J. Desmond Clark
I first met Desmond Clark in 1960 outside the town now called Mbala,
Zambia, when he came to show my field party around the site at Kalambo
and suggest possible coring targets. Our first site, Lake Chila
at Mbala, was the most refractory I have ever attempted. Frustration
dissolved in the pleasure of Desmond's company and the work was
eased by his vigorous physical participation there and at Kalambo.
The week was an intellectual experience, as he instructed us in
the prehistory of Central Africa, a tactile experience, as he taught
us indirect anvil technique to make scrapers and choppers of Kisele
Quartzite, and a social experience, as he regaled us with stories
of expatriate life in Africa and introduced us to Brian Fagan and
to the local people who had dug Kalambo with him.
Before returning to his duties as Director of the Rhodes-Livingstone
Museum he wrote me letters of introduction to half a dozen people
strategically located along the route of our coring safari. These
notes were effectively one-page signatures, because no one except
Betty could read his inimitable hand. When presented, each note
elicited the same response: "Well, I can see it is from Desmond.
What does he say?" and led to immediate enthusiastic acceptance
by each addressee. Boats, guest houses, petrol dumps, Boma messengers
and warm hospitality were immediately laid on. Desmond friends like
Sir Stewart Gore-Brown, Desmond Vesey-Fitzgerald and Ian MacKeigan
are among the most vividly memorable characters of my experience.
Later Desmond moved to Berkeley
and established with Clark Howell and Glynn Isaac their uniquely
productive program in African prehistory. Now, whenever I meet someone
in Africa who understands Quaternary paleoecology he turns out to
be a product of the Berkeley school inspired by Desmond.
Before I met Desmond prehistory
had seemed fascinating, but so mired in detailed descriptive work
that many practitioners had little time for speculative thinking,
and sometimes lost their way before publishing the results of their
meticulous excavations. Desmond was always thinking about matters
of general cultural significance, and he wrote up his results so
fast, with the able artistic assistance of Betty, that I sometimes
wonder if they penned the rough draft on the flight home. His ecumenical
zeal in enlisting other naturalists to attack archeological problems
was legendary, as was the unfailing courtesy with which he treated
all sorts and conditions of people, even graduate students trying
to trick him by salting a few exotic pieces in a collection of artefacts.
I have no brothers. A colleague
or two, a teacher or two, a cousin or two, and Desmond Clark have
filled the brotherly niche in my life. I shall miss him terribly.
-Dan Livingstone, Professor of Biology,