Posted on 7 October 2016
Emeritus Professor Don Brothwell joined the Department of Archaeology as Professor of Human Ecology in 1993 following an eminent career at the British Museum (Natural History) and University College London. A pioneering archaeological scientist, 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. Don 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. Animal remains engaged his attention as well, and Don co-authored what remains the standard work on the diagnosis of pathologies in ancient animal bones. Retirement in 1999 proved no obstacle to Don’s research, 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 University and the archaeological science community at large have lost a major figure, and many of us have lost a good friend.
--Terry O'Connor, Emeritus Professor of Zooarchaeology