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Peter Ucko

27th July 1938 - 14th June 2007

Peter Ucko died on 14 June 2007. As head of the world's largest University archaeology department (at University College London) and founder of the World Archaeological Congress he was one of the most widely known archaeologists of his generation. Tributes can be found below and on http://www.worldarchaeologicalcongress.org/guestbook.

Appreciation by
David Wengrow

Peter Ucko image
Yarmukian figurine (photograph, A. Marshack)

'Meet Knights Templar in Institute foyer, 11am'. My diary entry for April 10th last year originated in a meeting with Peter about raising funds for a new project. In the event, and to my disappointment, my new sponsors cried off (for health reasons!) and I applied to the AHRC instead (the outcome was basically the same). I seem to remember that Peter had made contact with them through his dentist. It was the kind of rendezvous that only he could have dreamed up: highly unlikely, probably unwise, but too much fun to pass by. I've only once witnessed the after-effects of a large explosion at close quarters, that morning in 2005 when the number 30 bus was blown up just a few hundred metres from the front steps of the Institute of Archaeology. Walking around the Institute in the aftermath of Peter's death reminds me a little of that day-things out of joint, collaborative projects (from China to Africa, from archaeobotany to Egyptian figurines) in pieces, and a vague sense of something having changed forever. And everywhere the pictures of that extraordinary face, which always reminded me (weirdly, given Peter's interests) of a particular type of Neolithic figurine associated with the Yarmukian culture of the Jordan Valley (Figure 1). My own memories of him only extend back about six years to an alcohol fuelled encounter at 'Peter Ucko's Happy Hour' which ultimately changed my life, and for which Cyprian Broodbank (my host that evening) may never quite forgive me. I was arguing with Peter about Henri Frankfort, the archaeologist to whom he had dedicated his famous thesis on anthropomorphic figurines, and whose work was then the subject of my MSc dissertation at Oxford.

'Oxford?' Peter reserved a particular sneer for the dreaming spires, and occasionally feigned ignorance when they were mentioned. A few months later the telephone rang in my Christ Church office. Peter launched directly into conversation as though we were still drinking together. 'What are you doing?'. 'Well I'm writing this book about ...'. 'You're doing nothing'.

The reply looks tyrannical on paper, but in some paradoxical way Peter managed to convey extraordinary warmth and humour through offensive language. 'Umm..yes..of course, I'm doing nothing'. Over the years that followed I learned the meaning of 'nothing', which came increasingly to refer to any activity that fell beyond Peter's personal/professional orbit. Fortunately that orbit was wide enough to encompass, not just my own career for a few short years, but also those of many shell-shocked colleagues with whom I'm now lucky enough to work at the Institute of Archaeology, and innumerable others all over the world who are mourning his departure. There is a small part of UCL that will remind me of Peter, as long as it remains. It comprises two stacks of shelving in the library of the social anthropology department. They stand next to the entrance, isolated from the main collections, and people generally pass straight by them on their way to somewhere else. The books they contain form a strange and incoherent collection: an archaeological field report from the prehistoric site of Hacilar in Turkey, another from Koobi Fora, ethnographic compendia of Eurasian nomads and Native American cultures, a book on masks and another on Orientalist painting, Goffman's collection of 'Gendered Advertisements' and Brandl's 'Australian Aboriginal Paintings', a 1977 encyclopaedia of 'Living New World Monkeys' (some no doubt now departed) and another on religion, and also Peter Ucko's Anthropomorphic Figurines. It seems peculiarly at home there, in a collection that somehow encapsulates the whole as a series of fragments; that fits nowhere and challenges everything.

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Appreciation by
Neal Ascherson

Published: 21 June 2007 - The Independent

Maverick archaeologist who oversaw a revolution in the structure and outlook of his profession.

Peter John Ucko, archaeologist: born London 27 July 1938; Lecturer in Anthropology, University College London 1962-72, Director, Institute of Archaeology and Professor of Comparative Archaeology 1996-2006 (Emeritus); Principal, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies 1972-81; Professor of Archaeology, Southampton University 1981-96; died London 14 June 2007.

Peter Ucko was the most influential archaeologist of his time. Almost single-handed, he brought about a revolution which irrevocably changed the whole structure and outlook of international archaeology.

This upheaval began in 1986, when - in scenes of frantic drama and controversy - the profession's international body exploded at its congress at Southampton University. Out of the smoke and debris there emerged the World Archaeological Congress, dedicated to new and radical principles which included the notion that archaeology was profoundly political and that the archaeology of indigenous peoples in post-colonial continents - societies for whom the relics of a distant past were still components of a living culture - was more significant than the academic and Eurocentric studies of 'prehistory'.

With his tight curls and his powerful, mobile face, Peter Ucko resembled a small Roman emperor. Passionate and unpredictable in his loves and hates, he could put superhuman energy behind causes and people he believed in (he was still editing a book on Chinese archaeological training on his death-bed). His own formation was as much in anthropology as in archaeology, one of the sources of his gift for breaking through academic barriers. Anthropology also satisfied his need (as he put it) 'to be taught by and to meet academics who had respect for the beliefs and activities ... of the people of other cultures'. His antipathy to racism was always violent. As a friend wrote about him, 'the reason Peter is such a good hater is the motivation which powers the hate - a deeply felt anger at unfairness and injustice'.

Peter John Ucko was born in 1938, the son of intellectual Jewish emigrants from Germany. From his father, a doctor, he inherited a lasting delight in music, especially opera. After the 'progressive' public school of Bryanston, he began an anthropology degree at University College London in 1956, but always - so he later said - hoped to get into Egyptology, a lifelong craze which began when he collected figurines off antique stalls as a boy. After a PhD on Egyptian figurines, he spent 10 more years at UCL lecturing with increasing brilliance and originality in anthropology.

In 1967 Ucko and his then partner Andrée Rosenfeld published his first book, Palaeolithic Cave Art. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Australia where in 1972 he became principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. This was to be a decisive, radicalising experience. 'I found that my Institute was a totally white institution - whites gave out money to whites, through white committees, to study the blacks ... an untenable situation.' When he left in 1980, he made sure, against angry opposition, that his successor was an Aboriginal. It was in Australia that he met the anthropologist Jane Hubert, then married to Anthony Forge (who died in 1991), who was to become Ucko's stout-hearted partner and counsellor for the rest of his life.

Back in Britain, in 1981 he became Professor of Archaeology at Southampton University. And it was here, in the 1980s, that he encountered the crisis of his professional life. The International Union of Pre- and Protohistoric Sciences (IUPPS) proposed to hold its 11th congress at Southampton and Ucko was persuaded to organise it. At that time (it has improved since), the IUPPS had decayed into a slovenly, deeply conservative and Eurocentric clique. To its horror, Ucko insisted that he wanted the conference to be a 'World Archaeological Congress', attended by archaeologists from 'the Third World' and devoted to global themes rather than to the cosy comparison of excavations and discoveries.

After enormous exertions, he seemed to be getting his way when disaster struck. Unwisely, Ucko had pushed to the back of his mind the crisis of apartheid South Africa, and the existence of an international academic boycott. But in 1986, only months before the congress, the Southampton student union and then the municipal authorities declared that they would withdraw all facilities if South African archaeologists attended. Worse, many of the African and Asian delegates now threatened not to take part.Well aware of the storm he would provoke, Ucko decided that the cause of a new 'world archaeology' must not be abandoned. He declared that the South Africans would be disinvited. It was an act of outstanding courage. Uproar followed. Ucko was accused of betraying academic freedom. Funders withdrew; many of the leading archaeologists of Europe, Britain and America resigned from the congress and denounced him - sometimes with shameful abuse which they would now prefer to forget. The IUPP condemned him and pulled out.

But Ucko, urged by Jane to stand fast whenever his resolve faltered, stuck to his guns. In the end, over a thousand enthusiastic delegates arrived and Ucko's dream of a new global order for a humanised science of the past was triumphantly realised. The first World Archaeological Congress (WAC-1) took off, and no fewer than 22 books were published from its sessions.

The cost was heavy, not least to Ucko's health. He had lived off his nerves for 20 years, a heavy smoker with a generous wine intake; now appeared the first signs of the diabetes which was to end his life prematurely. And the crisis did not improve his confidence in his fellow humans. Students got the benefit of his tough humour and his adventurous, eccentric imagination. But colleagues had to tread warily; you were in or out. He could be childishly sullen and suspicious one day; brilliantly welcoming and lovable the next.

In 1996, he was appointed director of the Institute of Archaeology at UCL, Britain's leading centre of teaching and research. There were grumbles from crusty colleagues. But the maverick Ucko was now, beyond challenge, the most creative figure in British archaeology. In 1997, he launched the first courses in Public Archaeology, typically redefining it as a critical audit of the profession's ethics in areas as diverse as the handling of the indigenous dead and archaeology in the media.

He retired in 2006. Surprisingly, Ucko refused to accept the presidency of the WAC, but his master-work lives on, its vast congresses sparkling with fresh insights and theories. The 1980s were a decade in which British innovation in archaeology (for better or worse) led the world. Margaret Thatcher 'privatised' the profession, while Ian Hodder, Chris Tilley and Michael Shanks invented 'postprocessual' theory. But Ucko's contribution will outlast them all: an irreversible, institutionalised commitment to an archaeology which happens now rather than in the past, and is concerned with the living as much as with the dead.

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Appreciation by
Fekri A. Hassan

Peter Ucko: Humanistic Archaeology in Praxis.

There are a few figures in archaeology that have made such an impact on the practice and theory of the field as Peter Ucko. His intellectual development coincided with the heady 60s when archaeology both in England and the US was undergoing dramatic transformations. The lure of science (and the US National Science Foundation) which dominated the outlook of the early 60s with its promise of progress, power, and profit was compelling for many archaeologists. In addition to 'culture areas' in the background of nationalist archaeologies and 'anthropogeographie', as well as paradigms of culture and economy, there was a proliferation of regional 'subsistence and settlements' studies, and multidisciplinary projects that often featured a geologist/geographer, botanist and zoologist.

In this milieu, Peter Ucko, exposed both to archaeology and to anthropology, did not shy from embarking on the production of two benchmark volumes on The Domestication and Exploitation of Plants and Animals (Ucko & Dimbleby 1969), and Man, Settlement and Urbanism (Ucko, Tringham & Dimbleby 1972) revealing his penchant for a 'comparative approach' and a plurality of views expressed and debated within large conferences and subsequently promptly published. But Peter Ucko was neither swayed by 'science' nor 'subsistence and settlement' approaches as ultimate objectives of archaeological inquiry. His upbringing, which he often kept in abeyance, had made him sensitive to the perspectives of 'minorities' and what we now call the 'Other'. Without the fanfare of borrowed ideas and assumed airs of being philosophically hip, parading continental musings as original contributions to archaeology, Peter Ucko's approach was sincere, practical, provocative and profound. Theories, for Peter Ucko, were inseparable from the praxis of archaeology and the real world. Without a tie, in short sleeves and sandals, he was more of a union activist than a stuffy academic secure behind a fog of erudition. No sooner had he become a principal of an academic institution in Australia (1972-1981), he transformed it into a home where Aborigines found a place for their intellect, rituals, and beliefs. The Aborigines became the 'Other' that he so longed to defend, valorise, and honour.

In Southampton, as Professor of Archaeology (1981-1996), Ucko's realisation of the hegemony of scholarly societies, dominated by Western academic institutions and scholars, led him, with the strong support from his partner Jane Hubert who shared his commitments, to establish in 1986 an international association, the World Archaeological Congress (WAC), where scholars, young before old, ran their own affairs and engaged in academic discussion within a democratic forum where each part of the world was formally represented.

With his genius for management he arranged for the publication of a One World Archaeology Book Series to provide revenues that made it possible for students and scholars from Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia to come to WAC conferences. Jane and Peter's generosity, kindness and unfailing support for scholars from abroad are by now proverbial. One World Archaeology proved to be a window for the richness of intellectual substance and diversity that breathed fresh air into Western academia compelling many scholars to take notice and to engage in intellectual journeys that are clearly evident in the work of many archaeologists all over the world. The Book Series has also become the source of an intellectual ferment that has since contributed to new directions in the way archaeology is practiced. These new directions celebrated a latent theory of a single human experience expressed in diverse ways with the primacy of people engaged in the world.

The Book Series was a burden that Peter Ucko shouldered with remarkable cheer and perseverance. His critical incisive mind probed every contribution and forced each contributor to come to grips with the logic, veracity, and significance of his or her work. Peter's contributions to theory from the practices gleaned from different parts of the world is evident every where in the numerous prefaces of the One World Archaeology Book Series and in the many other books that he edited. These prefaces are worth rereading for their cogency and perspicacity.

His commitment to an archaeology that made a commitment to the world was behind the institution of a Masters programme as well as a journal in Public Archaeology, at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL when he became its Director (1996-2005). Here again his managerial genius earned him the envy of others as he streamlined this venerable institution, reorganised along research themes, expanded its global coverage, and highlighted heritage management topics. His commitment to the 'Other' was evident in his unyielding support to WAC. Following his retirement, two main projects that he championed were the establishment, at the Institute of Archaeology, of The International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology, and the curation of UCL's Palestinian Collection of artefacts, which led to a remarkable exhibition 'A Future for the Past: Petrie's Palestinian Collection', in the Brunei Gallery at SOAS (9 January - 24 March 2007), characteristically accompanied with the publication of a serious scholarly volume disguised as an Exhibition Catalogue (2007), to bring attention to the role of heritage in restoring dignity to the Palestinians and as a contribution from archaeology to the cause of peace and justice in the Middle East.

Peter's brisk engagements with the role of archaeology in the world, did not, however, quell his attachment to Ancient Egypt, the subject of his PhD dissertation in 1972. Twenty-eight years later, he orchestrated a huge conference under the title 'Encounters with Ancient Egypt', held at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London in December 2000. The proceedings of the conference led to a series of eight books that will have a lasting effect on Egyptology, bringing within the fold of anthropological archaeology, Africa, the intellectual history of humanity. Always selfless with no proclivity for the glitter of fame or the cult of personality or stardom, his editorial hand in the work of others was never made public. Peter was modest, and he was also a very kind man with a sharp mind and a tough crust. Archaeology will never be the same thanks to Peter's drive, dedication and unrelenting hard work. Peter Ucko was an activist for justice, who found his voice in the liberating powers of archaeology.

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Appreciation by
David Harris

Peter Ucko: a tribute

The unprecedented outpouring of admiration and regret from around the world that followed Peter's death was a unique testament to the impact he had on archaeology. It was also a heartfelt response to his concern for others and his charismatic personality. The strength of his moral conviction that all people, of whatever nation, culture or 'indigenous' group, have a right to cherish and interpret their own past in their own way, enabled him to make the idea of One World Archaeology (OWA) a reality. Supported steadfastly through good times and bad by his partner Jane Hubert, he was the driving force behind the process that opened the doors of archaeology to people worldwide, and to multiple and often incompatible concepts of the past. And 'behind' is the operative word, because, despite his role as an innovator, he deliberately avoided the formal limelight, most remarkably when he resolutely refused nomination for the presidency of his own creation: the World Archaeological Congress (WAC).

In this brief tribute I will not re-visit the conflicts and passions that accompanied the creation of WAC in 1986, exciting as they were and memorable as they have remained. Instead I want to honour Peter as a supremely successful facilitator of achievements by others - the very antithesis of the ambitious academic who single-mindedly pursues personal advancement. His facilitating took many forms, from devoting unlimited time to helping students by combining often devastating criticism with sympathetic concern for their personal wellbeing; to organizing intellectually challenging multidisciplinary seminars and incisively editing their results; to making imaginative, sometimes risky appointments of staff in whom he saw (and persuaded other members of selection committees to see!) hidden potential.

Few colleagues and students who knew Peter failed to be deeply affected by the experience. Whether they reacted positively or negatively, with devotion, grudging admiration or undisguised hostility, the response was never neutral. He was a man who could not be ignored, and any organization he committed himself to was in for profound change. The 'Ucko effect' is there for all to see in his successive appointments: first as a young lecturer in Anthropology at UCL where he built what became in effect a sub-department of material culture that matched the existing concerns with social and biological anthropology; then as principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra which he transformed from a small white-run institute recording the presumed past of Aboriginal people into one actively involved in the politics of the Aboriginal present, including the highly contentious issue of land claims, and which was, by the time he left, largely run by Aboriginal people themselves; and, from his return to Britain in 1981 until his retirement in 2005, making fundamental changes in the organization, teaching curricula and research agendas of first the Southampton Department of Archaeology and from 1996 the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

I had the good fortune to know Peter throughout his remarkable career, from our first meeting at UCL in 1965 on into his retirement. Many vivid memories crowd in, and there is space here for only three. One, my first meeting with him, is the surprise of matching the puzzling name Ucko, already known to me from his joint paper with A.J. Arkell on predynastic Egypt, with the young curly-headed figure ensconced in a rather grotty office in what had once been a stable and is now part of UCL's Science Library. Another is the warmth of his greeting, years later at a Happy Hour in Canberra, soon followed by the experience, known to many, of being put through the intellectual wringer when Peter cross-questioned me on the rationale of my application to 'his' institute to undertake research on in an Aboriginal community in far-north Queensland. A more homely memory is of visits to Peter's cottage in the Chiltern village of Loosley Row, where we had many convivial meetings, sometimes ending with good meal in the pub at the bottom of the hill. Much of the editorial work on the OWA books after the first WAC took place in the cottage, as did many conversations about the state of world archaeology. Recollections of Peter's later years at the Institute of Archaeology cannot be fitted into this short tribute, so I will only say that the expectations I had that he would be a great director were amply fulfilled. He set about the task with all his usual energy and conviction, and when he retired after eight years in the demanding job the Institute was stronger than ever and its position as a, perhaps the, focal place in world archaeology was even more assured.

Peter was charming, combative, obstinate and sometimes infuriating. He was also immensely generous and cared deeply about people, especially the underprivileged. Love him or loathe him, none could disregard him. It was a privilege to count as a close friend such an extraordinarily talented person.

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Appreciation by
Beverley Butler

A 'One World' Tribute - What if Peter Ucko were an Egyptian...?

Osiris equates O-sir-is or O-Sire-is

the star Sirius

(H.D. The Walls Do Not Fall, 1942: 54)1

In a recent Festschrift publication for Peter Ucko, my colleague and I responded with a paper entitled 'The Man who would be Moses'2. The point of departure for the paper was a comparative analysis of Professors' Peter Ucko and Sigmund Freud as collectors and as 'Moses' figures in the sense of their status as 'founders' of a movement (that of 'One World Archaeology' and of psychoanalysis respectively). A further link binding the two men is Peter's challenge to a dominant critique which argues that one can psychoanalyse Freud using his antiquities as critical tools3. Our paper went on to draw out wider links between the motif of the Festschrift and the dynamics of collecting and commemoration: not only as concepts and practices, but also as methodological frameworks of analysis. The latter enabled us to highlight a salient analytic tactic deployed by Peter (on subjects as diverse as Freud's collection, rock art and penis sheaths) - an 'archaeology of deconstruction' - in which he successfully and comprehensively destroyed the notion of any centre of 'meaning'. Our final critical dynamic was to highlight a further aspect of the 'Moses' syndrome (shared by Ucko and Freud) that of the capacity for 'othering': of disturbing routinised frameworks of commemoration, thereby revealing alternative origins, genealogies, personas, ancestors and heritages. Peter's 'othering' of archaeology into a 'One World' concern we argued was crystallized further in an alternative collection of objects 'gifted' to him which stood on his desk4.

Sadly just 18 months after the Festschrift celebration came the news of Peter's death. A tremendous out-pouring of emotion and grief has since witnessed the opening up of a 'One World' geography of commemoration5. What is remarkable about this complex and creative commemoration is not only the active nature of the desire to see Peter 'justly' remembered but the commitment to resist 'endings' and to re-instate him as a 'living ancestor' and inspiration for future action. H.D., (whom Peter concedes is an honorable exception a propos his critique of Freud's collection6), in her festschrift-like 'Tribute to Freud' employs similar strategies of commemoration as a means to characterise Freud within a protean persona. Using 'Egypt' as a synonym for 'becoming other/othering' and for acts of sympathetic identification she explores alternative totemic, indigenous and transformed ancestral identities and unveils the legacies of Freud's work beyond the Oedipal Greco-Roman filter. H.D., like those writing tributes for Peter, ultimately desires a 'writing cure' capable of creating a therapeutic 'theatre of mourning' bound up in the belief that 'individual pain' can be transformed into 'shared grief' and that 'what's lost is made recoverable in memory and affection'7. The underlying aspiration being to empower oneself (and also in the latter case, 'One World' archaeology) through a desire to empower the dead. It is testimony to Peter's protean persona (his 'Egyptianness') and the affection expressed towards him that at his funeral amid diverse tributes, music and poetry, a Maori eulogy bestowed on him the status of 'Respected chief' and a conch shell was sounded as he was 'gifted' a transformed persona as 'a star in the heavens'8.

  1. H.D. 1942. The Walls Do Not Fall, [pt. 1. Trilogy]; London: Oxford University Press.
  2. Butler, B. & M. Rowlands. 2006. The Man Who Would Be Moses, in R. Layton, S. Shennan & P. Stone (ed.) A Future for Archaeology: 97-107. London: UCL Press.
  3. Ucko, P.J. 2001. Unprovenanced Material Culture and Freud's Collection of Antiquities. Journal of Material Culture 6(3): 269-322.
  4. Here we differentiated between Peter's collection of antiquities, notably Egyptian artefacts, which he began collecting as a child with an alternative collection of objects 'gifted' to him - including a radio from a South African township, a penis sheath and a model Chinese terracotta warrior - which stood on his desk.
  5. As seen, notably, in the 'Book of Condolence' located on the WAC website http://www.worldarchaeologicalcongress.org/guestbook A number of tributes pitch Peter's identity within alternative global ancestry and heritages e.g. as an 'African Elder'.
  6. H.D. an imagist-poet and Freud's analysand is able to clearly outline the intimacies and meanings that Freud had for his collection by virtue of their conversations on the topic (H.D. 1974 [1956]. Tribute to Freud. New York: New Directions Books.
  7. See Chisholm, D. 1992. H.D.'s Freudian Poetics: Psychoanalysis in Translation: 26-36. Ithaka: Cornell University Press.
  8. This Maori Tangi was composed by Hirini Matunga and read a Peter's funeral service by Karl Burrows from Ngati Ranana.

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Appreciation by
Michael Rowlands

I don't think anybody would deny that the personal, the political and the academic were not all 'of a piece' for Peter Ucko. There are two aspects of the Ucko oeuvre that I would draw attention to for their intellectual importance and legacy. The first is the massive totalising drive in his intellectual agenda, manifested in the earlier publication of conference volumes on Domestication and Urbanism to his last venture on the Petrie Catalogue and Exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS in London. What was the compulsion behind the insistence that no interdisciplinary stone should be left unturned, all papers had to be pre-circulated, and overflow rooms and video cameras would ensure nobody was left out? He explains it all in the introduction of one of the symposia for a 17 day Biennale conference he organised in 1974 at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Academic Institutes are to be preferred to departments because 'they must have, and be seen to have, an interdisciplinary focus' and 'normal' conferences are little more than social gatherings and of no use for informed academic discussion. Academic disciplines are not to be trusted; they are smug little worlds of shared knowledge objects around which 'safe science' quickly adheres after brief moments of inner turbulence. The second was his hostility to 'meaning', that there should be one comprehensible theory that would categorise and give shape to a phenomenon. He loathed Leroi-Gourhan's Structuralist analysis of Palaeolithic cave art not because it didn't have something to say, but because it was partial and yet claimed an explanatory hegemony. In the introduction to Palaeolithic Cave Art co-written with Andree Rosenfeld, he writes that the common denominator of nearly all interpretations is the assumption that Palaeolithic parietal art can be explained by one comprehensive hypothesis. Throughout their book, he says, this assumption has been found unsatisfactory. There may be a hundred reasons why people in the Palaeolithic painted caves. There would also be a hundred reasons for men to wear penis sheaths or to practice different modes of disposal of the dead; all of which meant that only an interdisciplinary approach, would 'smash' the smug certainties of disciplinary knowledge.

Providing masses of exceptions to the rule to overwhelm any kind of general theory is politically astute. A certain 'jouissance' is in play that exposes the logocentrism of academic closure. But there is more to it in Peter Ucko's case. His long and very detailed article on Freud's collection of antiquities ends on the familiar theme of finding patterns of 'unsense' in the collecting of unprovenanced artefacts; there was no 'royal road' to the unconscious through collecting mania. Instead there is the compulsion to recognise difference as deferral; collecting may be motivated by a compulsion to be complete, but like the economy determining in the last instance, that time never arrives. There are only more questions to ask and more futures to be anticipated. It's a worthwhile legacy.

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Appreciation by
Gustavo G. Politis

Peter Ucko image
Peter Ucko with Victoria Pedrotta and Facundo Gomez Romero during the visit of the site Fortin Miñaña, close to Olavarría, Argentina, 1999.

