Paul Ashbee (1919-2009)

As a teenager Paul Ashbee, who has died peacefully at his Norfolk home aged 91, made national headlines by discovering a Roman villa. It led to a 50-year career as one of the country's leading archaeologists and he was the first lecturer in the field at the University of East Anglia.
He moved to Chedgrave, Norfolk, in 1969 as lecturer in archaeology, but had been heavily involved since 1964 in the extensive post-war excavations of Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge in Suffolk. The finds just before the Second World War stunned the world of archaeology.
Born in Maidstone, he was just 15 when he uncovered remains of a Roman villa on a farm at Thurnham in Kent. He was encouraged by the then director of London's Guildhall Museum, Norman Cooke, who gave the schoolboy almost unrestricted access to finds, specimens and records.
After the war, he studied as a post-graduate mature student at the Institute of Archaeology, London, where he met his wife, Richmal. She had read history at the University of London between 1947 and 1951 and then studied at the institute for two years. They married in 1952.
Mr Ashbee was invited to carry out excavations for the Ministry of Works but although a quasi-professional, he was only paid on an ad-hoc basis for excavations.
He became a teacher and had the distinction of being at Britain's first comprehensive school at Forest Hill, London, until April 1969 when he became secretary to the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the UEA. Over about 15 years, he conducted about two "digs" a year for the ministry.
He had met fellow archaeologist Dr Rupert Bruce-Mitford in the early 1950s and collaborated on digs in the Isles of Scilly. In 1964, he joined him as a co-director at Sutton Hoo, and they set about the massive task of writing a definitive report on the lengthy excavations.
Mr Ashbee, who wrote more than 100 publications and papers during his career, was an authority on ancient round and also long barrows. He wrote on the pre-history of Wessex, Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, Yorkshire and East Anglia and was elected president of the Cornwall Archaeological Society between 1976 and 1980. He published a number of books on barrows and also "Ancient Scilly" in 1974.
Mr Ashbee was a founder, and later chairman, of the Scole Committee for East Anglia Archaeology and also of the Norwich Survey. He was appointed one of the 14 Royal Commissioners on Historic Monuments in 1975 and retired from the UEA in 1983. The next year, he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Leicester.
Michael Pollitt, Obituaries Editor, Eastern Daily Press.

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