John James Wymer, 1928-2006

N. Ashton


This paper examines the remarkable career of John Wymer, in particular the transition from a young, avid amateur of prehistory to an internationally renowned specialist in Palaeolithic studies. The launch into a professional world came from the discovery of the third piece of the Swanscombe skull in 1954, eventually leading to a curatorship at Reading Museum. Greater things were to come with his appointment as field officer for the University of Chicago, directing extensive excavations in South Africa and then Britain. There followed an outstanding series of books from detailed site reports and gazetteers to a global overview of the Palaeolithic. These culminated in the comprehensive survey of British Palaeolithic sites (The English Rivers Palaeolithic Survey) funded by English Heritage during the 1990s. ‘Retirement’ merely led to more fieldwork and new discoveries, none more astonishing than the finding of artefacts in the Cromer Forest-bed at Pakefield. He was co-author of the paper on this discovery published in Nature in 2005, a short time before his death.

Full reference: Ashton, N. 2009. John James Wymer, 1928–2006. In R. Hosfield, F. Wenban-Smith & M. Pope (eds.) Great Prehistorians: 150 Years of Palaeolithic Research, 1859–2009 (Special Volume 30 of Lithics: The Journal of the Lithic Studies Society): 213– 222. Lithic Studies Society, London.

Keywords: Palaeolithic, Swanscombe, Klasies River Mouth, Pakefield

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