In June this year Peter Ucko passed away. He was one of the most influential scholars in the archaeology of South America during recent decades. He was a critical archaeologist long before this theoretical current arrived into archaeology, and he was profoundly engaged both with the defense of indigenous rights and with the democratisation of knowledge. The footprint Peter left was beyond theory, concepts and methods; his mark is embedded in the ethical and political dimension of archaeology, in a more equal way of doing science. His struggle to make the construction of knowledge about past and present societies more symmetrical, pluralist and multivocal was constant and undoubtedly one of the main motivations in his life.

His close relationship with South America started early in the long and complex preparations for the Second World Archaeological Congress which, after several changes, eventually took place in Venezuela in 1990.

Since then he sustained contact with many South American archaeologists who often visited him, first in Southampton and lately in London. Some of them also stayed at his home where he and Jane Hubert, Peter's partner and wise counselor, always provided a friendly and warm shelter for long-distance visitors. Peter constantly promoted the dissemination of research by Third World archaeologists and many articles written by South American scholars were published, under his superb editorial work in the One World Archaeology series.

Although Peter and Jane had been in South America many times, the most notable occasion took place in 1999 when they both came to Argentina to teach. Peter gave a postgraduate course in the Universidad Nacional de La Plata and several lectures in the Universidad Nacional del Centro de la provincia de Buenos Aires in Olavarría. All the students who took the course and attended the lectures remain impressed by the stimulus and motivation he provoked in the audience, and by his unbeatable ability to argue and discuss, even on themes that were new for him or far from his main interests. He was a brilliant teacher and a constant source of provocative ideas. His course significantly changed the way the students thought about the past and carried out their research. Most of them still gratefully remember comments or guidance Peter provided in those hectic days.

Much could be said about Peter and his legacy, about the man and the professor, but probably the fairest and simplest is that he was a very good person, who was fully engaged with archaeology and with people, and that he struggled with passion and energy to defend his ideas until the very end of his life. He is irreplaceable person. In this part of the world we will miss him a lot.

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Appreciation by
Arkadiusz Marciniak

Remembering Peter

I first met Peter Ucko at Southampton bus station on a rainy October day in 1989. I had come to the UK for a short fellowship visit, taking the first available opportunity to do so following the collapse of communist rule in Central Europe and the fall of the Iron Curtain. The very circumstances of this trip to Southampton defined the way we met in years to come. Despite having never spoken to him before I called him; I wanted to talk to the man well known in my country as a controversial figure in world archaeology in the post-1986 conference era. After two minutes or so of the phone conversation, he said 'Why don't you come down here?' and after a few seconds thought I replied 'why not?' And this is how the story begins.

This first encounter marked and stigmatised the following eighteen years. I shared with Peter my then quickly developing conviction that virtually nothing is impossible to achieve, irrespective how difficult it may appear; and the more complex and impossible seeming the better. For example he invited me to teach a graduate course at UCL and, considering and I was unable to be in London for a consecutive three months or so, he immediately suggested flying me over once a week. I did it and it worked perfectly fine, we were both very satisfied. Or asking me a couple of weeks in advance if I could make it to the London meeting on August 2. The list goes on.

I had the honour and pleasure of getting to know Peter and ultimately it was my privilege to become his friend. My memories are of both fun and challenging experiences, all of which have greatly enriched my life. I enjoyed immensely countless conversations over a bottle of fizzy wine; a drink which in fact I had never liked before. His warmth, wit, energy, passion for archaeology or, more precicely, archaeologies, were always much in evidence and I always enjoyed seeing the twinkle to his eye as he tried to provoke me.

Peter never sought to shepherd a flock of all-believing, uncritical followers and in return, unequivocally help them out. We disagreed on a number of issues and he certainly would not have taken the same academic path as I eventually did. Our professional interests differed, often considerably. His fascination with ancient Egypt contrasted with my Neolithic endeavours, his figurine studies with my faunal investigations, his deep affection for Aboriginal studies with my interest in the history of archaeological thought in Central Europe, and sometimes he tried to push me gently in a direction I was not comfortable with. Considering all these, if he had lost interest in maintaining contact with me, I would have easily understood. However all these differences did not change his attitude to me at all and I was always aware of and very much appreciated this. His trust in me was incredibly gratifying and I did my best to earn that trust. Moreover, his help continued; he was always truly interested in what I had been doing since we had last met and wanted to know what plans for the future I had. We had common plans for the coming years as well, which should have been discussed roughly at the time that this piece will appear in print. They will never be materialised, as they cannot be realised without you Peter, ...quite.

