Mark Pluciennik (11.11.1953 – 7.5.2016)

reprinted with permission from

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our former colleague and friend to many, Dr Mark Pluciennik, who passed away after a long illness on Saturday, 7 May.

Mark was born in Enfield in 1953. His early careers were as a youth worker and journalist in London, Cornwall, Yorkshire, South Wales, and elsewhere. He studied at the University of Sheffield where he completed his PhD on the later prehistoric landscape of South Italy and Sicily (1990-1994). Fellow postgraduate student, Dr Chris Cumberpatch remembers Mark as ‘one of the leading thinkers in the Department of Archaeology and Prehistory in the late 1980s and early 1990s … His clarity of thought and expression enabled him not only to enter into and often lead debates but also to render complex issues accessible to those where were less familiar with the concepts involved.’  Mary Ann Owoc, who studied with Mark throughtout his undergraduate and postgraduate studies remembers Mark’s combination of an ‘incredibly serious approach to archaeology, politics, and life with a lighthearted, contagious sense of humor, excellent taste, and the highest standards in literature.’  Mark was a Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome (1992-1993). He threw himself into the intellectual life of this city, combining his own research with explorations of Baroque architecture and sculpture and the architectural legacy of fascism, as well as visits to rural churches in his far-from-pristine Lada car.

Mark was appointed as a lecturer the Department of Archaeology at the University of Wales, Lampeter, in 1996 and joined the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester in 2003, as Director of Distance Learning and Lecturer in Archaeology. Under Mark’s leadership the scope of the Distance Learning programme expanded rapidly, both in terms of the provision and student numbers, and the BA Archaeology degree came to fruition. Mark had a very hands-on approach as director of Distance Learning, making sure he got to know the student cohort, who found his positivity and commitment inspiring. His best efforts were devoted to making sure that things worked out for them, whatever their ambitions; and that the institution valued them appropriately.  Years after he retired, many remember their encounters with him as highly motivating, sometimes life changing. His colleagues in the Distance Learning team also knew that he was more than prepared to put his head above the parapet when necessary, whether in defence of good policy and practice or in support of individual staff.  Mark also made a major contribution to archaeology distance learning pedagogy and innovation nationally through his membership of the editorial board of Research in Archaeological Education and the Standing Committee on Archaeology and Continuing Education. He was in regular demand as a speaker at national and international conferences on e-learning developments as well as for his research. The School owes him an immense debt for his strong commitment to distance learning and widening participation in archaeology and his energy and persistence in making sure things happened.

Mark’s research interests were wide-ranging, particularly on the European scale. These include the transition to farming in Europe, including the genetic dimensions; Mediterranean landscapes; archaeological theory and philosophy including politics and ethics; the European dimension to contemporary archaeology; the historiography of social evolution especially in relation to hunter-gatherer societies, the subject of his internationally acclaimed 2005 book Social Evolution; and pedagogy and archaeology. As well as being a renowned archaeological theoretician Mark was committed to fieldwork, particularly in Sicily. Notably, he co-directed The Archaeology of the Torcicoda Valley, a British Academy-funded field and excavation project in the area of Enna, central Sicily, which identified sites from the Neolithic to post-medieval period. This multi-period survey includes post-unification mills and their associated buildings; agricultural and pastoral landscapes and those of recent land reform, in conjunction with archival and ethnohistoric work. Mark also worked with Richard Hodges' on the archaeology in Albania after Kosovo.

In retirement and in keeping with his political perspectives, Mark joined the Green Party and in spite of his increasing ill health acted as a party agent in the 2015 elections. His love of good food, and concern for the lack of a readily available source of good quality sausages also led him, after retirement, into the world of dry-cured meat and sausage manufacture, providing many of his friends and colleagues with his delicious and diverse range of salamis.

Mark has left an important legacy of ‘energetic kindness’ that we hope will long remain with us. Above all, he was someone who ‘gave a damn’ and made a difference. Our thoughts remain with his partner, Sarah Tarlow, and their children, Adam, Gregory and Rachel.

