Grahame Clark bigraphy, stories - Archaeologists

Grahame Clark : biography

28 July 1907 - 12 September 1995

Sir John Grahame Douglas Clark, CBE FBA (28 July 1907–12 September 1995) was a British archaeologist most notable for his work on the Mesolithic and his theories on palaeoeconomy.


Clark was born in Bromley (at the time part of the English county of Kent but now part of London) and educated at Marlborough and Peterhouse, Cambridge. He spent his entire working career at Peterhouse save for his work in air photo interpretation for the RAF during the Second World War. For this period, he served as a Squadron Leader.

He became a fellow of the British Academy in 1950, Disney Professor of Archaeology two years later, head of the archaeology and anthropology department in 1956 and Master of Peterhouse from 1973 until 1980. The college has a rowing coxed four named in his honour.

During his career he most famously studied the Mesolithic of northern Europe, excavating at Star Carr between 1949 and 1951, work which remains highly significant in our understanding of the period. He also wrote general works on world prehistory intended for a wide audience and encouraged archaeologists to more closely examine the economic factors relevant to past societies, characterised in his book Prehistoric Europe: the economic basis (1952).

He was also editor of the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society and its President between 1958 and 1962. He was made a CBE in 1971 and knighted in 1992. He was awarded the Erasmus Prize for Prehistory in 1990.

Fenland Research Committee

In 1932 Clark founded the Fenland Research Committee, or F.R.C. This institution was committed to the study of the fenland area, by promoting a methodology of palaeo-economy. The F.R.C., organised via Cambridge University, was instrumental in accumulating data through excavations within the Fens; this data was geological, environmental, and material, providing the means for the research team to understand the relationship between society and the environment.

Later life

Sir Grahame was knighted for his work in 1992. He was master of Peterhouse College at Cambridge University from 1973 to 1980; Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge from 1952 to 1974, and head of the department of archaeology and anthropology there from 1956 to 1961 and from 1968 to 1971.

In 1990 he received a $120,000 Dutch award, the Erasmus Prize of the Netherlands Foundation, for increasing knowledge of prehistoric Europe through "opening new methods in his field by integrating ecology, anthropology and economics in the classic study of prehistory."

The Times of London said on Thursday that Sir Grahame, an expert on the Mesolithic period, "helped to develop European archaeology away from a preoccupation with stone-tool typology and toward a broader understanding of how early societies exploited their environment."

The Mesolithic period, or Middle Stone Age, began when the last glacial period ended more than 10,000 years ago. In Europe, Mesolithic cultures lived on almost until 3,000 B.C.

Sir Grahame's books ranged from "The Mesolithic Settlement of Northern Europe" (1936) to "Aspects of Prehistory" (California, 1970), "Symbols of Excellence: Precious Materials as Expressions of Status" (Cambridge, 1986), "Economic Prehistory" (Cambridge, 1989) and "Space, Time and Man: A Prehistorian's View" (1992).

Sir Grahame Clark, an archaeologist and authority on prehistoric Europe, died on Tuesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 88.

Sir Grahame, born in the county of Kent, received a doctorate and two other degrees at Cambridge.

His wife, Lady Molly Clark, the former Gwladys Maude White died on the morning of July 3rd 2013. He is succeeded by his son, Philip, of Trumpington, and six grandchildren.

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Living octopus

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