‘… immediately bewitched by the building, the people in it, the park and the proximity of the zoo’. There she attended lectures by Max Mallowan, Gordon Childe, Mortimer Wheeler, Kathleen Kenyon and Frederick Zeuner. The latter, recognizing Juliet’s deep interest in animals, encouraged her to take a first degree in Zoology and then facilitated her return to the Institute in 1957 to work for a PhD under his supervision. Her studies of prehistoric animal bone assemblages under his mentorship were an important element in the fledgling discipline of archaeozoology. Juliet maintained strong links with the Institute: for example, in 1982, together with her colleague Caroline Grigson, she organized the fourth ICAZ (International Council of Archaeozoology) conference, hosted in the Gordon Square building.

Louise Martin

Longer obituaries can be found at:

Sheppard Sunderland Frere (1916–2015)

If the genesis of the Institute of Archaeology can be credited to W. Flinders Petrie and Mortimer Wheeler in the interwar years, its emergence as the leading centre for the practice and teaching of the discipline in the post-war years owed much to the contribution of Sheppard Frere (Fig. 4). Frere began his archaeological career during holidays from teaching Classics at Lancing College in Sussex. For more than a decade he recovered the remains of Roman Canterbury through excavation in war-damaged locations, from which he began to construct the first historical account of the development of a city in Roman Britain, identifying the street-grid, the theatre and several major buildings.

Figure 4
Figure 4

Sheppard Frere on site at Verulamium in 1955 (Photo Archaeology International).

By the time of his last season at Canterbury in 1957, Frere had been appointed to the newly established Readership (promoted Professor in 1963) in the Archaeology of the Roman Provinces at the Institute of Archaeology, then housed in the decaying splendour of St John’s Lodge on the Inner Circle of Regents Park. In 1955, Frere assumed the overall direction of a major new project at Verulamium, the Roman city brought to prominence through the work of Mortimer and Tessa Wheeler in the early thirties. The archaeological exploration was a huge task but one where the effort yielded major new evidence for urban development in Roman Britain.

In 1965 Frere completed Britannia, a History of the Roman Province of Britain, not to replace the classic study of R.G. Collingwood in 1936 but rather to be set alongside it as a register of how much the subject had advanced. By the time it was published (1967) Frere had accepted the summons to succeed Richmond at Oxford, where his commanding role in the discipline now increased almost yearly, with the foundation of the periodical Britannia, compilation of the Frere Report for the Ancient Monuments Board that sought to deal with the deluge of record being produced by rescue excavation, and later the single-handed compilation of the eight fascicules cataloguing the portable inscriptions (Instrumenta) from Roman Britain (Roman Inscriptions of Britain, Volume II, 1990–1995).

In an era when archaeology began to absorb abstract concepts imported from other disciplines, Frere’s attention to, and primary regard for, the material evidence at times seemed to set him apart from those who were articulate in matters of theory. Yet his contribution to the intellectual landscape of the study of Roman Britain was both profound and lasting.

John Wilkes

Longer obituaries can be found at:

See also Frere, S 2002 Roman archaeology at the Institute: the early years. Archaeology International, 6: 10–13. DOI:

Nancy Sandars (1914–2015)

In her 101 years Nancy Sandars produced work of rare distinction and variety.

It was Kathleen Kenyon, a friend of her sister’s, who encouraged Nancy (Fig. 5) to take up archaeology in the 1930s. After a wartime stint in Intelligence (she is on the Bletchley Park Roll of Honour) she arrived at the Institute as a student (without a B.A.) in 1947, a golden age in the old Regent’s Park premises when Gordon Childe was giving lectures which her fellow-student Sinclair Hood remembers as ‘electrifying’. She enjoyed reminiscing about those days with Hood, Grace Simpson and her close friend Rachel Maxwell-Hyslop. Her first published work, Bronze Age Cultures in France (1957) was her Oxford B.Litt. thesis, but it was her broad and deep training at the Institute that led to Prehistoric Art in Europe (1967, rev. 1985), covering Upper Palaeolithic to La Tène in 508 pages.

Figure 5
Figure 5

Nancy Sandars in the 1960s (Photo courtesy of Mike Tomlinson).

In 1955 she joined Hood digging Minoan tombs at Knossos, contributing to the report a useful survey of amber in the Aegean. Her fundamental studies and typology of Aegean swords appeared in the American Journal of Archaeology 1961 and 1963. In 1960 she ventured with colleagues on a study tour behind the Iron Curtain in S.E. Europe. Her range of interests equipped her to write The Sea Peoples: Warriors of the Ancient Mediterranean 1250–1150 B.C. (1978, rev. 1985).

Nancy Sandars first introduced the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh to the general public (1st ed. Penguin Classics, 1960). More Mesopotamian poetry followed in 1971. She was a good poet herself and wrote articles on the poet and painter David Jones.

Nancy was elected FSA in 1957 and also (a rare honour for a woman — and a non-graduate!) FBA in 1984. A video of her talking about her early memories of the Institute was presented at an oral history afternoon in November 2009.

Helen Hughes-Brock

Longer obituaries can be found at:

The British Academy will produce a full memoir, and her own website ( is now being expanded.

Charles Thomas (1928–2016)

My father Charles Thomas, who died just before his 88th birthday, was a proud graduate of the Institute of Archaeology (Postgraduate Diploma in European Prehistory 1951–53) (Fig. 6). He was fortunate to study during the glory days at St John’s Lodge. In Alumni Reflections (Archaeology International 15, 2012, pp.119–126) he wrote that students of his era were trained in every aspect of archaeology, and he retained useful skills, including flint knapping to order and the ability to invisibly repair precious objects accidentally smashed by his children.

Figure 6
Figure 6

Charles Thomas (Photo Susanna Thomas).

He was lecturer in archaeology at Edinburgh University, the first professor of archaeology at Leicester University, and later the first professor of Cornish Studies at Exeter University and director of the Institute of Cornish Studies, before taking early retirement with cries of joy. We never really understood his job especially as retirement made no difference. It entailed thinking, furious typing, camping with his friends to dig things up, and walks where we were all too busy spotting finds on the ground to see the view, with significant artefacts rewarded by ice-cream.

A field archaeologist who could look across the landscape and see layers and echoes of human occupation, Charles Thomas was a scholar of early Britain concentrating on Wales, Scotland, Ireland and his native Cornwall. His groundbreaking archaeological, historical and toponymic study of Gwithian Parish continued throughout his lifetime, and he (plus various grandchildren) was still collecting flints from ploughed fields earlier this year.

He was very pleased to be created a fellow of UCL in 1992 and an honorary professor in 2012. Many of his working relationships and great friendships were forged at the Institute, as evidenced by occasions when I would bump into godfathers on the Gordon Square stairs while I was an undergraduate at the same institution.

In his last week he couldn’t face the stairs, and he died in his library surrounded by family and books after a rich and happy life. Charles Thomas is buried in Gwithian churchyard.

Susanna Thomas

Longer obituaries can be found at: