Obituary: Professor Eric Axelson

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ANTONIO DE Figueiredo's obituary of Professor Eric Axelson [7 November] is a necessary tribute to a most able and distinguished scholar, writes Professor H. V. Livermore. It contains one inaccuracy. It was in Rhodesia that archivists were a rarity, and Axelson's accompanist was not a member of the PIDE (Portuguese state police), as de Figueiredo states, but a sergeant from the Rhodesian crime squad selected for this more agreeable service.

Axelson was his own archaeologist. On returning from Lisbon to Natal in December 1937, he was able to locate at once from accounts the spot where a beacon or padrao had been erected to mark the limit of Bartolomeu Dias's voyage which discovered and rounded the Cape in 1488. It had stood at False Island or Kwaai Hoek, and had been broken. Part was underground and part had fallen into the sea. Axelson and his brother retrieved the fragments and had them pieced together, and it now forms part of the collection of the Sociedade de Geografa in Lisbon.

Incidentally, Bartolomeu Dias's statue now adorns South Africa House, and he is the only Portuguese to be so commemorated in London.