The last dinner I had the pleasure to have with him and Jane was, surprisingly, the first occasion we spent with my entire family there; I and my family were on holiday in London. He took us to a restaurant, the main attraction of which was the chance for children to throw and break the plates. My daughters were pretty scared hearing about it and they reluctantly started to play the game on Peter's insistence. When they evenually enjoyed it, he regarded them with genuine satisfaction and affection. I did not have the good fortune to see Peter during my visit to the UK in early May this year. He was in hospital and did not feel well enough. But I promised to come again in August.

In January 2006, two weeks after the London conference at which Peter was presented with a festschrift I was, yet again, a guest in his London flat. As a contributor to the special book I was due to recieve a complimentary copy from the publisher a couple of weeks later. However, to my surprise Peter insisted on handing one of his own copies over to me and there was no way to stop him. I was astonished to see what he wrote as a dedication: 'to remember so many experiences together that I cannot remember the details of all of them! You have made the past years very memorable...' I was certainly pleased to have these very special words written to me but at the same time I felt we had so many more common experiences in front of us, some of them quite concrete and specific, that these words sounding like a farewell were said far too early. But as I see now Peter was right again; we managed to add only two more encounters to these many experiences and now I am the only now who will try remember the details of all of them. I will cherish these memories and still cannot come to terms with the awareness that no new ones will be added. I will miss you greatly Peter...

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Appreciation by
Shadreck Chirikure

Remembering Peter Ucko

I had read about Peter Ucko, particularly his seminal views on indigenous archaeology and representations of the past. For instance, why was it that black Zimbabweans appeared uninterested in visiting museums? That was a fact and indeed museum visitorship was very low. I was probably sixteen or seventeen when Peter made those observations in 1994. From my reading as an Honours Student in 2000, the solution which a genius and inspired visionary called Peter Ucko came up with was simple but effective. Peter proposed the establishment of culture houses which were more interactive and dynamic when compared to conventional museums with their trademark glass case displays. When established, these culture houses proved to be very popular and the idea is still very much alive. I later learnt that the same Peter Ucko had championed indigenous views of the past in Australasia. I had embraced his ideas, but I had never imagined what the man looked like.

It was only in September of 2001 when I enrolled for a Master in Artefact Studies Degree at the Institute in London when I finally met him. This encounter with Peter completely changed my whole orientation in life - indeed, it changed me for the better. Later and with his support, I enrolled for a PhD in African Archaeology at the Institute which by now had established itself as an unrivalled centre of world archaeology. Once in a while we would have dinner at his favourite Chinese restaurant or watch his beloved Arsenal play at Highbury. During this time, I quickly learnt the things that Peter liked and things which he disliked. He was always there to support people and help to realise their dreams. Indeed, as I later discovered, a whole generation or so of scholars was inspired by him.

Through his active support we established the African Peoples and Pasts Seminar Series at the Institute. It is therefore not surprising that I came to religiously believe in the values which Peter represented. I remember knocking on his office door without an appointment, the object of my visit being a conference presentation which I was supposed to make at the Wenner Gren Foundation in New York. Peter had been away but I needed his views. After a strong warning not to interrupt him again, he shared with me his experiences with WAC and his vision for a world archaeology free from the exploitation of indigenous peoples and host communities. The ideas I drew from his wealth of experience were invaluable. Despite my inexperience, I managed to make a strong case at the conference.

After completing my PhD in late 2005, I moved to Cape Town with Peters' enthusiastic support. I feel very sad that my "inspiration" is no more but somehow I feel encouraged by his powerful ideas. It is very rare in life that a person influences people's lives and a discipline in a magnitude achieved by Peter Ucko. He actively and enthusiastically groomed young scholars; supported senior ones and offered an atmosphere conducive to productivity to those who shared similar ideals with him. Peter Ucko has done his part, his ideas are very much alive and they will certainly outlive him. Let's comfort Jane in this difficult time and take over from where Peter left!