|Thurstan Shaw: A Message of Sympathy|
|Monday, 25 March 2013 00:00|
PROFESSOR CHARLES THURSTAN SHAW
27 June 1914 to 8 March 2013
Born in Devon, England on 27 June 1924, Thurstan Shaw was educated at Blundell’s School, Tiverton, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge where he read classics in his first year and later changed to archaeology and anthropology. He took a First Class degree in 1936. In 1937 he went out to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to teach at Achimota College in Accra which was in those days the most important centre of higher education in black Africa.
In Achimota, Thurstan Shaw was in charge of the Anthropology Museum and he spent virtually all vacations conducting archaeological investigations and organizing and keeping sites and finds register. He conducted his first excavation in Africa in 1937 when he carried out a rescue excavation on the Achimota College farm at a spot where a scatter of iron slag and pieces of furnace wall and tuyeres had been found. In 1940, his excavation at the Bosumpra rockshelter at Abetifi served as a watershed as it marked commencement of the reconstruction of the cultural sequence and chronological framework of West African prehistoric materials. Shaw identified and described the Late Stone Age/Neolithic and the Iron Age levels and these were demonstrated to be present over and over again in West Africa. In 1942, Thurstan Shaw excavated a large mound at Dawu, in north-eastern Akwapem, not far from Achimota, a site with more than eight metres of stratified deposits. For the first time, he demonstrated how locally made smoking pipes could be useful as a dating marker in West Africa.
In 1958, Shaw was invited to direct excavations at site of Igbo Ukwu in southeastern Nigeria. This site featured a royal burial with cast bronzes dated to the tenth century AD. The excavation showed that highly sophisticated indigenous craft traditions existed in the tropical forests during the first millennium AD, long before any Arab or European influence. In 1963, Thurstan Shaw joined the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan as a Research Professor of Archaeology and he created the Archaeology Research Unit of the Institute which initiated the collections for a teaching museum. In 1965, he excavated the Iwo Eleru rockshelter, located at about 24 kilometres from Akure in Ondo State of Nigeria. The excavation produced evidence of human occupation of the forest fringes of West Africa during the Late Stone Age and the skeletal remains which show Negroid characteristics had been dated 11,200 ± 200 BP, the oldest known specimen in the West African region at that time. In 1964, he founded the West African Archaeological Newsletter (WAAN) and he was also the founding editor of the West African Journal of Archaeology (WAJA) which replaced WAAN in 1971.
A teaching Department of Archaeology was created in 1970 in the Faculty of Science of the University and Thurstan Shaw became the founding Head of Department. Thurstan Shaw nurtured the department and was especially proud of the department’s laboratory, photographic and draughting facilities, teaching collections and well-utilised field equipment which made Ibadan one of the best centres for archaeology in Africa. He was instrumental to the design of the Archaeology Department building complex which was commissioned on the occasion of his 75th birthday celebration at Ibadan in 1989. He retired from the University of Ibadan in 1974 and was a visiting professor to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria from 1975 to 1978. After he left Nigeria, he had always maintained contact and showed interest in the development of archaeology at Ibadan. In 1983, at the conference of the Pan African Association for Prehistory and Related Studies in Jos, Nigeria he was in favour of the academic boycott of apartheid South Africa. It was not by accident that he was also one of the strong forces behind the First World Archaeological Congress (WAC-1), held in 1986 at Southampton, England, which excluded South African participation.
Thurstan Shaw’s wife, Ione whom he married in 1939 died in 1992: they had five children. In 2004, he married Dr Pamela Jane Smith, an historian of archaeology. She, his two sons and three daughters survive him. Thurstan Shaw will be fondly remembered for his gentle kindness, his generosity and his unhindered love for the African peoples. Adieu Thurstan.
Professor Caleb Adebayo Folorunso
University of Ibadan
Thurstan Shaw Memorial Book
WAC has established a memorial book to honour the life and work of Thurstan Shaw. We would like to encourage people who knew Thurstan Shaw, or whose life and career was affected by his work, to contribute to this book. You do not need to be a member of WAC to contribute to the memorial book.
|Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2013 21:05|