Written by the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, and former fellow students from the University of Sheffield.

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Alan Saville (31.12.1946 – 19.6.2016)

The archaeologist, Alan Saville, Senior Curator in the Scottish History and Archaeology Department, National Museums Scotland, until his retirement, and a successful Editor of the European Journal of Archaeology for six years from 2005, died in his adopted city of Edinburgh in late June at the age of 69, following a long illness. He was an internationally respected authority on prehistoric lithic artefacts and the earliest prehistory of Scotland.

Originally from London, Alan graduated from Birmingham University in 1968. By 1972, he was employed as a Research Assistant for the Ancient Monuments Inspectorate, Department of the Environment. Based in a soulless London office block, Alan single-handedly carried out the analysis of the huge flint assemblage (weighing some 6 tonnes and comprising nearly half a million individual pieces) from two shafts within the Neolithic flint mining complex at Grimes Graves, Norfolk, an achievement typical of his thoroughness and resolve.

Alan subsequently directed rescue excavations on Neolithic and later sites in SW England, where his long-term involvement underscored a burgeoning passion for the archaeology of that region. This is apparent both from his many field projects, but also from the leading role he played in developing archaeology at Cheltenham Museum. In some ways the glory days of rescue archaeology in England, those were also often cash-strapped times for committed individuals such as Alan. 

The meticulous total excavation (1979 to 1982) of the chambered long cairn at Hazleton North was his major project in the South-West. The details of the cairn construction and the skeletal remains have continued to make this site - and its report - of outstanding importance for the study of Neolithic chambered tombs.

In 1989, Alan moved to Edinburgh to join the Archaeology Department, National Museums of Scotland, initially as Head of an innovative new venture, the Artefact Research Unit. He oversaw its move to excellent new premises but the ARU did not survive the re-organisation of the department within the new museum established in 2000. From 1995 until 2008, he also served as administrative Head of the Treasure Trove Advisory Panel for Scotland, where he oversaw the establishment of a full-time team to deal with the growing demands resulting from increasing numbers of reported finds of portable antiquities. Alan masterminded the first Code of Practice for the operation of the Treasure Trove system. Several other publications, including a succinct chapter dealing with the divergent systems across the UK for dealing with portable antiquities, highlighted the differences, legal and otherwise, in Scottish practices.

Alan also researched Scottish early prehistoric artefacts. Lithic studies continued to remain central to his interests and he published to his exacting standards many discoveries reported through the Scottish Treasure Trove process. He also contributed specialist reports on nationally important lithic assemblages from Neolithic sites such as Carn Brea (Cornwall) and Hambledon Hill (Dorset).

Alan’s last major field project was the investigation of later Neolithic extraction pits cut into the Buchan Ridge flint gravels in North-East Scotland. Sadly, he was struck down by illness while in the process of preparing the final report but a series of articles provides key insights into the nature and operation of this significant mining complex and its associated flint-working techniques.

Alan also played a major part in bringing into focus for the first time Upper Palaeolithic material from Scotland, notably from Howburn in Lanarkshire. Working with Torben Ballin, he firmly established the existence of a Scottish late Upper Palaeolithic period and defined its associated lithic industries within their NW European context - ground-breaking research which has extended the earliest human settlement of Scotland by some five thousand years. 

Over the course of his career, Alan gave his time to many organisations and societies, in particular the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland of which he was latterly President and in whose Proceedings a full appreciation will appear (see Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 145 (2015), 1-12).  A committed European, Alan’s international interests are reflected in his work for the EAA. As editor of the European Journal of Archaeology, he sat on the Executive Board, worked with the Editorial Board and did much to secure EJA’s status as one of the principal archaeological journals with a Europe-wide reach. Alan and his wife Annette often combined holidays with attendance at the annual Conference. 

The best-dressed male archaeologist of his generation in Scotland, Alan Saville was a prolific scholar, a gentleman and a friend to many. He did a great deal for our discipline in his quiet, understated but hugely effective way. He shall be greatly missed.

Ian Ralston & Trevor Cowie

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