ISSN 1357-4442Editor: Simon Denison

Issue no 36, July 1998


Peter Jewell

by Paul Ashbee

Peter Jewell was a life scientist, but he made a massive contribution to archaeology, most notably by inspiring the Experimental Earthwork project in the 1960s.

It was at the 1958 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science that he proposed an experimental earthwork, and the idea was accepted with alacrity. Within an interdisciplinary committee the notion of a simple ditch and bank, to be monitored at intervals over many years, emerged. In 1960, the first earthwork, constructed under his supervision, stood on Overton Down's chalk. Thereafter he edited the Basic Manual, detailing its nature and implications. A further such earthwork was set up on acid-soil heathland at Morden Bog, Dorset, in 1963.

The monitoring of the earthworks under his leadership was executed to a relentless timetable and it was shown that silting of the ditch was at first speedy and then slower. After 32 years, in 1992, the Overton Down earthwork had become grassed over and resembled the `genuine' chalkland barrows we see today.

Peter Jewell was entertaining and spontaneous. A day in his company equalled in value a month with many. His contributions regarding bones from chalkland excavations are memorable, original and valuable, because of his ceaseless work on sheep and small creatures. His particular interest was the efficiency of antler picks, shoulder-blade shovels and carrying baskets; but he was critical of extravagent extrapolations from the evidence. The discipline of archaeozoology was largely his creation, and most of his distinguished zoological publications are applicable to archaeology.

Peter Arundel Jewell: born 16 June 1925; educated Wandsworth School, Reading and Cambridge Universities (Agriculture and Physiology); Lecturer Royal Veterinary College, 1950-60; Research Fellow, Zoological Society, London, 1960-66; Director of Biological Sciences, University of Biafra, 1966-67; Director, Conservation Course, UCL, 1967-72; Professor of Zoology, Royal Holloway College, London, 1972-77; Professor of Animal Reproduction and Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, 1977-90; married 1958 Juliet Clutton-Brock; died 23 May 1998.

Paul Ashbee, an authority on barrows, was involved in the experimental earthwork project

Return to the British Archaeology homepage

Return to the CBA homepage

© Council for British Archaeology, 1998