Magazine article Geographical

David Price Williams Worked as an Archaeologist in the near East, Southern Africa and India before Setting Up Temple World Travel, a Company That Offers Field-Trip-Style Holidays to Locations of Historical and Geographical Interest. Ananyo Bhattacharya Speaks to Him about the Company's Origins and How He Became Involved in the Search for Santa Claus

Magazine article Geographical

David Price Williams Worked as an Archaeologist in the near East, Southern Africa and India before Setting Up Temple World Travel, a Company That Offers Field-Trip-Style Holidays to Locations of Historical and Geographical Interest. Ananyo Bhattacharya Speaks to Him about the Company's Origins and How He Became Involved in the Search for Santa Claus

Article excerpt

What first drew you to the Near East and Africa?

My first degree is in ancient Near Eastern languages, so I was familiar with the area by proxy. I was especially interested in the Hellenistic world of the Near East after Alexander. When visiting Knidos I had an enormous revelation. The city wasn't just an academic puzzle Real people had once lived there--you can walk up their streets and into their houses and sail into their harbours. Africa entered my life later; we'd been working on the Pleistocene palaeoenvironment in Gaza and I felt we needed a bigger canvas, in terms of time and events* But I didn't consider Africa until I married someone who'd been brought up there. I was bitten by the place on the first night I arrived to visit my in-laws and it has stayed in my blood every since. I gradually began to unlock its mysteries and, with it, I found the key to our own farthest history. We came from Africa; Africa has made us and shaped us. This tropical savannah is the land of our beginning.

How did you become involved in organising tours?

It was the result of directing overseas fieldwork in the Middle East. I wanted to see more sites and this was a way of doing it: by taking people there and giving them an in-depth understanding of the sites. My own teaching at the University of London was also enhanced by seeing the sites and photographing them. It's virtually impossible to understand an archaeological site unless you've experienced its geographical setting. As the tours we ran became more varied and more numerous, I was both directing overseas research in southern Africa and leading tours in the eastern Mediterranean. I founded Temple World in 1984 because we needed a structure and an administrative base in the UK.

How much does your academic work bring to the tours and the company?

A huge amount. We recently completed some field research in Turkey on how Iron Age populations changed the landscape of southwestern Turkey. We take people to sites no-one else even knows about. It's very exciting for the travellers, and very cathartic. Likewise, on some of our African tours we get to see the sites and handle the specimens that have defined our earliest background. We hear the latest news from the academics who are at the forefront of the subject. These are contacts I have from my fieldwork days.

How does Temple World minimise the effects of its tours on the environment? …

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