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2009 - 2010

Past Master for

2009

The late Dr. Geoff Egan FSA (1951-2010)

Geoff Egan was a specialist in Medieval and Post Medieval archaeology, a material finds expert with a profound and practical knowledge of the medieval and later archaeology of London and north-west Europe. In October 2010 he gave the Company of Arts Scholars, Dealers and Collectors' annual lecture, Treasures from the Thames, drawing on his encylopaedic knowledge of finds from the London rivers.

His experience in directing excavations (notably medieval and later) at Thames-side sites, resulted in the publication of Medieval Finds From Excavations in London (7 vols 1987-98), and his abiding interest in medieval and later material culture, particularly metalwork, resulted in over 100 articles.

He lectured at Medieval-Europe conferences, the Kalamazoo Medieval Congress (Michigan), in New England for the US Society for Historical Archaeology, and in the West Indies among other locations for the Society for Post Medieval Archaeology, of which he served as President. Publications for the Museum of London covered glass-working, religious-house and Shakespeare-playhouse assemblages.

In 2010 he joined the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum as National Advisor for post-1050 finds, with responsibility for screening some potential Treasure items. From 1996 he was a consultant on finds at Jamestown, Virginia (first permanent English settlement in America), taught for the Victoria & Albert Museum/Royal College of Decorative Arts and Cambridge University, and acted as examiner for higher degrees for several universities, including Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and Turku (Finland).

Geoff was born in North-West London, where lived all his life. During his secondary education at the academic hothouse of Harrow County School (for several years the school got more pupils to Oxbridge than any other in the country) the emphasis was on classics. ‘Advanced classics’ and Russian were extras instead of games.

At Cambridge he started by reading classics but switched to archaeology, moving closer towards the field to which he had been heading since childhood. Having secured an archaeological job at the Museum of London in 1976, he undertook a year’s course in practical fieldwork in 1977/8 based at Oxford University.

It was a schoolboy fascination inspired by a display in a local library and subsequently fostered by finds in the 16th/17th-century dyers’ area of the Thames in the City of London that led to part-time PhD on lead trade seals for medieval and later cloths at University College London. A secondment to the British Museum resulted in a catalogue of its cloth seals.

Among many interesting diversions from his eventual career was a period as gardener, dumper driver and lawn mower at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. His stint there between school and college included work in the quarantine and experimental greenhouses. His hitherto unrecorded contribution to the furtherance of science came when he accidentally knocked the one-and-only bud from the stem of a tradescantia with unique symmetry, recently collected in South America. The imminent flowering of this rarity was eagerly awaited but Geoff saved it by pushing the bud into the soil, where it thrived (apparently unaffected and its new position unnoticed) to the delight of the staff of the Jodrell Laboratory.

A holiday in Norway after college, walking and hitching north from Bergen ended with a job excavating medieval Trondheim - the beginning of several lasting friendships and a long-term appreciation of things Scandinavian. A journey of 100 days around the world in 49 plane flights in 1987 stemmed from a desire to visit a life-long friend working in Papua New Guinea.