Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Gordon Hillman: a pioneer in archaeobotany

Gordon Hillman, photographed by his daughter
It was with great sadness that the archaeobotany community learned of the passing of Gordon Hillman earlier this month. Gordon was a pioneer in archaeobotany. He was a leading expert in the identification of ancient remains, and I was lucky enough to spend time in front of the microscope with Gordon learning about cereal identifications. I still use my notes from those sessions today.

But Gordon did much more than this. He undertook extensive fieldwork in south-east Europe and south-west Asia in particular, learning about traditional farming and food production processes, and applying this knowledge to better understand archaeobotanical assemblages and transitions to agriculture. In recent years, he focused on plant foraging in prehistoric Britain, often processing and tasting plants himself to see if they were edible (he appeared to have a strong stomach), again contributing much to our understanding about plant gathering and food production. His wide-ranging experiences, expertise and knowledge meant that a conversation with Gordon often helped people to think differently and learn more deeply about our ancestors and their interactions with plants.

See here for an obituary by fellow archaeobtanist Prof. Martin Jones.

See here for an obituary by Prof. Dorian Fuller -- who became lecturer in archaeobotany at University College London when Gordon retired -- and messages from the archaeobotany community around the world. You will see from the messages that Gordon had a positive impact on many of us. We were lucky to have had Gordon in our lives.

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