Tributes to celebrated archaeologist

FRIENDS and colleagues have paid tribute to an internationally renowned Suffolk archaeologist who died last week.Dr John Wymer, who lived in Bildeston, was an expert on Palaeolithic period, otherwise known as the “Old Stone Age”, and died on February 10, aged 77, at Southampton Hospital following a short illness.

FRIENDS and colleagues have paid tribute to an internationally renowned Suffolk archaeologist who died last week.

Dr John Wymer, who lived in Bildeston, was an expert on Palaeolithic period, otherwise known as the “Old Stone Age”, and died on February 10, aged 77, at Southampton Hospital following a short illness.

He started his archaeological career as a keen amateur and came to prominence when he found what was then the earliest human skull in the British Isles at Swanscombe in Kent in 1955.

Posts at Reading Museum followed as well as the publication of his first major work, Lower Palaeolithic Archaeology in Britain as represented by the Upper Thames Valley, in 1968.

After this he was recruited to work on sites in South Africa but returned to East Anglia in the 1970s where he worked at Clacton-on-Sea in Essex and Hoxne in Suffolk.

During the 1980s Dr Wymer worked at the Norfolk Archaeological Unit and undertook a number of excavations on Bronze Age sites before starting work in the 1990s with Wessex Archaeology and English Heritage on an ambitious project to map and assess the known Palaeolithic sites in the country.

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Most recently he was closely involved in the discovery at Pakefield that has added 200,000 years to the human history north of the Alps.

He received a number of honorary awards, was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1963 and was also a Fellow of the British Academy as well as Secretary of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History from 1977-84, a Vice-President from 1985 and President from 2001.

Edward Martin, archaeological officer for Suffolk County Council, said: “John was no aloof scientist. He was passionately keen to share his knowledge and love of archaeology with a wide range of people.”

Friend and colleague Dr Andrew Rogerson, of Norfolk museum and archaeological services, said: “John was an amazing guy. For someone who was so important within the world of archaeology he had an extraordinary ability to come down to the level of the ordinary person. I often listened to him lecturing to lay people in a delightful way, which many of us find it hard to do but it came naturally to him.

“He was a larger than life character and a truly great man to have a drink with. He enjoyed having a few pints, had a great sense of humour and could play the blues piano fantastically well.”

Dr Wymer leaves three daughters and two sons from his first marriage.

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