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Ian Kinnes

10th August 1944 - 24th August 2012

Appreciation by
Alex Gibson

Ian Kinnes and grandchild (photograph by Alex Gibson)
Ian Kinnes and grandchild (photograph by Alex Gibson)

Ian Alexander Kinnes passed away peacefully after a short illness on 24 August. He was 68. A proud Yorkshireman, Ian studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge and in 1973 presented his Doctoral thesis Neolithic Burial Practices in England and Wales. He initially took up an appointment with New England College in Arundel before being appointed Assistant Keeper in the then Department of Prehistoric and Romano-British Antiquities at the British Museum in 1974. Most colleagues and students will know Ian from his time at the Museum. Ian always offered encouragement to younger research students as they sifted through the basement boxes and was keen to enter into academic (and social) discourse in the less formal environment of one of the local hostelries. His knowledge of the collections and of the Neolithic generally was encyclopaedic and his sense of humour sharp (and at times cutting) so that conversations with Ian (academic or otherwise) were never boring. It was while he was at the British Museum that he published his two major works. Round Barrows and Ring-ditches in the British Neolithic (1979) and his Non-megalithic Long Barrows and Allied Structures in the British Neolithic (1992) were both published by the British Museum and remain valuable reference works. Written before the widespread and routine use of radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling, his seriation of burial traditions and artefacts, based very much on relative chronologies, still bears the test of time. Ian also inaugurated the British Museum's Beaker Dating Programme the results of which revealed that none of the existing typologies had much chronological coherence and formed a springboard for other researchers into the Beaker phenomenon. His review of Peterborough Ware dates not only turned the existing chronologies on their heads but was more or less the first paper to define a Middle Neolithic as a separate entity. Once again this innovative research provided a basis for subsequent scholars to further refine Peterborough Ware chronologies. An 'outsider's' view of the Scottish Neolithic in 1985 (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland) remains a hugely influential paper and the excellently produced Catalogue of the Greenwell Collection (jointly with Ian Longworth) (British Museum Press, 1985) provided an important and excellently illustrated reference work of great and lasting value. A decade later, Ian (with Gill Varndell) organised and edited Unbaked Urns of Rudely Shape a Festschrift to Ian Longworth to mark his retirement.

Ian took early retirement from the British Museum in 1999 after which he spent much of his time between the family homes in Guildford and Courseulles in his beloved Normandy, where he was welcomed by the French archaeological community and spent time working on the excavation report of his site at Les Fouillages on Guernsey. It is a great sadness that he did not see the final publication.

As well as a brilliant mind, Ian had immense wit and a wicked sense of humour. He did not tolerate fools gladly and could be scathing in conference discussions—even daunting to those who did not know him. He took exception to some archaeological theory not because he did not see its value but because he objected to the impenetrable jargon used by some of its practitioners to dress up ideas of little academic merit. Those of us who knew him well, however, also knew a real bon viveur, a man of great charm and, most of all, a family man happiest amongst close friends, family, and, of course, his grandchildren. Ian was a character whose passing is a great loss to British Neolithic Studies. He will be sorely missed.