Tributes to
J. Desmond Clark


Although I was more or less familiar with his published work, and knew him by reputation, I only came to know Desmond personally in 1988, as a consequence of an award Iíd received that allowed me to invite prominent archaeologists to the ASU campus for week-long visits. These visits involved formal and informal talks, various social events, and the opportunity - if the visitor wished - to interact with graduate students. Of the 6-7 people I was able to invite, Desmond was by far the biggest hit. He established an instant rapport with the students, took part in an impromptu knapping session on the patio in front of the Anthropology Building that lasted for an entire afternoon, gave wonderful presentations to packed audiences, and generally came across as a terrific guy.

Since I was to introduce him at most of these events, I tried to find out a little about his background. I asked him how he got involved in African archaeology. He told me that he was in the British Army in East Africa at the outbreak of WW2, and was involved in fighting the Italians in the Horn, which they had held since 1936. The British offensive began in November, 1940, and by the end of January, 1941, the Brits had essentially bottled up the Italians in a small mountainous area in the northern highlands, so Desmond basically had nothing to do for the rest of the war. He got involved in the local archaeology, which was long on the paleolithic, initiating what was to become a life-long interest.

Desmond was also instrumental in arranging for the establishment of a breeding colony of Arabian oryx, which eventually came to reside at the Phoenix Zoo (and is now the largest breeding colony of these animals - extinct or endangered in their homelands - in the world). We spent a pleasant afternoon visiting them on their large natural tract at the zoo. They are now being repatriated to their homelands to re-establish native populations - something Desmond, with his concern for the conservation of endangered species, must have found extremely gratifying.

I have many other pleasant memories of Desmondís visit, including a wonderful dinner at La ChaumiËre, an excellent French restaurant in Scottsdale, where Desmond entertained a party of c. 12 students and faculty with his adventures in African archaeology. I came to introduce him as "Desmond Clark - the man who has done it all" - a fascinating life in paleoanthropology that the rest of us can only envy.

Desmond was a towering figure in the field, and the very embodiment of African paleolithic archaeology. It is difficult to imagine that anyone will every rival him in this respect. I would like to extend my condolences to Betty for her great loss. We will all miss him.

- Geoffrey A. Clark, Arizona State University