Tributes to
J. Desmond Clark



It is indeed with a heavy heart that I reminisce about times spent with Desmond in China. I was extremely fortunate to enter into the Doctoral program in Anthropology at Berkeley in the mid 1980s, at a time when Desmond was just finishing his teaching career. I was able to enroll in one of his last seminars and was thus introduced to the immense knowledge he possessed of all things archaeological. My area of specialty being China and having a knack for the language, I was able to lend a hand during Prof. Jia Lanpo's visit to Berkeley to attend the series of lectures and events surrounding Desmond's "retirement" (put in quotes, since Desmond did anything but retire at that time).

Desmond and Prof Jia immediately "hit it off". Both of these legendary figures in the annals of archaeology shared in having decades of archaeological field experience, immense storehouses of knowledge, and many mutual friends and acquaintances. But even more importantly, they shared a deep and abiding commitment to scholarly exchange and mutual respect between peoples. The meeting between Desmond and Prof. Jia set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to many trips to China, including extensive site visits to localities in Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Yunnan provinces among others. The climax of his work in China was the four summer field seasons spent in the Nihewan basin, west of Beijing, where joint field excavations were conducted with Chinese colleagues of some of the earliest human material remains in all East Asia. These excavations were the first opportunity that foreign archaeologists had to work in the field in China with Chinese colleagues since the hey-day of excavations at the Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian in the 1930s. The Nihewan project could never have come to fruition if it hadn't been for the great camaraderie that Desmond and Prof. Jia were able to establish. Their concern and respect for each other were palpable and Desmond was deeply moved by Prof. Jia's recent death at age 92 in Beijing. With the loss of Prof. Jia, and now Desmond, the precedent setting Nihewan project will live on to exemplify what can be accomplished when goodwill, mutual respect and intellectual honesty and discipline reign supreme over the suspicions, recriminations and prejudices that all to often take precedence in this day and age.

My memories of traveling and working in the field in China with Desmond are as vivid as the day they took place; the many formal banquets, when Desmond would rear back and propel himself into an extended soliloquy that would perfectly capture the spirit of the moment, the many informal discussions with Chinese colleagues who were eager to share their discoveries and Desmond's sincere interest in even the most innocuous looking artifact, Desmond's resolute insistence that all research be conducted in as rigorous and forthright a manner as possible, visiting sites throughout China, working in the field in the Nihewan basin, setting up camp in the village compound at Donggutuo, the early morning walks to the site, the return to camp promptly at 5 PM for tea, the miles long treks through deeply desiccated landscapes, where Desmond's indefatigable energy would put to shame those half his age, excavating and analyzing the earliest material remains of humankind in East Asia, and in particular the collaboration between Desmond and Prof. Jia.

It is such an honor to have known and worked with Desmond. For anyone who was so fortunate it must take pride of place in ones bank of personal remembrances.I will also forever remember with great fondness the gracious hospitality Desmond and Betty extended to the many Chinese visitors whom they hosted in their home. The feeling of loss we all feel is a heavy weight on our hearts that will not soon be lifted. Our thoughts are with Betty and the Clark family at this time of profound sorrow.

-Dennis A. Etler, Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA