Chris Tilley 
(11 September 1955 - 10 March 2024)

Chris was very proud of the contribution his work made to creating a new intellectual synthesis between anthropology and archaeology. His first position at UCL was as a joint post in Archaeology and Anthropology. There he founded a joint undergraduate degree that is now the most successful Undergraduate degree in Archaeology at UCL.  

His approach to Material Culture was to treat it as an intellectual synthesis that whilst originating in the intellectual history of Anthropology / Archaeology, it was not subsumed by them. Instead, as a joint founder of the Journal of Material Culture, he emphasised the undisciplined value of Material Culture that would by virtue of its very materiality escape the constraints of any particular disciplinary history and have much wider philosophical impact. 

His own particular approach was to pursue this through developing the idea of landscape; his book A Phenomenology of Landscape is widely recognised as a major contribution to our interpretation of human experience. The study of landscape, both in archaeology and anthropology and more widely has been revolutionised by the approach he advocated in this volume. His book The Materiality of Stone is another seminal work which explores how the treatment of rocks and stone were deeply meaningful to people who inhabited and used them. It can be applied as an approach to understanding both prehistoric and contemporary material worlds.  

There was never any end to his intellectual drive and desire to pursue new approaches to the understanding of material culture as a unifying philosophy. My last visit to him in hospital ended with him asking me to get some books from the UCL library which I dutifully had waiting to take down to him.  It is with great sorrow that whilst what we talked about may not be realised, we can take some solace in the contributions and human inspiration that Chris and his work has contributed to so many. 

Michael Rowlands

Mike Rowlands informed me last night of the sad news that Chris Tilley had died after long illness; what a terrible loss for archaeology, as well as for his family. I agree with what Mike wrote; he still had much to give. However, let us remember all that he gave to archaeology.

He was the great theoretical renewer and interpreter who never stood still and who moved from structural Marxism to phenomenology—a nearly impossible journey! He was a restless intellectual who always came up with something new and interesting. He was not bothered by theoretical contradictions. Instead, he explored them, as shown by his collaboration with Michael Shanks which resulted in the Black and the Red books.

I remember inspired discussions with him in our younger days at the Humanities Centre. In the late 1980s he residedin Copenhagen for several months at a time during which he had no job (before Lampeter and UCL). Some of us tried to point out that one could not be both be a Marxist and a postprocessualist. But it was to no avail! Truth be told, archaeology benefitted from that. His legacy will live on.

Kristian Kristiansen