Berkeley - John Desmond Clark, the dean of African archaeology and
a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California,
Berkeley, died Thursday, Feb. 14, from pneumonia at a convalescent hospital
in Oakland, Calif.
Clark, 85, had been in generally good health and had just returned
to his home in Oakland after a trip to England.
"Clark was legendary," said paleontologist Tim White, UC Berkeley
professor of integrative biology and a longtime colleague. "He towered
above anybody else in African archaeology with his breadth and depth
of knowledge about the rise and development of prehistoric culture.
His death leaves an enormous void."
"He's a monument to the field of archaeology," said Clark Howell,
UC Berkeley professor emeritus of anthropology, who first met Clark
in 1954. "There is hardly anywhere that he didn't touch with his archaeological
capability and interest."
Howell called him a "world-experienced prehistorian. He left behind
a new set of scientific footsteps."
Clark specialized in the study of stone tools, and brought archaeology
to many sites in Africa, as well as in India and China. More than any
other scholar of his generation, he developed African archaeology from
the examination of ancient artifacts into the study of how our ancestors
lived and thought.
He conducted much of his field work during the 24 years he served
as director of the National Museum in Zambia, and continued work in
Africa after coming to UC Berkeley in 1961.
"His lifelong quest was to elucidate the very beginnings of human
culture and technology and its development through time in Africa, and
he was not only an expert in the oldest stone tools, but he knew the
Iron Age and the Late Stone Age and which colleague was digging at what
cave, and where it was and how old it was. The knowledge and understanding
this one man had of African archaeology will never be surpassed," White
Though he retired in 1986, Clark continued to work until his death.
He was co-leader for 20 years with White and Ethiopian archaeologists
of a major research project at prehistoric sites in the Middle Awash
Valley in the Horn of Africa. These sites have produced major hominid
finds from as long ago as 6 million years.
"The combined record that's come out of the Middle Awash, and will
continue to come out of the Middle Awash, is - in the fossil realm -
his greatest contribution, because he really started that work," White
said. " While I and our Ethiopian colleagues dug up the hominids and
other fossils, Desmond excavated the stone tools."
One of the team's most important contributions was the 1996 discovery
of the worlds earliest large mammal butchery in Ethiopia, published
in 1999 in the journal Science.
Just last year, Clark published his third major monograph on a prehistoric
site in Zambia known as Kalambo Falls, and he was working on a major
monograph on another African site. His extensive collections of fossils
and tools remains a major part of the teaching and research collections
in UC Berkeley's Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies.
Clark was born in London on April 10, 1916, and attended Christ's
College at Cambridge University, where he first became interested in
archaeology. With a B.A. in hand but few professional jobs available
in the field, he accepted an offer to become secretary of the newly-formed
Rhodes-Livingstone Institute in Northern Rhodesia, and the post of curator
of the David Livingstone Memorial Museum. Arriving in what is now Zambia
in 1938, he ended up staying 24 years.
At the time, there were only a handful of archaeologists on the entire
African continent, but Clark began interacting with all of them, eventually
getting involved in organizing the yearly Pan-African Congress on Prehistory.
He explored numerous sites around the continent, including the Congo
Basin, the Central African Rift Valley, the Sahara, the Nile Valley,
Angola, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, and wrote extensively on new
finds. He returned briefly to Cambridge to obtain an MA in 1940, a PhD
in 1950 and an ScD in 1974.
Since he and his wife Betty first met at Cambridge, she has been his
constant companion, accompanying him on digs, organizing the camps and
seeing after the people, said longtime friend Elizabeth Colson, professor
emeritus of anthropology at UC Berkeley. Betty Clark provided most of
the drawings of stone implements for his papers, translated for him,
served as secretary of the museum in Livingstone and, when her husband
was away during World War II, ran the place.
Upon leaving his directorship of the museum, Desmond Clark was named
a Companion of the Order of the British Empire.
At UC Berkeley, he worked with several colleagues to build a research
and graduate student training program that became the country's foremost
center for the study of human origins and African archaeology.
In 1991, he lead a team that convinced China to open its doors to
foreign archaeologists for the first time in 40 years, and obtained
the first permit to dig for fossils in the Nihewan Basin near Beijing.
"One of his most important contributions was his very early recognition
that we have to involve Africans in their own archaeology," White said.
"Beginning in the 1960s, he trained people from many African countries
who now are museum directors and scientists who carry on this work."
He published over 18 books on archaeology and paleoanthropology in
Africa and other countries, as well as over 300 papers in journals and
collected works. Many of these seminal works brought specific new information
to the field and at the same time provided an overview of the current
state of knowledge of a particular region.
Perhaps his best known works were The Prehistory of Africa (1970)
and The Atlas of African Prehistory, reference collections still used
in classes today.
"He literally wrote the book on African prehistory," White said.
Clark became a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences
in 1986 and a full member in 1993, when he became an American citizen.
He also was a fellow of the British Academy, the American Academy of
Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of South Africa, and a member or
fellow of more than 15 other learned societies.
Among his many awards was the Huxley Medal by the Royal Anthropological
Institute, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation's 1996 Prize for Multidisciplinary
Research on Ape and Human Evolution, and honorary degrees from the University
of Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town.
Clark was a longtime member of the scientific executive committee
of the Leakey Foundation and had a commitment to that institution that
spanned a number of decades.
"Even though his eyesight failed in his last year, he reviewed grant
proposals and was always there to discuss new students' research applications,"
said Alan Almquist, PhD, grants and program officer for the foundation.
Clark is survived by his wife of 64 years, Betty Baume Clark; a daughter,
Elizabeth Winterbottom of New South Wales, Australia; a son, John Clark
of Kent, England; a sister, Moira Coulson of England; and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 27 on campus
in the Great Hall at the Faculty Club.