Obituary: John Lloyd

Article excerpt

CLASSICAL ARCHAEOLOGY has traditionally been dominated by the study of the lives of the rich and powerful - great cities, great monuments, great art. Yet one of the great strengths of archaeology is that it is also extremely good at revealing the lives of ordinary people: only the elite built villas and wrote documents, but everybody from emperor to slave created archaeology, in the sense of leaving bits and pieces of rubbish for the modern archaeologist to recover.

In recent decades British classical archaeologists have played a leading role in showing how skilful fieldwork and painstaking analysis of the humdrum material culture of ordinary peoples' lives can write an entirely new archaeological history of what the ancient world was like far from the shadow of the Colosseum. John Lloyd was pre-eminent in this group.

Whilst he was studying English as an undergraduate at Manchester in the Sixties, he started working as a student volunteer on the excavations of Professor Barri Jones, Professor of Archaeology there, and became one of the band of young archaeologists now in very senior positions who learned field skills of the highest quality in the Manchester school. After graduation Lloyd embarked on a publishing career with Cambridge University Press, but he continued excavating in his spare time, including spending a few months at new rescue excavations that had started at Benghazi in Libya in 1971. Clearance for development of a Turkish Ottoman cemetery there in the suburb of Sidi Khrebish was destroying extensive remains of the Greek and Roman city of Berenice. At the invitation of the Libyan Department of Antiquities, the Society for Libyan Studies, an academic society in Britain founded in 1969 at the time of the Libyan Revolution to maintain existing strong links with Libyan scholars (many senior Libyan archaeologists trained in Britain), had mounted an emergency operation to try to salvage the archaeology. In November 1972, at the age of 24, Lloyd was asked by the Society to take over the excavations as its Field Director. He spent the greater part of the next three years in Benghazi, completing a major excavation at Sidi Khrebish, overseeing a small army of workmen and specialists almost all his own age or older. The excavation generated enormous quantities of data, the study of which he also co-ordinated with immense commitment and patience, editing a series of five major volumes (Excavations at Sidi Khrebish) published by the Society for Libyan Studies over the next 20 years on every aspect of life in the ancient city over almost a thousand years, from the third century BC to the coming of Islam, an "archaeological history" of a Mediterranean city that has probably only been rivalled by the work of the several international teams of excavators at Carthage in Tunisia. Lloyd's research interests expanded into Italy when in 1976 he joined a team of archaeologists, historians and geographers studying the long- term landscape history of the Biferno valley, on the Adriatic side of the peninsula east of Rome. The main archaeological component was a field- walking programme: teams of archaeologists searched every ploughed field down the length of the valley, mapping the spreads of potsherds and other archaeological debris in the ploughsoil that were the vestiges of ancient settlements. In the classical period the Biferno valley was within the homeland of the Samnites, the warrior nation that was the main obstacle to Rome's expansion in the Italian peninsula. Lloyd studied the abundant material recovered by the project for the Samnite period (from about 500BC to the Roman conquest of the valley in 80BC) and Roman period (80BC-AD600). After the survey finished in 1978, he spent the next few seasons excavating one of the classical sites found in the valley, at Matrice, the first excavation in the region of an ordinary classical farmstead. In the final report on the Biferno valley work he integrated his studies of the survey data with the results of his Matrice excavations and excavations by Italian colleagues. …