OBITUARY: GRAHAM RITCHIE ; Surveyor of Scotland's Ancient Monuments

By Breeze, David J. | The Independent (London, England), June 14, 2005 | Go to article overview
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OBITUARY: GRAHAM RITCHIE ; Surveyor of Scotland's Ancient Monuments


Breeze, David J., The Independent (London, England)


The archaeologist Graham Ritchie was one of those rare specialists, equally at home in preparing articles for learned journals and writing books for lay audiences, at undertaking field survey and excavation and interpreting his results in the lecture theatre and on the study tour. His fieldwork and research ranged across the length of Scotland both geographically and chronologically, and resulted in over a hundred publications, several in conjunction with his wife, Anna.

Born in Edinburgh in 1942 and educated at Daniel Stewart's College and Arbroath High School, where his father, W.F. Ritchie, was Principal Teacher of Classics and latterly Depute Headmaster, Graham Ritchie entered Edinburgh University with the intention of reading English. However, attracted by the teaching of Stuart Piggott, he transferred to Prehistoric Archaeology. Graduating in 1964, he commenced research on Celtic defensive weapons, gaining his PhD in 1968; he was later to write, with his father, the book Celtic Warriors (1985), in the Shire Series.

In 1965 Ritchie joined the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland as a Field Investigator in order to help with the surveys of Lanarkshire and Argyll. An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Lanarkshire was published in 1978, but Ritchie was to spend over 20 years in Argyll, operating as a member of a team recording prehistoric monuments published in seven volumes between 1971 and 1992 (Argyll: an inventory of the monuments). Not only was survey undertaken, but also small-scale excavations intended to elucidate the history of specific sites.

Ritchie concentrated on prehistoric burial cairns and his investigations and reports are models of their type. Moreover, his interests ranged further than burial monuments and he studied and wrote about Roman artefacts on native sites in Argyll. His labours not only contributed to the success of these authoritative inventories, but also to an edited volume in 1997, The Archaeology of Argyll, drawing together the results of research in the county.

In 1977 a team of field surveyors was appointed to the commission with the intention of undertaking rapid surveys leading to the publication of simple lists of sites. Revolutionary, the team reported on all field monuments from early prehistory to the 19th century. Ritchie established the framework for the project and insisted on prompt publication: five lists were produced in the first season.

This experience was of value when Ritchie, in 1989, was given responsibility for developing another initiative, the Afforestable Land Survey. The aim, in the face of a new approach to forestry and archaeology, was to record areas likely to be at risk from tree planting. The survey techniques, often developed in remote areas of Scotland, were of great value to the Royal Commission as it moved into a new age of recording.

In 1991 Ritchie was appointed Depute Curator of the National Monuments Record of Scotland.

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